You’ve probably already got an ideal customer in mind. Someone who’ll love what you do and become a loyal customer. Maybe even a friend. They’ll sing your praises to anyone who’ll listen (and probably people who won’t). You’ll add value to their lives and put a skip in their step. They’re why you do what you do.

That mental image can be a powerful tool to make your business dreams come true if you give it a fancy name – the ‘customer persona’.

What is a customer persona?

Sometimes known as the customer avatar, it’s a visualisation of your ideal customer. You use it to understand who you are selling to and how to reach them. It is a simple but powerful way to focus your marketing efforts for maximum impact.

How is a customer persona different to a target market?

A customer persona is much more detailed. For example, your target market might be women aged 25-45 with school aged children. Your persona allows you to explore your target market in more depth, to uncover insights that can inform your marketing strategy. You’ll consider their hopes and fears, what websites they visit, what supermarket they prefer.

How do I create a customer persona?

Start with the basics. Think about the following: what they buy, their age, gender and location.

Don’t forget to give them a name to make them memorable. Adam the accountant or Martha the mechanic.

Next, build up a better picture of who they are. Some of this will be educated guess work but you can also do some research.

Motivation for buying your product

Why does your customer buy your product? Think in terms of features and benefits. They might buy a jumper for the colour and material (features) but also because it makes them look fashionable or attractive (benefits).

Needs

What do they need from your product and from your promotional material? Do they want to feel healthier, progress their career, care for their children? Do they like adverts that make them feel understood or make them laugh? Do they need lots of information before they make a purchase?

Barriers

What stops them from buying your product (this will help you work out ways to overcome them). Do they have a physical barrier, such as visiting a shop? Or a mental barrier, such as justifying an expensive purchase?

Channels

How can you reach them? What websites do they visit / publications do they read / TV shows do they watch?

Personality

What makes them laugh? What are they afraid of? Keep it relevant here. ‘Spiders and snakes’ might be a relevant fear for a hypnotherapist to include, but a diary manufacturer will record something like ‘fears forgetting people’s birthdays’.

How do I research my customer persona?

Customer personas are only as good as the research you put into them. Often people produce a superficial persona based on guesswork alone. That’s unlikely to lead to any real insights.

Some ways to research your persona include:

For many businesses, social media is a great way to understand your demographic better. If you’re already trading and have a customer base following you on Facebook or Twitter, tap into them to learn more about who buys your products and why.

For example, you can run a simple survey on Facebook in a single post. You can gain value audience insight by asking them where they shop, what websites they visit or how much they’d be willing to pay for a new product.

Make it fun by asking them to vote using a ‘reaction’ emoji or make it formal by using the ‘vote’ post option.

How will a customer persona help my business?

Knowing more about your ideal customer can help you in a number of ways.

  1. Mindset shift

Just thinking about who you customer is can be a positive mindset shift. It makes sure you’re focused on the benefits and value you’re offering your customer, which, in turn, will make your product more attractive to them. Many businesses are too focused on what they want to produce and leave it too late to think about whether there is a market for it.

  1. Segmentation

Segmentation just means separating all of the potential customers in the world (some 7.5 billion people) into the groups you’re going to target. So instead of designing products or pushing out promotional messages aimed at everyone, you select a specific set of individuals who are most likely to buy what you offer. Your persona can help you really focus on the best market for you.

  1. Product development

Knowing your ideal customer inside out helps you understand what product features they might appreciate. This can help you develop new product features or entirely new products. For example, if you know that Generous Jennie buys your biscuits to gift to her granny, you could think about a complementary gift food range.

  1. Promotional messages

By creating a full and fleshy customer persona, you can target your promotional activity more effectively. Instead of pushing out promos designed to appeal to everyone, you can design activities that appeal specifically to your ideal customer. They’re far more likely to click through to your website if your banner ad appeals directly to their needs.

Can I have more than one customer persona?

The aim here isn’t to list every possible customer, it’s to identify the strongest leads, so you’ll only create personas for the customers you most want to target.

However, you might have a number of different customer types. Developing a persona for each of them will help you target them more effectively. If you’ve segmented your audience into different types already, you can develop a persona for each segment of your market. For example, a garage might have:

  • Motorbiker Mo, 47 years old, disposable income, passionate about their bike
  • Speedy Sam, 23 years old, low income, but likes to spend on upgrading their small car
  • Taxi Toni, 36 years old, uses their car for business, medium income, needs regular valets and maintenance

You can already see how segmenting the market and understanding their audience will help the garage target customers with relevant products, offers and promo materials. This will reduce their cost of acquiring customers and make their marketing more effective. How would this look in your business?

Want to learn more about boosting your business with marketing tools and techniques? Check out our startup advice section for more articles on marketing and sales. We've got everything from doing a SWOT analysis to writing a social media calendar


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