How to create a customer persona that works for you
Customer personas should be useful and hard working documents.
If you created yours and then wondered what you’re supposed to do with it now, then something’s not right.
I can help you find out why your persona’s not working for you – read on!
I had an a-ha! moment the other day.
The kind that makes you face-palm.
If you’re a regular reader of our posts, you’ve probably noticed how important I think customer personas are.
They’re important tools in any business owner’s kit because they are so useful. They keep you focused on the people who are at the very of your business. They guide your decision making. They help with your messaging.
Actually, you already know this! (If you don’t – catch up really quickly here, then come right back!)
I was talking to a franchise owner last week. She wants to increase her sales by focusing on her customer experience but doesn’t want to lose focus on her customer acquisition. There’s been some increased competition lately and her business has slowed.
We were chatting about how customer focused her business is right now, so we could work out what her next steps are.
I asked about her customer personas – does she have them? Do they get used?
“Yes and no.”
“They’re just not that useful.”
“Oh, can I see them?”
Here comes the a-ha! moment
The customer personas she showed me were … [I’m struggling for the right word] … weak. (That’s probably the safest option!)
There it was –
What I think of when I talk about customer personas was worlds away from what she had.
So when I’ve been talking about how useful customer personas are – that’s not strictly true. It’s how useful they can be if they’ve got the right information on them.
A picture with a few demographics is not a [great] customer persona
As a franchise owner, the customer personas my friend had were supplied by the billion-dollar global corporation that sold her the franchise. They were part of the marketing pack that came with the business.
3 pages; each with a picture of a different kind of person and 6-8 demographics around the picture.
I could see why they’re not that useful.
So, what makes a useful customer persona?
A customer persona should be a document that anyone can pick up and learn about your customers.
So it needs to have the information on it that they need to know – that you need to keep in mind.
Let’s face it, you’re an expert on your customers!
A customer persona is a means of recording your knowledge in a way that will help you in the future.
You know, those days when you’ve 101 things in your head and it’s hard to focus, when you’re exhausted from delivering that amazing project to a very happy client but still have to get up the next day and write a blog post, when you’ve got flu and are trying to plan your next quarter. Or when your business has grown and you need to bring a new team member or agency on board.
Check out your customer persona(s) – does it contain those details? Does it help you with your decision making? Does it make your messaging easier?
A quick guide to what should be in a customer persona
Information like age, gender, level of education, life-stage are all useful. They can help you visualise your customers and that brings them to life. They’re also helpful if you need to find out more about them – like social media usage; secondary research (reading through findings from someone else’s published research) is easier if you’re able to narrow down what you’re looking for, for example men aged 35-44. And help with marketing – such as social media audience selection!
Use with caution! Demographics can lead to stereotyping and generalisations (like everyone over 65 years old struggles with technology; all builders read tabloid newspapers – neither is true). They can restrict your view of your customer and be limiting. I’ve written more about this here.
A description of the type of person you want to attract. Are they adventurous, generous, active, caring, humble…?
Think about what defines your ideal customer and sets them apart from others. Keep your brand in mind too. These go towards your messaging, imagery choices and how you position your business, product or service.
Likes & dislikes
These are the things you need to keep in mind, so you do what they like and avoid what they dislike. So you might have a customer that likes the journey as much as the destination, or someone that dislikes wasting time.
They need to be relevant to your business, your product or your service. The fact that you’ve discovered that your customers hate marmalade is irrelevant if jams, conserves, jellies, curds and other tasty spreadable goodness has no place in what you do or offer. Other people use the term ‘values’ – we use ‘likes & dislikes’ because it has the 2 distinct aspects.
The way we want to feel – emotionally and physcially – are highly influential in our decision making, including our buying decisions. Your customers make their purchase decisions based on their emotional drivers. They’ll also be influencing your customers’ perceptions of your brand. These could include things like success, security, embarrassment, self-improvement, and so on.
You can read more about emotional drivers here. Use these to influence how you present your business, product or service and in your messaging to create appeal.
These are what you can help your customers accomplish. Short term goals are more immediate, quicker wins. Long term goals are bigger and you have to build up to them. These could be getting fit, running a marathon, making the most of family time, bringing up your children to be emotionally intelligent.
Use these to demonstrate how you can help them achieve their goals. Focusing on the short and long term goals will help create long term relationships with your customers.
These are the things that your customers are facing that hold up their progress in achieving their goals. Or the pain points where you can make the most difference. They’ll relate to their goals in some way, like lack of time, self belief, motivation, poor diet.
These are the problems that you can solve. You need to talk about these in your messaging. They may also be the things that will stop them or give them a reason not to choose you (or anyone else).
Where they spend their time
These are the places you need your business to be seen. This feeds into your marketing plan. Include what social media platforms they’re on, where they go for information, events they attend, what publications they read, anything or anywhere you know your audience is going to be.
This in part depends on how you position your business and what you offer. If you’re selling hand crafted original jewellery made with only the finest materials, your customers’ expectations are going to be much higher than someone else’s if they sell kebabs from a food van in a lay-by at night.
This could be the anticipation of every whim, or laid-back and no pressure. You’ll know quickly from lack of repeat custom and poor reviews if you’re not getting this right. Head that off now! If you and your team know that punctuality is important to your customers document it. Use this to make sure that what you’re putting in place is inline with their expectations, and to manage your customers’ expectations so they’re not disappointed.
Reasons to buy from us
These are the reasons you give your customers to believe in you and your business, that meet their spoken and unspoken needs. This becomes a checklist for what you sell, what you give, how you add value and your brand. For example, your experience, goal achievement, understanding their needs, …
You’re about to close the sale and then your customer says “I’m not sure I can really afford it.” Or “I just don’t think I’m ready to commit to this right now.”
If you know what objections you’re going to hear from your prospective customers, you can prepare a response! Use it during those sales conversations. Pop it in your sales content. “Can you really afford not to? If making a moderate improvement to your customer experience can increase your turnover by 77% over the next 3 years, what does that mean for your business? What does that mean for you?”
You can use testimonials in your content too, if they contain something that counteracts a common objective. Like “In the 3 years we’ve been working with XYZ & Co, we’ve seen our turnover triple.” Anne Example, Fictitious Client Ltd.
When you’ve been dealing with your customers, you may have noticed that there are some common themes between them. This isn’t just things that they have in common, it includes traits where you have customers at opposite ends of the same scale.
It’s the scale itself that we’re talking about. There’s more information on these here. They should relate to your space, so for example if technology is important, how technologically minded someone is could influence your messaging and product design. Examples include ‘Price vs. Value’, ‘DIY vs. DFY’, ‘Self-centred vs. World conscious’.
Picture & name
Having a picture will really bring your persona to life. It allows everyone that reads the document to identify that person.
But be careful – if you choose a particular gender for your picture when your persona has otherwise been gender neutral, you’ll influence people towards that gender. Go for an image of a group of people that reflect all of your audience.
The same goes with creating a name. Some people choose a first name like ‘Sarah’, ‘Mike’ or ‘Avery’ – gender specific or non-binary (there’s a great list here for non-binary first names). Others give more descriptive names to their personas: “Young entrepreneur”, “Mid-life active”, “Frugal saver”. There’s no right or wrong – do what feels right to you and use the name when talking to others about your customer so it gets adopted into your business’ terminology.
You can also pick a colour from your brand pallette that will always be associated with each specific persona, if you have more than one. It acts as a visual prompt for which customer persona you’re talking about.
Customer personas are living documents
I don’t mean they’re living and breathing! You don’t have to feed them or worry about what happens if you feed them after midnight.
I mean they should be used and updated. Regularly.
If you’re keeping your customer persona in a drawer or it’s gathering dust on a shelf, it needs updating!
Your customers don’t stay the same forever. Things change. Times change. People move on.
Remember ‘Blockbuster’ – how we used to hire DVDs on a Saturday night? (VHS too!) As customers we could afford to sign-up to streaming services, just as we started to have access to increased download speeds. We no longer had to trek into the nearest town on wet, windy, miserable winter nights to pay for and get our evening’s entertainment. We didn’t have to remember to return anything the next day.
Our expectations changed. Our habits changed.
Other companies addressed our goals and our challenges with new easy and quick solutions.
My Saturday night in goals are largely the same, but my challenges have changed.
My demographics have changed – I was dating and living with my parents, now I’m married with 2 children, living in a house with a granny-annex.
My values have changed. So have my expectations.
Keep up with your customers. Make your customer persona useful. Keep it up to date.