Some companies, and unfortunately some marketers, have this idea that creating a persona limits your potential audience. They relate it to setting up a Facebook campaign’s audience targeting, in which the more boxes you check, the smaller your audience becomes. On the surface, this makes sense. After all, one could assume that an increased audience means increased sales. But what good is a large audience if the person seeing your ad has no intention of purchasing your product, or interacting with your brand?
In actuality, going after a target audience based on personas sharpens your marketing focus and, if done correctly, increases your return on investment.
Personas have been used in marketing since the early 2000’s, however it is only recently that they have shifted from being a tool used by the marketing department to a valued resource guiding the whole organization. When shared with the organization, personas can provide a uniform vision for the company that leads to greater strategic alignment. This is supported by the 2016 Benchmark Study on Understanding B2B Buyers which found that 71% of companies who exceeded revenue and lead goals had documented personas.
The Difference Between Target Market and Personas
Target markets and personas represent two complementary approaches to identifying potential customers. Target markets offers a higher-level approach, focusing on an aggregation of likely buyers based on demographic and psychographic commonalities, which have been pulled from past purchase history and customer research. Personas, on the other hand, offer a much more targeted look at this audience, drilling down deeper to better understand what is motivating this audience to interact with your brand.
While target markets are a great place to start narrowing down your audience, personas break your target audience into smaller subsets, identifying the different types of people that are buying from you. Often given a name, and even a picture, these fictional characters provide information — like daily frustrations, social media habits and career aspirations — allowing organizations to create highly targeted customer interactions.
Insights Into Your Target Customer
The persona is based on information collected through qualitative and quantitative research, which are then either reinforced or updated based on observed patterns over time. Offering a realistic view of a like group of individuals, the persona paints a picture about the target’s background, attitudes, needs, challenges, pain points and motivations.
By defining each of these sections and putting them to paper, we as marketers are able to get inside the head of the person we are targeting. It’s like Will Rogers said, “You must never judge a man when you are facing him. You have to go around behind him and see what he’s looking at. Only then can you have an idea of who he is.”
That is exactly what a persona does for marketers – it gives us insight into where this person comes from, what motivates them, and what frustrates them. By seeing our brand through their eyes, we can start to build a better relationship with our customers.
Applying Personas Across The Organization
When used effectively, buyer personas are more than just a marketing tool. When personas are used by the organization as a whole, it ensures strategic alignment across departments that leads to a new level of brand engagement and company success.
Outside of the targeting benefits discussed above, personas give marketing the opportunity to improve their communication within the organization. Personas communicate complicated and overwhelming data in a creative way that bridges different learning styles, so it can be easily understood by all. In doing this, marketing creates a shared language that becomes the basis for all conversations and marketing decisions moving forward. Think about how much easier it will be to present creative when everyone understands that “Dave” is a 45-year-old, senior automotive engineer, skewing male, who is itching to leave his mark on the company, but is overwhelmed by new technology. Learn more about how to create a B2C buyer persona or B2B buyer persona.
Personas make it easier for the management team to make cohesive decisions that are based on fact, and not personal feelings. As a marketer presenting creative, I know you have heard (at least once), the comment “I don’t like that.” Personas help us take the personal bias out of the equation. Now, when someone tells you they don’t like the creative, ask them if the target persona would. By putting the creative into context based on the persona we are targeting, it doesn’t matter if they like it or not. The only thing that matters is if the creative will resonate with our persona.
3. Business Development
The better your business development team understands your customer, the easier it will be for them to identify new opportunities that meet the wants and needs of the people that are interacting with your brand. A great example of how personas can assist the business development team is in evaluating potential partnership opportunities. By understanding what is important to our customers, the business development team is better suited to establish a strategic partnership that reinforces our brand values and meets the needs of our customers.
4. Research & Development
Personas offer an effective tool for encouraging collaboration between marketing and engineering. By providing your engineering team with insights into what motivates and frustrates your customers, you enable them to design solution-centric products that your customers value.
Personas can help the sales team visualize each customer, allowing them to better understand who they are talking to. Using personas, the sales team can anticipate objections and figure out how to best support this prospect, resulting in a better experience for the customers and a potentially shorter closing cycle for the sales team.
6. Customer Service
Sharing personas with your front-line employees ensures that everyone in the organization has a shared vision of who the customer is, and what is important to them. By developing customer service trainings based on a shared understanding of the customer’s fears and motivations, you empower your employees to tailor their interactions in a way that reinforces the brand.
7. Human Resources
Sharing personas with the Human Resource team opens a world of possibilities in terms of training and culture building. Including personas in new hire training ensures that every employee understands the customers and how to interact with them. By educating new hires, you make it clear from day one that these customers are the core of your business.
8. Employee Relations
Personas provide your company with a shared understanding of who your customers are and what they need from your brand. By unifying this around a shared vocabulary that the entire organization can use, your create a sense of unity and ignite a customer-centric culture.
How has your company used personas? Join us on LinkedIn and share your best practices with the Iterative Marketing community.