Customer Personas are Critical for Marketing Success
By Shelley Pringle*
If you’re creating content to help market your business, you know there’s a ton of competition for your prospects’ attention. How do you ensure your content marketing stands out?
There are two critical steps to creating content that gets noticed and converts: Develop customer personas and determine what questions they will ask at each stage of the sales cycle. This article covers the first step.
What’s a Customer Persona?
A customer persona is a fictional representation of your ideal customer. Marketers develop personas by combining real data with a good dose of educated assumption.
You get real data by talking to your sales or customer-relations teams — the folks who interact with your customers on a regular basis. It’s also a good idea to survey your customers to get additional feedback straight from the source.
And don’t just talk to your satisfied customers. Interview some of the people who weren’t so happy with your business to get a 360-degree perspective.
What Do Customer Personas Include?
Typically, a customer persona consists of basic demographic information along with defining customer characteristics such as needs, concerns, motivations, and pain points. Your practice will have more than just one customer persona; you want to come up with three or four personas that represent ideal customers that make up different segments of your customer base.
Here’s an example customer persona that might be relevant for your business:
- Customer: Samantha
- Age: 36
- Profession: Teacher
- Activity level: Moderate; enjoys low-impact outdoor activities up to 3x week
- Complaint: Persistent lower back pain that flairs and may last for a couple weeks before subsiding and flaring again
- Motivation: Returning to pain-free activity and learning self-management techniques
Creating Customer Personas
By creating customer personas, you put a human face on customer information that otherwise is largely abstract. This approach helps your company create tailored content for each of its audiences that hits home and encourages action.
So how can you develop customer personas representing each of your target groups? The first stage of the process is to divide your prospects into relevant segments.
One method is to segment based on what may precipitate the need for physical therapy. Perhaps the customer has a chronic issue (as was the case with the “Samantha” persona) and they are seeking self-management techniques, or the customer sustained a work injury and is pursuing necessary treatment to fully return to work. Still, other customers may be recovering from extended illness, surgical interventions, or other acute factors that drive them to seek treatment. Consider all avenues that may bring customers to your practice as a starting point for your customer personas.
Other factors that can contribute to this process include geographic location, company size, market or industry, ethnicity, age, and gender.
Get a Deeper Understanding
Once you’ve segmented your audience, you need to learn more about them. Questions to ask include:
- What are their pain points?
- What keeps them up at night?
- Is there a type of content they prefer?
- Who do they listen to for advice on the decision you’re concerned about?
- What type of content will convert?
After you’ve completed the information-gathering stage, you need to think about the types of content that will appeal to your different customer personas.
At the top of the sales funnel, prospects are researching solutions to their particular problems. For the Samantha persona, you might consider producing and marketing a series of videos that outline basic techniques to self-manage minor back pain. A call-to-action at the end of the videos may direct viewers to make an appointment for a free consultation focused on treating chronic back pain.
By focusing on your customer personas, you can develop messaging that is highly targeted and relevant to your customers.
A Blend of Art and Science
Creating customer personas is part art and part science. It’s a best-practice skill that takes time to master, so be diligent and lean on your PPS community to help guide your persona development. Though they’re fabrications, customer personas are effective tools that allow you to be targeted, specific, and concrete in your messaging. Content developed without the benefit of customer personas is likely to be generic. And less likely to engage.
Shelley Pringle is the principal at Polaris Public Relations Inc., a Toronto-based marketing company that helps consumer brands build their profile, connect using content and share with social media.
*The author has a professional affiliation with this subject.