A target market strategy in the digital age can challenge even the most experienced marketer. After all, the Internet has changed the way we communicate, relate, do research and shop. And the “common denominator” approach of years past simply doesn't work well in an online environment.
But customer personas? They work
Personas are representations of your target market – characters created to humanize the target and help you customize content to them.
Demographics vs. personas
When you’re buying traditional media – say, a commercial on a cable TV station – demographics can be a great resource. But demographics deal in abstracts and broad segmentation, while personas go deeper. And “deeper” is the foundation of today’s digital marketing, which seeks to narrow the vast population of web surfers into those who are most receptive to your message.
Take, for example, a demographic analysis might suggest that your target customer is a male, age 18-39. That’s a pretty big group of guys. They live in different kinds of houses, have different relationships, drive different cars and make different incomes.
And the difference in life experiences, goals and fears between a recent high-school graduate and a man approaching middle age? Far too extensive to list here.
So at some point, you’ll want to break down that “male, 18-39” demographic into a more recognizable face. That’s where customer personas come in. They help you understand the details, not just the descriptions, of the people who will drive the majority of your business.
The person behind the persona
Almost no question is too specific for a customer persona:
What do they read – and do they read it online, or in print?
What are their hobbies and interests?
What’s their average income?
What social sites, if any, do they visit?
What do they want out of life? Is it something your product or service can facilitate?
What do they fear? Is it something your company can help mitigate?
The answers to these questions will shape the content of your blogs, the social media you choose, the look of your landing page, the wording in your email, the color of your direct mail – virtually every aspect of your target market strategy.
You can choose or combine a few methods to create customer personas.
Sit down with the folks who should know your customers best – your sales reps. Ask them to contribute their knowledge of your clientele based on
Invite five or ten of your best customers to a working lunch. Bring a tape recorder, and just start talking about your lives.
Alternatively, create a survey for your landing page aimed at your visitors – both established customers and prospective ones. Offer a token of appreciation – a prize drawing, a gift certificate, or a special price on your services – to anyone who responds. (Extra benefit – you get contact information you can use in lead generation later!)
Getting to know them
Give your personas names; after all, they may be fictional, but they’re also people. So have some fun with them: Create avatars of what they may look like. Celebrate their birthdays with your sales and marketing team. And share them with your real customers to demonstrate how you strive to understand their needs.
Personas can do a lot of work for your company – and they don’t even demand a paycheck.