Who buys from you?
It’s a simple question. But in reality, most businesses and organizations don’t take the time to truly understand who their target customer is.
You might have a gut feeling that you sell to these “types” of people. Maybe you broadly know titles or industries that you should be targeting. But without a well-developed persona, you are missing out on critical contextual information that influences your prospecting, content strategy, and ultimately your ability to align your offering with your customer’s needs.
This is true whether you are business to business, business to consumer, or even a nonprofit organization. There are always “customers” that your organization is interacting with, and the development of a persona enables you to better understand who they are.
What is a customer persona?
A persona is a fictional representation of your ideal customer. It gives you a make-believe person that you can refer to as a target for your sales and marketing efforts. For most organizations, there are typically one or two customer personas that are unique to their customer base.
It answers three important questions:
- Who buys from you? - A persona should give you a fairly detailed assessment of who your target customer is. It should be a fake “person” with a name, age, demographic, and job description.
- Why do they buy from you? - You should know why this make-believe person is buying from you. Think about the business or personal drivers that are causing them to want to make a change. What is there “why”?
- How do they buy from you? - You’ll want to determine what a typical buying experience looks like with this person. Think through how your ideal customers like to research, consult, and ultimately decide to purchase.
How do you create a customer persona?
There are a number of methods for developing a customer persona. My personal approach is to try and replicate my top customers. Because after all, I’m trying to prospect and convert more of my top-performing business.
Here is a brief overview of the steps I recommend taking when developing a persona:
- Review Top Customers - I start by reviewing a sales report of the business (typically the previous year). From there, a quick 80/20 analysis will help you highlight your top customers by revenue.
- Determine Trends - Amongst your top customers, try to isolate specific trends that are recurring in that group. What is the most common job title? Location? Industry? Etc. These trends will help you later to create specific persona attributes.
- Identify Contacts - Also amongst your top customers, try to find a contact or two that fit your common trends and ideal buying metrics. Maybe it’s Sarah over at XYZ company or Mike at ABC company. Having specific people you can place a face and relationship with is helpful in developing the qualitative aspects of a persona.
- Review the Sales Cycle - Work with your sales team (or yourself if you are a rep) to map out a typical sales cycle for these top accounts. From the initial conversations, building rapport, discovery meetings, to proposal presentations and contract negotiations.
- Write the Persona - And finally, once you’ve done all your initial research and data analysis, it’s time to write the persona. For most organizations, a simple 1-2 page document that describes their make-believe persona is sufficient. I usually list out the key attributes and start to fill them in: Name, age, title, industry, company size, budget, buying behaviors, business drivers, influencers, etc.
Your customer persona(s) can be as simple or advanced as you’d like. The goal is ultimately to help you market and sell your product/service better. As noted above, I recommend starting with something simple and developing further based on your strategic needs.
How do you use a customer persona?
With your persona now developed, it can be utilized across your company to help your team understand who buys from you, and why they buy from you. Different job functions can leverage this shared persona in different ways:
Sales Teams can use personas to better target and sell to their top prospects.
- Prospecting - Your persona is your filter when it comes to prospecting for new business. Use your persona attributes to narrow down your search for new contacts.
- Sales Campaigns - With knowledge of how your top customers buy, you can better develop campaigns that will reach the right audience.
- Process and Presentations - Using your personas as a guide, you can reformulate your discovery questions and proposals to better align with their business drivers and decision factors.
Marketing teams can use personas to better reach and resonate with a qualified audience.
- Content Strategy - Creating new content becomes much easier when you are able to write it to a specific “person”. What does “Sarah” want to hear about your product? What are the business questions that she needs to answer? Use this to better formulate your content strategy.
- Brand Story - Your own brand story can be improved to better resonate with your personas. Ask yourself, what kind of brand would your persona want to purchase from?
- Ad Targeting - You can be much more effective with your ads, and hopefully get a better cost per conversion, but using your persona(s) when developing new advertising campaigns. Having a target audience should help you better nail down the location, budget, and ad copy itself.
Service and operations teams can provide a better experience with your top customers.
- Product Development - By building for a target persona, improvements can be made to the user experience and product development process for your business.
- Upselling - By educating your internal team on the personas you are targeting, they can be better positioned to upsell them to further meet their business driver needs.
- Servicing - With a more in-depth understanding of your top customers, you can better develop service practices internally to exceed their expectations. Additionally, you can create tiers of service, to prioritize customers who are the best fit over those who are less profitable/desirable.
After you've successfully implemented one or two personas for your organization, you’ll be able to continually refer back to that target persona often as you continue to execute your strategy. I also recommend that you revisit your persona yearly, to ensure that it still accurately reflects who your desired audience is.
And of course, just reach out if you need help with your audience strategy. I can help you develop your personas as well as develop a strategy to execute from them.
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