Developing Personas

Do you really know WHO your customers are?

The first thing you need to understand is that personas are NOT demographics. Demographics are simply attributes of a population or person (e.g., age, gender, race, education, household income, ethnicity, job title). Demographics shouldn’t be confused with firmographics which are company attributes like company size or the number of employees, annual revenue, locations, industry etc.  Marketers generally start firmographics company data to find companies that match their ideal company profile, then develop a demographic segment of the people within those ideal companies with ideal job titles and roles.

After you have your firmographics and demographic segments in place, you need to start thinking about your buyers as people and look at the world from their perspective in order to be relevant and engaging with your content.

Figuring out who you are talking to is vitally important to your sales and marketing efforts but understanding their job challenges and pain points could be the difference between success and failure.

Start by asking questions like:

  • Who is this person?
  • What are their challenges?
  • What are their responsibilities?
  • Whom do they work with and report to?
  • How much purchase authority do they have?
  • What’s their communication preference?
  • What is their vendor selection role? End User, Decision Maker, Financial Authority etc.
  • Do they have a relationship with your company today?
  • What other competitors or vendors do they work with today?
  • Where do they get their industry news?

An example of an IBM Persona: Len, Chief of Police.

Research suggests there can be as many as six to 17 people involved in any considered purchase. While we believe that you should develop a comprehensive buyer persona for each person —mapped to each stage of the buying process from learn, solve, compare, purchase and loyalty —in most cases this just isn’t feasible or required. However, there are some key personas that are a must like: end user, decision maker and financial authority.

Example: Let’s say your company offers a SaaS based software solution. The end user only cares about how easy it will be to implement, learn or manage, while the decision maker wants to know how much more efficient or effective the end user will be at his job so he makes his end of year bonus, while the financial authority only cares about cost, service level agreements, escalation policies and terms of the contract. These are three completely different perspectives and possible conversations.

By building a persona for each of these three people we will have a better understanding of who they are and what’s important to them and how to market to them in a relevant and effective matter.  IBM calls this “conversational marketing.”

After you have your key personas identified you want to start mapping your existing content to each stage of the buying journey below. During the process, you will undoubtedly find content gaps or content that needs to be updated.

The idea is to first imagine each persona’s question at each stage of the buyer journey and create content for each of those questions. It’s sort of a giant FAQ exercise.

Learn – I think I have a problem?
Solve – How do I solve that problem?
Compare – Am I solving the problem the right way?
Purchase – Help me make a purchase decision

And if you are a really smart marketer, you add a loyalty stage to the end of your buyer journey to prove to your customers how much you appreciate them.

After going through the exercise of building out all of the necessary personas and understanding what challenges each might have, you are ready to start marketing. I guarantee you will have a lot more meaningful conversations that lead to revenue.

P.S. This persona exercise also provide you with a powerful sales enablement tool as well.

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