Are you dissatisfied with the results of your marketing campaigns?

Are you uncertain where to focus your marketing efforts to get the biggest bang for your buck?

Does your product development team invest time and energy in new solutions it thinks your customers will want . . . only to discover they don’t?

In short, are you looking for a better way to build your business?

If the answer is yes, the right place to start is with your customers—and that means developing customer personas.

What are customer personas?

Customer personas, also called marketing personas or buyer personas, are fictional representations of your ideal customers. While they’re not real people, they are, as much as possible, based on real data and interviews, supported by educated speculation. Each persona consists of a unique set of personal traits, behaviours and motivations for purchasing your product or service.

Here are 7 steps to creating buyer personas to help build your consumer brand.

1: Segment your audience

Every brand is unique. The approach a greeting card company takes to segmenting its audience will be quite different from the approach taken by an organization that sells tax software.

Begin by identifying the people who purchase your products and note their common characteristics. In the case of greeting cards, the main purchasers are moms and grandparents. The common denominator is that they have kids or grandkids between the ages of 4 and 10.

In the tax software example, the consumers are men and women age 25+ who purchase software to prepare their personal taxes, small business owners who do their own returns and the bookkeepers and accountants who prepare tax returns.

2: Determine what problems your product solves

Think about the problems your solution addresses. Moms and grandparents are looking for greeting cards for their spouses, kids and other family members. If you dig a little deeper, you’ll understand they’re also looking for easy ways to connect with the people they love and show them that they care.

Tax software is a “grudge” purchase. Individuals and small businesses are looking for a way to do their taxes quickly and easily while meeting government tax laws. Nobody likes to prepare their taxes, so qualities like simple and hassle-free are big selling points.

3: Customer characteristics

Think about your customers’ demographics, attitudes and challenges:

– Are they mostly men or women?

– How old are they?

– What is their household income?

– Do they live in the city, the suburbs or a rural area?

– Are they working full-time or part-time or are they retired?

– Where do they get information (through social media, online news sites or traditional media)?

If you’re selling greeting cards to moms, you’ll understand they’re busy juggling a host of responsibilities, including driving kids to soccer games, preparing family dinners, attending parent-teacher meetings and working at their jobs.

4: Triggers and objections

Consider your customers’ motivations for purchasing your product and the objections they might raise.

Greeting cards are purchased during key seasons (Valentine’s Day, Christmas, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day) and for special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries. In today’s digital world, ecards are an easy alternative to a paper greeting card. If you sell the latter, why is your product better?

Tax software is also a seasonal product, especially when purchased by consumers. Small business owners, on the other hand, often have a fiscal year end outside of traditional tax season.

5: Talk to real customers

It’s a best practice to talk to real customers while developing your buyer personas. Organize a focus group. Ask the participants for their opinions about your product. Show them new concepts and get their input. If a focus group isn’t possible, consider purchasing a qualitative study conducted by another brand with your target audience.

6: Bring your personas to life

Once you’ve collected all of this information, bring your personas to life with a photo and a name. I like to use alliteration when naming personas. Lighthearted, descriptive monikers such as Mummy Margaret or Grandma Ginny will make your personas easier to remember.

Summarize all the information you’ve collected in a short document so you can easily refer to it when planning your next marketing campaign.

7: Share your personas with your team

Distribute your persona document to other members of your marketing, design, PR and social media teams. Encourage them to keep it handy when they’re planning promotions and content. Teach them how personas can play a role in all your marketing activities. Instead of referring to customers as consumers, encourage them to use the actual persona names you’ve developed.

Time well spent

The time you spend developing customer personas is an investment in the future, not a cost. It’s a particularly important exercise for organizations such as consumer companies that have many different business challenges because it places the focus squarely on the customer.

If you don’t invest resources in thinking about your customers, you’re likely to launch new products and marketing campaigns that don’t achieve the results your business really needs.

And what business needs that?

Download our handy Buyer Persona Template to help you develop buyer personas for your consumer business. Get it HERE.

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Written by Shelley Pringle