When you work in marketing, you end up doing a lot of tasks that feel kind of unnecessary. For many of us, developing customer profiles (or ‘personas’) falls squarely into this category. Who cares if your ideal customer reads BuzzFeed or the New York Times, shops at Target or Lululemon, drives a Jetta or a Camry? You should. And here’s why: Because a killer inbound marketing strategy depends on you speaking (and listening) to your customers, rather than talking about yourself. It’s the same as when you’re speaking to anybody - you’re more likely engage someone in conversation with questions like “what’d you think of that latest David Brooks op-ed?” or even “how are the kids?” than you would by shouting “my products are awesome, give me your money!” Unfortunately, if you’re blogging or pursuing an inbound strategy with poorly developed personas, you’re probably just engaging in some omnidirectional shouting. So what do these poorly developed personas look like? Let’s assume, for example, that you do marketing for a swanky kitchen design studio in one of Chicago’s upper crust Northern suburbs. Here’s your ‘ideal customer’:
35-65 year-old female, married, with two kids. Lives in a Northshore suburb. Looking for a modern, remodeled kitchen she can show off when she entertains friends and family.
Pretty broad, right? Let’s flesh this out into a genuinely useful persona, by filling in some details; specifically, your ideal customers’ details:
- Life Stage
- Pain Points
- Common Objections
- Watering Holes
- Daily Schedule
- Role in the Buying Process
Digging into the ‘ideal customer’ you’ve described above, the first thing that stands out is the age range - 35-65 years old. Pretty wide gap, right? To me, this is a sure sign that we are looking at more than one persona. Let’s break them up into:
- Northshore Jane, and
- Empty Nester Eadie
Jane is a 35-year-old paralegal. Her husband works in commercial real estate and they own a single-family home in Evanston. They have two kids - ages four and one. They moved out of the city three years ago, and they've been unhappy with the kitchen ever since, but they haven’t yet gotten around to remodeling. Empty Nester Eadie is 63 and semi-retired, working three days a week teaching history at community college. Her husband is retired but active, and their three adult children are all out of the house, with their youngest in her first semester of college. They’ve just purchased a three bedroom condo in Skokie, and they’re looking for a designer to remodel the kitchen and bathroom before they sell their current home. So now rather than one, amorphous 35-65 year-old customer at an indeterminate point in their lives, we have two distinct customers with far more human stories. And these stories make marketing to them way easier. For example, Jane has been looking to remodel for three years, but she hasn’t yet gotten around to it. She’s clearly at the awareness stage of the marketing funnel, so she’s likelier to engage with our design studio via social channels like Pinterest. Meanwhile, Eadie is in the mid-funnel consideration stage, where she’ll be looking to find out more about our process and what distinguishes us from our competitors.
How Their Pain Points Make Them Feel
This is a biggie. What pains, anxieties or problems do your customers have that you help them solve? This is an emotional question. How do their pain points make them feel? Jane’s big pain point might be that her kitchen design is dated, so she feels embarrassed when she entertains. Eadie’s major pain point, meanwhile, is that her kitchen is almost unusable, lacking functional storage and counterspace. She used to love cooking, but increasingly she feels frustrated in the kitchen. With these pain points in hand, you can use copywriting techniques like problem-agitation-solution to really speak to your customers’ needs. Some pain points you’ll intuitively understand as a marketer, but for others, you might have to dig a little deeper by actually speaking to your customers. The most helpful way to speak to your customers, of course, is to interview them personally; if, for whatever reason, you can't do that, speak to your sales and customer service teams to learn more about your customers' pain points.
What Values Motivate Them?
So now that you know your persona’s problems, how do you actually solve them? And how can you go above and beyond in providing them with an outstanding customer experience? These questions are all about what your personas value. Jane’s key motivating value is social esteem.
- She’s in her first home, and it’s a home she wants to be able to proudly show off to friends and family - she wants to make sure that she can cook her first Thanksgiving dinner in her new kitchen.
- It’s important that the kitchen has plenty of room for people to hang out with whomever’s cooking.
- She wants countertop surfaces that look amazing. She wants friends to ask ‘Are these granite?’, so she can reply ‘Actually they’re marble.’
Eadie’s key motivating value is functionality.
- She wants to make sure that she doesn’t have to bend down or reach up too much to reach cabinetry.
- She wants it to look great, sure, but she needs plenty of usable counter space - the breakfast bar can go!
- She wants countertop surfaces that are durable, and easily maintained, like granite or quartzite.
Knowing what your different personas value is essential for any targeted content marketing. Understand who you’re speaking to at a given time and speak to only them. Rather than trying to sell both customers on quartzite and marble at the same time, write two blog posts.
What are Their Objections?
Often, as marketers, we think that overcoming objections is a sales problem, right? Unfortunately, it’s actually a marketing problem, because if you don’t allay the objections of your prospects while they’re in the middle of your marketing funnel, they’re going to gobble up all the educational material you provided at the top of the funnel, then end up speaking to the sales department at a different company, one that’s already resolved their objections in advance. And while some objections may be universal, their hierarchy will typically vary by persona. Jane’s biggest objection is going to be around service. She wants to be involved in the design phase of the plan, but when it comes time to deal with the contractor and the project timeline, she wants to know that your design studio is providing an end-to-end solution. So providing testimonials about how easy the process was, and how the project was finished on time, will help her say ‘yes.’ Eadie, meanwhile, is more price-sensitive. She knows that a full remodel is a big project, but her family’s biggest earning days are past, so she wants to make sure you understand how important it is that the project stays on budget.
This detail is overlooked far too often, by both B2B and B2C marketers. Where do your customers live online? Where do they go for industry information? What do they read for leisure? Let’s say that Jane follows kitchen design trends on Houzz, reads BuzzFeed, and loves watching Game of Thrones. Meanwhile, Eadie reads This Old House for design trends, the Chicago Tribune for news, and prefers police procedurals like Law and Order. So why is this information useful? Well, let’s say you get a spread in This Old House; you’ll want to make sure your placement speaks to Eadie, not Jane, by featuring traditional designs and writing in a news style. If you’re writing a blog post on transitional kitchen design for Jane, you can format it as a listicle, and include a reference to your favorite Westerosis. Understanding where your customers consume information will help you tailor your content so it speaks to them more as individuals, and less as an amorphous mass.
At the risk of getting a little kumbaya here, understanding what a day in your personas’ life looks like is another biggie when you’re trying to speak to them like they’re individuals. As Jane and Eadie come into focus, we need to get a clearer picture of how they actually feel about cooking, right? Is it a joy or a chore? Is it a healthy alternative to eating out, or is it an indulgence? Sure, it probably doesn’t matter if Jane drives a Jetta and Eadie drives a Camry, but we at least need to understand how our kitchen design will actually fit into their day. If it’s a chore for Eadie, you might want to emphasize how a more practical kitchen can help her whip up a meal in minutes. What’s more, having a picture of your customers’ schedule also tells you when they actually want to hear from you. Jane is a working mom, so if you want to get her attention, your emails had better be in her inbox when she wakes up and has a clear 15 minutes to check her phone in the morning.
Role in the Buying Process
This is a hugely important detail, especially in B2B marketing, where there are often many different people and departments needed to approve a sale. But this can also be important in B2C marketing, especially if you sell services or big-ticket goods. So while you may be doing a great job of speaking to all the ‘buyer’ personas involved in a sale, you also need to be able to speak to ‘influencer’ persona needs. In our kitchen design case, we know that both Eadie and Jane are married, so we need to add two more personas for their partners, who are either buyers, or influencers, depending on how active they are in the process. Yes, that means a lot more homework (when we thought we were just about done), but it’ll be well worth it. Buyer persona details are far from tedious. Spending more time filling in the details of your buyer persona may seem menial at first, but at the end of the day, detailed buyer personas will increase your conversions, target your marketing message to the right person at the right time, and ultimately- make you more money.