As a small business, there’s a good chance that you may get to know your customers well. As in, really well – how did his or her kid’s hockey tournament go this past weekend? Can you get them the usual? The recognition and personal touch you offer may make repeat customers out of new ones, and keep your loyal customers happy for years to come. It’s part of what makes a small business unique, and it’s definitely valuable. But can you put this knowledge into words and numbers? Do you know your customer well enough that you can make them a part of your expected ROI? Or is there more to find out about them? This question is the driver behind the development of customer persona research – an essential skill for any small business looking to target the right market with efficiency, precision and ease.
The customer persona has become one of the most important marketing and business development tools in use today, and anyone can use it. Put simply, it asks: who is the ideal customer, and why? Here’s how to make an amazing persona that will give direction and creative incentive to your marketing plan.
Start With Great Questions
Everything you do when you interact with a customer generates data. You generally take down information such as a customer’s age, gender, address, method of payment, etc. along with any sale or transaction. This is a great place to start, but a persona is about more than just demographics – it’s about behaviour. Where do they work? How much do they make? What do they do in their free time? What does their household look like – single? Married? Kids? What social networks do they use, and why? And perhaps most importantly, what patterns in their lives include products and services like yours? What problems might they have in their daily lives or interactions with your business (or with businesses like yours), and by extension, how can you help solve them?
Conduct Effective Research
Not all of the questions posed above can be easily answered on a form or in an email. Successful persona creation depends on interaction with real people, often in the form of short interviews. Give your customers a chance to be heard, and they will likely welcome it. If customers are apprehensive, create an attractive promotional incentive that will reward them for taking the time to help you out. Be clear that this isn’t about making a sales push. For each persona you hope to create, interview around five people. The more research you do, the better fleshed out your persona will be – but once you can almost predict what a respondent might say, it’s time to stop investing time and effort into the research process.
Summarize: Make Your Persona Personal!
Your persona summary should fit on one typed page. Describe it like you would describe a person! Give it a name, and give it a face – even a stock photo. Summarize their key information briefly, and devote the majority of the profile to highlighting the key questions you’ve identified as the most common, interesting, or important to your business goals.
Finally: Use It!
Putting the persona or personas that you’ve created to use is easy. They can be used as training tools for customer-facing staff. They can shape your next marketing campaign or tell you who to target digital and social content toward. And you can use them right away to start finding the answers to your customers’ most pressing questions and needs – and knowing with confidence that you’re heading in the right direction.