You read and hear about it all the time: a clear understanding of your audience matters. Without understanding your consumers, your company can’t expect to add value through content, deliver the right marketing messages, or develop profitable product and service offerings. Understanding your audience is the key to earning new business acquisitions and retaining long-term customers. Here’s how to make sure you’re targeting the right audience.
Start With What You Know
Your own insight offers a good starting point for personal development. You had to have some level of understanding to create a product or service in the first place and start a company. That information can guide you to the audience your company should cater to.
Create two to three profiles of your real customers. Name and describe them in detail. You may want to gather a team for brainstorming during this process. Jot down what you know about your customer base on several sheets of paper.
Go into a CRM system or customer list, and categorize the people in that list. Focus on where these individuals might live geographically; job information including title, company, and industry; buying decision factors; work or shopping habits; rough income information; values; hobbies; and any other relevant information that comes to mind. Consider the exercise a warmup, which may or may not look like your end results.
Add in “Ideals”
Look at your list, and think about your vision for the company. Is it missing the type of people you thought your company would serve? Do some industry research to find out what other market segments your competitors cater to, and create another one or two profiles of customers you’d like to add to your consumer base.
If you don’t have a solid customer base, all of your personas may be ideals at this point. Work with what you know. Personas change over time as companies grow and evolve. Your personas won’t remain constant, but writing down what you know will help.
Make a List of Negative Personas
Write down a list of the types of people you wouldn’t want as a customer. Leaving personality inadequacies aside, think about which types of people wouldn’t benefit from your company’s product or service offerings.
The list may include executives, novices, masculine or feminine people, or those who don’t watch television. Think of demographics that would utterly contrast with the company’s focus. Knowing what you don’t want to cater to will help focus content and campaigns.
Look at Outside Resources
Start looking at website analytics, customer acquisition notes, and employee feedback. Find out how consumers are finding your business. Try to associate certain online and in-person behaviors with certain personas. It may take time to segment the information, but the more you can add to a persona profile, the more helpful it’ll be.
You may also want to:
- Interview customers and prospects. Finding out what drew them to your business offering. While you’re at it, you might also find out what they think could make it better.
- Polling or surveying online visitors. Ask for feedback, create a poll, or send a survey. Find out what people are looking for and if they found it, and always leave a field that allows for open commentary.
- Make subscriptions work for you. Create in-depth profiles over time with subscription forms that include vital persona information, like what a subscriber cares about reading.
- Find out what your social media followers are interested in. Dig into the social media profiles of followers to see what they do in practice. You can also use Facebook Insights or other social media trends and listening tools to find out in-depth information about user practices, interests, and activities.
- Use A/B testing on content. Test content campaigns to learn more about what certain personas gravitate towards.
Dos and Don’ts for Creating Personas
Persona development looks different from company to company. Some teams spend a significant amount of time determining user behaviors, personal attributes, and catering content to segmented audiences. Others use it to create material that appeals across several different personas. Regardless of how you gather and use the data, here are some dos and don’ts for getting the most out of the process:
- Do create distinct personas. A persona isn’t generic; it identifies a certain market subset that doesn’t overlap too much with other personas.
- Don’t attempt to create a persona for each distinct personality. Personas are specific, but not personal. Only include details that generally apply to the group and provide insight to the company.
- Do pull out marketing personas to look at before each campaign. You may feel like you have a good understanding of your market, but this detailed information may provide new insight. Persona development won’t help you if you don’t use it.
- Don’t generalize after talking to one persona representative. The goal is to find accurate patterns in your consumer base so you can develop valuable marketing content.