Back when I was the sales manager of a broadcast business I had the chance to learn a great deal about many different kinds of businesses. I have to confess that one of my least favorite types of businesses was the car dealership. One particular dealership had an insider’s language to describe their customers. For example “Bob-the-Owner” referred to any customer on the lot or in the showroom that had already purchased. This description was used to help salespeople not waste their time courting a customer that was already being helped. Another tag that I found quite offensive was “NOG” which was shorthand for “Nice Old Guy” which referred to a customer of a certain age and type. At the time this inside lingo was offensive to me, but here is what I have come to learn – those sales people in their own way, however crude, were creating marketing personas to help them prepare to respond to their customers.
I know it seems crazy – but take a cue from the car salesmen and create customer personas to help you focus your online marketing efforts. A marketing persona, first developed by an ad agency in the mid-90’s, creates a fictional character using a demographic, attitude and behavior model to define how that type of persona might interact with a website, product or brand. Using a marketing persona helps marketers create advertising campaigns or websites that are designed to meet the needs of a defined market segment, personas help with that process.
Creating a persona is a mix of demographic information (age, gender, location, job) with psychographic profiles (lifestyle, interests and preferences) and a bit of historical fiction (real customer anecdotes) to craft a vivid picture of a customer-type. Most businesses sell products and services to several different customer types. So if you are going to use marketing personas to guide your online marketing efforts, look first for those major customer types, create the marketing persona starting with: age, gender, family info, job title, hobbies, and interests. Finish the profile by labeling the persona and writing a brief story based on your experiences with customers that illustrate their wants, needs, fears and frustrations, and their goals.
Using the personas in your planning process will help keep your marketing efforts customer-focused. Here are some suggestions for using the personas:
Blogs – Use the personas to plan the topics for your blogs by creating a content calendar. Select each persona and brainstorm a list of questions and concerns that you know the persona will have about your product or service. Evaluate the list and look for common themes. Having done this exercise you should have a pretty healthy list of blog topics – some that are universal to all or most of your personas and some that are specific to a particular persona. Plot the blog topics on your content/editorial calendar and you won’t ever wonder what to write for your next blog and you will have topics distributed across all of your market segments.
Website Content and Navigation – Use your personas while developing the information that you wish to include on your website. Place each category of information on a separate 3×5 card. Once you believe you have all the content sections, gather up all of the cards. Ask someone to take on the role of an individual persona by giving them your persona description. Hand over all of the cards and ask this persona to organize them in a way that makes sense to them. At the end of the exercise ask if there any unanswered questions. Take notes and repeat with each persona. At the conclusion of the process you will have a much richer set of content for your website. The end product will be a site plan for your website that works the way your customers think.
Online Advertising – For social media advertising, use your personas while crafting versions of your ads – this will help you consider choice of images and language and the selection of the target demographic categories. You can then coordinate your advertising into persona-specific campaigns and evaluate them based on response rates. If you are planning to send your prospects to a landing page to capture more information in order to continue your marketing efforts you will want to consider the kind of premium content that you will offer in exchange for this information and permission to continue the marketing engagement. Again, your personas will be your guide in deciding what information that they would want and in what form.
Using what you know about your customers by utilizing the organizing principles of the marketing persona is another great way to create better online interactions. However, please remember that a marketing persona is your internal shorthand aid, and every interaction with your individual customers should still be based on the greatest respect for their individuality.