A Guide to Developing Customer Personas
Did you know that 71% of companies that exceed revenue and lead goals have documented customer personas?
That's right; it's a tool that a large proportion of successful businesses are using.
A customer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer. It's a tool that can align everyone across your organisation to understand who your customer is, how they can serve them and their motivators.
A customer persona has several elements, and the must-haves are:
Demographics – The idea customers age, role, qualifications
Information about the company they work for (B2B) or their lifestyle (B2C)
The goals they are looking to achieve – what outcomes are they looking to achieve in their organisation or life
Their challenges - the pain points they experience
How your organisation can help - what's the solution
Objections that the customer may have
The elevator pitch - what words and phrases you should use to describe how you can help the customer
I also like to use DISC profiling to describe the typical personality profile and identify the best way to communicate and engage with the customer. DISC is a tool that describes a person's traits as:
Dominance - tends to be fast-paced, but they're more focused on the task than the person
Influence - people-focused and fast-paced who gets animated quite quickly and excitable in the conversation
Steadiness – people-focused, but they tend to move at a slower pace and want to understand a little more about the situation before making decisions
Compliance - focused on the task and loves information and data. They tend to operate at a slower pace and think things through
As you can see, this is a useful additional element to add to any persona you develop and can help bring the persona to life with your go-to-market teams.
To develop the customer persona; there are several ways that you can research and bring together the insights for the persona:
Ask your current customers – conduct deep-dive interviews with your existing customers to truly understand them, their drivers and motivations
Compare notes with your co-workers on the front lines: salespeople, customer success and field marketing team members – remember they are engaging with customers daily
Study your website and social media analytics – who is engaging with your content and organisation
Build lists of people who match your most ideal customers and interview them
Remember, the customer persona is an evolving and living document. You've spent
all this time, effort and resources building out your customer personas and then what happens?
Too often, when I ask organisations,
I receive the response of 'we have them somewhere '……. they have confined them to the 'bin' - a drawer or folder in the cloud.
When I asked one of my recent clients, I had a warm fuzzy feeling when they immediately produced their personas and articulated how they use them - it's not the norm.
It's critical that you keep the persona front of mind, not just with your frontline teams but with everyone across the organisation:
Create full-sized avatars of the personas as cardboard cut-outs that are strategically placed around the office, keeping them front of mind for everyone
You may have heard of the empty chair concept that Jeff Bezos used in the early days of Amazon, where every meeting had an empty chair to signify the customer to ensure the customer was always discussed. I have seen an organisation go a step further and use the cardboard persona at the meeting table.
Have your customer personas placed around your huddle board and make 'customer' one of the items on your huddle for the team to share successes and learnings
One of the most impactful ways to use a persona is in preparation for a meeting, pitch or demo with a group of stakeholders. Ahead of the meeting, map the stakeholders attending against your personas as this will help you shape the conversation:
You can plan the meeting structure and how best to engage with each of the stakeholders
Plan for potential pain points and insights that you can present to bring these to life
Plan for possible objections and how best to overcome these
Identify the best strategies to move to the next sales stage based on the different personas you are engaging with
These ideas help ensure that personas are kept alive, are regularly discussed and also evolve. Whatever you do, don't confine them to the bin.
Evolving is the key here as things change over time. The range of products or services you offer will change, and being people, your target audience will change too. Every customer persona will have changed in the last 18months due to Covid-19. Every person's circumstance, how organisations operate, plans and strategies have all changed.
If you have not updated your personas, you will have failed to understand your customer, their pain points, and goals – ultimately reducing your effectiveness in conversations with prospects and existing customers.
Keep your personas relevant by periodically reviewing and updating them. Having these strategies in place also creates greater alignment between marketing, product, sales, and customer success. Everyone can describe the customer in a common language.
Content and sales messaging are aligned, and all teams can work towards the same goal in targeting new customers whilst retaining and growing existing customer relationships.
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