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User Personas and Segmentation to Up Your Marketing Game

By Andy Mullins on January 9, 2016 in Personas, segmentation
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One of the biggest challenges that you’ll face when it comes to marketing your products or services is really understanding who your prospective customers are, and how to reach them. The best solution to this problem is to break your contacts and customer database into groups defined by similar characteristics, and then develop a marketing strategy to reach each specific group you’ve identified within your customer base. This process of breaking down the different types of buyers in your audience into more easily marketed to groups of contacts based on their similarities is called segmenting. You can use segmenting to define the topics and tone you discuss with your contacts, plan your content strategy, and hone the messages that your company presents to prospective customers on your website and in your email campaigns. Seems straightforward enough, right? But how do you go about segmenting your audience?

Buyer Personas

Buyer persona is a buzzword that you might have seen or heard thrown around whenever the topic of marketing comes up, but that you might not have understood. Simply put, buyer personas are fictional characters you create to represent the different types of customers you want to target. Because segmenting is so critical to being able to know who your ideal customers are and understand their needs, and because so many factors can go into segmenting your audience, personas are a very useful tool that can help you and your team to better understand each individual segment of your customers, and to customize your content and communications to appeal to each group.
Personas help you and your team to understand your perspective buyers, and relate to them as real people. A good buyer persona will incorporate and embody important distinguishing characteristics about your customers, including:

  • Who they are,
  • What they value,
  • What they need, and
  • What motivates them.

Having a good understanding of your buyer persona is essential to better developing your products, creating relevant content, and driving sales. Developing comprehensive personas allows you to direct your content strategy, so that you can make the biggest possible impact and make sure that you’re investing your time and resources intelligently. Using personas, you can categorize your contacts, determine how many leads fall into each persona, prioritize who to target, and then use what you know about the people who fall under that persona to tailor your messages and content to appeal to them.

Start Small

When you’re just starting to use personas in your marketing, it can seem like a daunting task to look at your database of contacts and customers and try to sort them all into different groups, constructing different personas for each. Depending on your business, you could end up with anywhere between two and twenty personas in your marketing arsenal. The best advice is to start small, with one or two personas, and add more personas as your marketing strategies develop and you begin to better understand your customer base. Comprehensive buyer personas are created by taking the time to research and learn about your customer base, and then using the data you collect to find patterns and similarities. Personas may be determined by details such as what industry a contact is in, what the size of the contact’s company is, or where the contact is located.

Interview Actual Customers

The best method for collecting data about your potential customer base and starting to build your buyer persona is to interview your actual customers and prospects. You can conduct interviews over the phone or by email, but the key is to remember is that you should make the interview process as easy and painless as possible for your prospective interviewees. Accommodate their schedules and be clear that you aren’t out to hound them for a sale, just trying to learn more about them and their needs. You can further incentivize prospective interviewees with the offer of giftcards or other small perks. Reach out to both customers who’ve had a good experience with your company, and to those who have felt dissatisfied. Customers who have had a bad experience will offer valuable insight to help you better flesh out your persona, and address the needs that you aren’t meeting in your target audience.

In general, you should conduct about three to five interviews for each new persona you create. You’ll know that you’ve developed a solid understanding of each persona when you are able to predict the interviewee’s answers to your questions. In general, the best questions to ask will address:

• The interviewee’s role in the company,
• The company’s industry and size,
• The interviewee’s goals and responsibilities,
• Challenges faced by the interviewee,
• Informational resources currently used by the interviewee,
• The interviewee’s personal background, and
• The interviewee’s shopping experiences, including how he or she finds and interacts with vendors.

By asking your interviewees to reflect on their own behaviors and why they like to operate the way they do, you can identify patterns and similarities and use that raw data to finally start building your persona! When you are ready to actually build a buyer persona, the first step is to create a background for the persona: the age, job, and any other descriptive traits that make it possible to identify people in this category, such as mannerisms and buzzwords they might use. The next step is to flesh the persona out by noting what factors motivate them. Identify their goals, and the biggest challenges they face. Find a few real quotes that exemplify their concerns, and finally, give your persona a name and a real face!

Now when you sit down to plan your marketing strategy, you’re not trying to write for a nameless customer. Now you have a real person that you and your team can relate to, and your team can use your new persona to better target your audience. You can use the persona to determine how your products can help solve challenges, or to anticipate questions and concerns your customers might have for your sales team. Your persona will allow you to personalize your interactions with your customer, and allow you to both target your messages more effectively and improve the experience and value that your customers receive when they do business with you.

About the Author

Andy MullinsView all posts by Andy Mullins >