An Imaginary Friend is Just What You Need to Boost Business
This imaginary friend is otherwise known as a customer persona. A persona is a fictitious, generalised representation of your ideal customer – a kind of composite sketch. If your target customer is undefined, you’ll feel like you’re standing in the middle of a crowded room, reciting your beautifully crafted sales patter as loud as you can, and nobody even notices. A customer persona helps you to address your ideal customer directly and personally.
Reach out to just one person, rather than a broad ‘target market’. Only then will your message truly resonate with that one person, as well as those who identify with or aspire to be that person.
Detailed insight will help you empathise with them and tailor your approach accordingly, so that your language becomes more engaging and persuasive. It helps to know what questions your customer might have, so that you can pre-empt them and demonstrate how you can help to overcome their challenges and achieve their goals, whether it’s to have matching socks… finally, or to solve world hunger.
In this post, I’ve put some ideas together that cover:
- What you need to know about your ideal customer
- How you can find the answers to your questions
- What to do with all the information you gather
What do I need to know about my ideal customer?
However well you may think you know your ideal customer, (you may even fit into your target market yourself), an effective persona is based on actual market research rather than assumption. That said, you may need still to fill in a few blanks using your best educated guess.
We have put together an ideal customer survey template for you as a guide, which asks all the questions below with more detail and finesse! You’ll probably need to add or remove some to suit your business. You can see how we use ours here. Do fill it out for us whilst you’re at it, if you can spare a few minutes!
- Demographics: Where they live, their age, gender, household composition, education and employment.
- Behaviour patterns: Do they work from home? What are their hobbies, shopping habits, favourite websites, film, TV, music, books, comedies and news sources?
- Purchasing influences: Do they most trust personal recommendations, online reviews or instinct? Do they use social media and search engines?
- Goals, motivations, challenges & concerns: This section requires the most thought. What are their goals and aspirations? How can you help to achieve them? What are their obstacles and pain points, and how can you help them to overcome them?
How do I find the answers to these questions?
It is surprising how much information is already out there, just waiting to be harvested. There are a few avenues you could take to collect data, before you turn to the good old fashioned survey:
Google Analytics & Facebook Insights: If you are already in business and you have an active website and Facebook Page, you can get all sorts of information on the demographics and interests of your visitors, as well as the keywords and phrases they use to find you. You can also take a peek at the profiles of your followers.
If you are just starting out and don’t have access to these insights yet, you can actually analyse your competitors’ traffic via SimilarWeb! However, this site only works for websites with a large amount of traffic.
Another option is to delve into the comments section on your competitors’ blogs and social media pages. There you could pick up all sorts of details from commenters’ profiles.
If you still don’t have enough information to identify patterns with any kind of certainty, reach for the trusty survey. Ask friends, family, co-workers, existing customers and social media contacts, who you think fit your target audience. Bear in mind that people will be more comfortable disclosing information online rather than in person or over the phone. Be prepared to offer incentives if you’re not getting enough response.
You’ll probably only need to collect three to five surveys per persona. You’re done when you start accurately predicting the answers.
What do I do with all this information?
When you are putting together your customer persona, look for patterns and commonalities in the answers you’ve gathered to complete your customer persona template. For your business, you may need to create more than one persona to represent different segments of your audience.
Tip: You should assign a name and photo to your persona to help with visualisation!
Knowing where your ideal customer lives, is crucial for location specific marketing campaigns. It will also help you to visualise their environment and the stimuli that surrounds them. Do they like the fast paced, hustle and bustle of the city, or the space and tranquillity of the countryside? Insights like this could influence your branding, language and visual content decisions.
Their age and gender could also be an influential factor on language and on visuals such as colour palette. Be careful though, not to repel anyone with gender stereotyping, particularly as gender roles are becoming increasingly fluid.
If your ideal customer is married/cohabiting and/or has children, this is likely to be their single most influential characteristic. Many of their decisions will directly affect their partner and kids, so take this into consideration when addressing their motivations, challenges and concerns.
Their knowledge and computer literacy will influence the wording and functionality of your website. It will also tell you where you should focus your marketing. For example, would you best reach them through social media and blogs? Or in newspapers, magazines and shop windows?
Could the fact that they work from home affect the times of day they’re online? You could target your social media campaigns accordingly. Perhaps working from home allows them to cosy up in their pyjamas while they work, or sit in a sunny pub garden with their laptop.
Relatable details can help you to connect with your ideal customer on a more personal level.Do they shop on the high street? Or online? Or do they prefer the intimacy and exclusivity of a boutique? This could influence the vision you have for your branding and the outlets you choose to sell your product or service, as well as your advertising campaign. If they prefer the high street you could do a billboard and bus stop ad campaign. If they prefer to shop from the comfort of their home, an online shop is what you need, and focus your advertising efforts on Google, and relevant blogs and websites.
Are their favourite websites and media outlets heavy on text or do they use a lot of video and other visual means to convey information? Is there a consistent branding style across them, or a tone of language that seems to appeal to your ideal customer?
You can tell a lot about your ideal customer from their taste in TV, film, music and books, particularly in relation to language and visual stimuli. This could influence your photo and video editing style, and the genre of music you choose for your videos. These are also great details to reference in your content to add that personal touch.
It’s good to throw in some humour – it reassures them that you’re human and helps with the memorability of your content. But keep it relevant and appropriate for your audience! Hopefully, your research provides you with a good indication of the kind of thing that tickles your ideal customer.
Purchasing influences, goals, motivations, challenges & concerns:
The value of the answers to these questions is pretty self-explanatory. In addition to working these answers into your website and marketing content, make a note of any reoccurring words and expressions in their writing. That way you can be sure the language you use resonates with them. This will also cover SEO needs by including the search terms they are likely to use when looking for a solution to a problem.
Survey and Customer Persona Templates
We have created a survey template with question suggestions. It is likely that you’ll need to add a few questions that are specific to your business. We’ve also put together a customer persona template to help make the insights you gather actionable. Click to download editable Word documents:
Creating customer personas for your business, will help you to develop a connection with your ideal customer. By learning about their home and work life, their pastimes, preferences, aspirations and challenges, you can truly understand and empathise with them. You’ll learn how best to assure them that you can help to overcome their concerns and realise their goals.
It is important that you continually develop and redefine your customer personas, as your business grows. The more up-to-date information you have, the more accurately you can target your ideal customer going forward.
In the interest of continuous redefinition, we’d love to learn all about YOU! Could you spare us a few minutes?!
Do you already have a customer persona for your business? Introduce us!
(This post was written with our good friends Katie and Mark in mind).