How personas can help your business thrive

Picture your perfect customer

One of the biggest marketing challenges you may face while running a business is delivering products and services that meet your customer’s needs. Research shows there can be a huge gap between what you think your customers expect and what they really want. This is where personas come in.

How well do you know your customers?

 

In a survey by Econsultancy, almost 80% of respondents felt that the average brand does not understand their needs. Developing well-researched buyer personas can help you fix this problem.

How to craft personas for your business

The time it takes to create customer personas is time well spent. Here’s how to do it.

  1. Start with what you know.
  2. Create sample personas.
  3. Get feedback from real people.

Let’s first define what personas are before getting into our steps.

Personas, what are they?

Personas are fictional characters that represent your ideal or target customers. They represent people who are most likely to use your product, service, website or other platforms you manage.

Personas are not developed arbitrarily; they’re based on research and real data from your existing customers.

Personas Man on Cell Phone

Well-developed personas can help you improve your marketing because you understand better what your customers:

  • Think
  • Feel
  • Expect from you

Overall, your website, social posts and paid ads will feel more personal and authentic if they are addressed to a particular persona. As a result, they’ll get clicked more often.

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How to uncover personas for any business in 3 steps

Now that you know the benefits of personas, let’s explain how you can create them for your own business.

1. Start with what you know

To create accurate representations of your target audience, you need real-life information. Some of the information you may want to know about your audience includes:

Demographics

What is the gender, age, nationality, income level, job role, education, etc. of your customers? Are their sizable groups of customers with similar characteristics?

Communication preferences

How do they prefer to be contacted — phone, text, email, social media? What social platforms do they favor?

Product use

How did they discover your product? How do they use it? How often do they order?

Goals

What do they hope to gain by using your product? What motivates them to continue using your services (price, convenience, quality, etc.)?

Challenges

What are the problems they face with your product, if any? Why might they consider a competitor?

The easiest way to get this information is to look at information you already have, such as:

  • Website analytics can show you how users arrive on your website (which websites they’re coming from), their demographics and the pages on your site they visit the most, which reveals their interests.
  • Social media data is another source of demographic information about your audience as well as their interests.
  • Past sales reports can help you identify distinct groups of customers (married women with children, etc.) and their buying habits.
  • If you use Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software or a contacts database, go through your existing contacts and group them by characteristics.

If you’re a new business owner or don’t have this information, read this post for details on how to gather fresh, accurate data about your potential customers.

2. Create sample personas

The next step is to organize the information you have uncovered around distinct personas. At this point, the persona does not need to be accurate.

Suppose you sell sarees on your eCommerce website.

 

When studying your website data, you may discover that American-based Indian millennials make up a large proportion of your site visitors. Based on this information, you can create a persona named Kareena Americana or whatever name suits your preference. You can then use other bits of information that you have discovered about this group to fill out the picture.

Personas Sample Customer Profile Card
Here’s what a skeletal persona sheet for Kareena Americana might look like.
Photo: Chidinma Nnamani

This exercise helps you identify missing information, which you can take care of in the last step.

3. Get feedback from real people

Although existing information can provide valuable insight, you may be unable to paint realistic personas based on research alone. That is why you need feedback from current and/or past customers and prospects. This can be done through surveys and personal interviews.

Surveys

You can conduct online surveys on your website or social media channels or via email. Here are a few ways you can do this:

  • Reach out to your existing customers by email and ask them to fill out a survey you include.
  • Collect information through forms on your website. Users are concerned about privacy, so be sure to explain how you will handle the information they share.
  • Run polls on your website or social media pages to uncover specific customer preferences.

The shorter your survey, the greater the number of people who will likely complete it. You can find many free survey tools available online.

Interviews

Personal interviews deserve special mention because they are by far the most trusted way to gain insight into your customer needs. In the case of our sample persona, Kareena Americana, we can reach out to existing customers who fit into the target group and request an interview.

HubSpot recommends that you interview both “good” and “bad” customers. While good customers help you understand what people love about your product or service, “bad” customers can help you identify areas that need improvement.

Make it easy for people to say yes by offering incentives and reassuring them about your intentions.

Personas Young Woman Hiding Behind Post

When conducting interviews, focus on getting the information you couldn’t glean from your research. Interview three to five people for each target persona.

Once you have interviewed representatives of your target persona(s), you can fill out your sample persona sheet. Remember that personas are not set in stone. Be sure to update them regularly to reflect changes in tastes and preferences of your customers.

Real-life benefits of using personas

Some of the documented results of using buyer personas in business include:

Higher sales and lead conversions

More than 70% of companies that exceed their lead and revenue goals have created personas, whereas only 26% of companies that miss their goals have them.

Better email performance

Email open rates increase 2 to 5 times when using personas. Similarly, you can generate up to 18 times more revenue from persona-based emails than broadcast emails.

Better website experience

Designing your website with your personas in mind could make it two to five times easier to use by visitors. Ease of use translates directly into more leads and more sales.

Wrapping things up

Personas are important marketing tools because they represent actual consumer segments that are interested in your product or service. Results from persona-based marketing include improved website experience, increased email performance and higher lead conversions.

To develop personas for your business, start by looking at existing data sources, such as your website/social media data and sales reports. Develop sample personas based on your findings.

To make your personas more realistic, get feedback from real people by conducting surveys and interviewing existing customers or prospects. Consider your personas a work-in-progress and update them as your business and audience evolve.