How to get the most out of your brand personas

 

Defining clear personas is a critical part of creating a compelling value proposition, brand strategy, or marketing strategy for your tech company.

Your marketing team might already have a list of target customers they are reaching with their content—complete with names, ages, job titles, what they like or dislike, and where they get their information. Your product team, too, most likely has personas in mind while creating your products’ next feature update or user experience update.

The question is, are you getting the most value from your personas? Here are three ways to be sure—

  1. Your personas are built on research
  2. You can count all your personas on one hand
  3. You can recall all your personas off the top of your head

Easy enough, right? Let’s dive in.

Do your research

Ultimately, the reason you have personas is to help you influence your target buyer’s decision to invest in your product or service. To influence them, you need to understand how they think. A great first step toward understanding is listening to people who have made a decision like this before.

If your buyers spend a lot of time and effort evaluating their options before they purchase your solution, they’re making what’s called a high-consideration decision. Compare, for example, the time you’d likely take doing research before buying a new car with what it would take for you to decide on which toothpaste to buy. If you’re selling an expensive software solution, your customers are probably approaching it like buying a new car. So they’ll have a rich story to tell you about the process they undertook to ultimately buy from you.

To learn more about their buyer journey (and how you can influence it), conduct interviews with your existing customers.

Reach out to them for an hour of their time. Your interviews don’t have to be scripted, but come prepared with the insights you want to gain from the conversation. A few suggestions—

  • What circumstances triggered them to start looking for a solution like yours?
  • What job were they trying to get done by using your solution?
  • What results were they seeking? What risks were they avoiding?
  • What were the barriers to purchase? What do they think your competitors do better?
  • How did they finally make their decision? What were the milestones along the decision-making process? Who were their influencers?
  • What specific attributes of your product or service impacted their evaluation?
  • What has been the impact of of using your solution–at a business and personal level? How does using your solution make them feel?  

Once you have conducted a few interviews, look for patterns. What are the similarities between their stories? What are the key differences? Track your findings in a spreadsheet, and pull out key themes and examples that clearly demonstrate your customers’ perspectives.

Count your personas

How many personas do you currently have? If you have more than four, consider simplifying. The purpose of each persona is to guide your creation of a value proposition, message, or story that connects with the market segment that persona represents. If you’re creating eight different messages about your company or products, your brand might lack a unified brand story. You only have the capacity to share so many different marketing messages!

One question we get all the time is, “What if my product serves multiple different industries or multiple different user groups, don’t I need a persona to represent each group?”

Not necessarily.

Let’s say your product serves multiple industries. Hopefully during your research, you’ve been able to talk to representatives from each industry. When you look at the data, are they trying to accomplish vastly different jobs with your product? It’s possible. But more likely they have similar high-level goals: saving time, simplifying processes, increasing sales, etc.

Try separating your persona groups not based on demographics, but on how their needs and expectations about your product differ.

Make a list of the common goals and challenges across industries that your customers use your product to address. Then list the distinct goals and challenges that warrant unique marketing messages. You might find that instead of categorizing by industry, it’s more useful to categorize your personas by their distinct needs and expectations that your messaging can address.

“The differences in people’s needs do not come from different demographics or psychographics…You must segment the market around unmet needs. A value proposition will fail to connect with customers if it does not align with unmet customer needs.”

-Anthony Ulwick, Jobs to be Done: Theory to Practice

Keep your personas top of mind

A common pitfall of personas is that you have them, but you don’t use them. They’re buried deep within your brand guidelines, or hidden somewhere on your hard drive. So when you’re creating content, you’re not seeing the world through their eyes.

Conducting research to learn more about your personas will naturally give you the ability to create from their perspective. After a few of these conversations, you’ll find yourself asking questions like, “Does Jane actually care about the all the benefits of the cloud, or does she just want the automatic updates?”

Here are a few tips to help you put your personas to work more often:

  • Add a “this content for:________” reminder at the top of each content piece
  • As you write, imagine you’re having a conversation with them. Anticipate their objections, answer their concerns, appeal to what they really want–not just what you offer
  • Post them up on the wall, or by your monitor
  • Distribute your personas to sales, marketing, communications, strategy teams, ask for feedback
  • Go back to the notes from your interviews. How do they talk? What words do they use?
  • Nominate someone to be the voice of the customer in strategic meetings
  • Keep doing customer research and refining your persona documents on an ongoing basis—Airtable or Google Slides both enable you to create accessible, living documents

Personas can be an immensely valuable tool when used to think like your customers. They empower you to create content that speaks to them—that resonates just at the moment when they’re ready to engage on a deeper level with your company.

To read more about gaining deep insight into your customers, check out Buyer Personas: How to Gain Insight into your Customer’s Expectations, Align your Marketing Strategies, and Win More Business, by Adele Revella.

For more about understanding your customers’ jobs to be done, check out this article, or the book, Jobs to be Done, by Anthony Ulwick.

 

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