A truism in business is you need to know your customer well, the rationale being the better you know who you’re selling to, the more effectively you can communicate with them and the better you can tailor your offer.
In small business terms, you may know your clientele well; they may be repeat customers, you might know their name, how many children they have and what footy team they barrack for. In service and retail businesses operating out of physical premises in small communities, this is often the case as the proprietor develops strong relationships with customers over time. For the rest of us though, especially those running web-based businesses and/or leveraging the internet as a way of marketing their brand (and isn’t that most businesses today?), then defining your customer can take a bit more work.
Some businesses fall into the trap of simply defining their market using demographic information. They decide—sometimes with the benefit of research, other times on gut feel—they’re aiming for an audience of, say, men aged 39-55, married with two kids and who live in, say, the eastern suburbs, work in a white-collar profession and earn in excess of $100,000.
As a rule, rounding out people and conveniently placing them in neat and tidy boxes is bit of a crock. Radio and TV networks do it all the time when they state their audience is between 25 and 49. That’s fine, but a 27-year-old generally acts nothing like a 46-year-old because they’re at very different life stages; indeed, two 30-year-olds can often be poles apart in terms of how they live their lives. But I digress
The development of buyer personas, on the other hand, can help business owners get a better handle on their ‘bullseye’ customers and understand with more depth what their needs, challenges, goals and character traits are.
David Meerman Scott, author of the bestselling book New Rules of Marketing & PR, describes a buyer persona as a distinct group of potential customers, an archetypal person whom you want your marketing to reach.
Defining a buyer persona requires business owners to look at their customers with ‘3D glasses’ and add a human dimension to the ‘cardboard cutout’ that often is the demographically-defined consumer.
Identifying and fleshing out buyer personas is particularly useful for businesses that focus on providing solutions-driven online content as a marketing strategy.
Content marketing is an effective way to build trust with the marketplace and attract potential buyers to your brand by providing relevant and factual information that helps them make an informed purchasing decision.
However, to go down this path without first knowing your audience could well end up costing businesses unnecessary time and resources. You don’t want to be creating content for everyone, you want to be doing it with a specific person (or people) in mind.
So the answer is to invest effort in developing your buyer personas in the first instance. Do your research and gather insights about your audience.
Who are you creating content for? What’s their name? Where do they live? Are they married or single? How old are they?
But don’t stop there. Go deeper!
What are your target customers’ goals … their needs, their challenges, their concerns? What’s important to them? What drives them as individuals?
Bring your personas to life. Personalise them—give them names and ‘real’ faces. Maybe you want to base them on actual people you know. You might zero in on one person, or potentially flesh out one that’s a composite of a number of different people who share common characteristics.
When you’re finished, pin pictures (and accompanying descriptions) of your buyer personas next to your computer to remind you who you’re communicating with, and more specifically, creating content for. Refer to them often; internalise their characteristics, and you’ll find your marketing efforts will tighten up over time and become more focused and relevant, which is ultimately what you’re trying to achieve.