Your goal is to make more sales. But do you know who you’re selling to?
If you’re working with only a partial idea of who your target customer is, you’re missing out on the value of a fully developed customer persona.
In fact, 71% companies that exceed lead and revenue goals have documented customer personas. On the other hand, companies that underperform in these areas are half as likely to develop and use customer personas:
In one case study, a company used buyer personas to increase their conversions by 46%.
But even if you have a customer persona in place, do you know how to use it correctly?
According to a study by ITSMA, 83% of B2B marketers said that their buyer personas are only somewhat effective.
If you want to build customer personas that work for your company, it’s time to develop a strategy for collecting and implementing information in your marketing (both to prospects and customers) and sales efforts.
So, let’s get back to basics: What are customer personas, and what do you get from creating them? What’s a clear strategy for developing and using customer personas effectively?
What is a customer persona?
A good customer persona is a fictional character that you create based on the most common attributes of your ideal customers. Developed like a personal profile, a customer persona details the personal and business attributes that define your target audience.
Especially for B2B providers, it’s important not to confuse your customer personas with a profile of the companies that make up your customer base.
A customer persona is based on a single human, not a company profile. So, B2B companies should develop customer personas based on the individuals that they work with to win sales within a company.
Having these details documented gives everyone involved in dealing with customers a clear view of who they’re talking to, what their concerns are, and how best to approach them in order to win a sale.
Many companies develop multiple customer personas, allowing them to segment and personalize their efforts for the different characters in their customer base.
But, what makes customer personas so important?
This is what creating customer personas can do for your brand.
It allows you to personalize your marketing and sales efforts.
We’ve entered the era of relationship marketing. Customers, whether B2C or B2B, want to feel that you as a seller understand and appreciate them.
In fact, a study by Accenture found that 91% of consumers are more likely to shop with brands who recognize, remember, and provide them with relevant offers and recommendations.
One way to ‘recognize’ and adapt to a new lead is to understand the profile that they fit into.
Creating and maintaining accurate customer personas allows you to personalize the content they see on your website, or the approach that your sales team takes to reach out to them.
It saves time and money by aligning your company’s focus to your customers’ needs.
This principle goes from the very heart of product development to the fingertips of marketing and sales.
Having clear customer personas aligns your entire company to the people you serve. That means you’ll produce a better product, create more relevant content, and have more meaningful sales conversations.
It helps you see your customers as people, not just cold data.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the numbers and statistics that make up your business. Sales quotas and deadlines can blind you to the human side of your leads and prospects.
Having clear customer personas that include photos and personal details reminds the team of the people that they are looking to connect with—and keeps those relationships top of mind.
It builds trust in your audience.
Personalizing each point of contact with your leads and prospects builds trust by showing that you understand their needs, daily struggles, motivations, and goals.
No longer are you an insistent pitching machine; instead, you’re now a helpful friend providing solutions to problems.
But, what information should you include in your customer personas?
Asking these questions will help you create targeted and effective personas.
Obviously, each business must determine what factors are essential to their particular customer personas.
Here are some sample questions to help you get started. Pick one or two questions from each section to start gathering information for targeted customer personas.
Demographics and personal details:
- What’s their age?
- Where are they located?
- What’s their salary?
- What’s their education level?
- Where did they attend college?
- What are their hobbies?
- How many employees do they have?
- Which industries do they cover?
- What’s their yearly revenue?
- Where are they located? Do they have multiple shops/offices?
- Who's their main customer base?
- What’s the job title of the main point of contact?
- What’s their relationship to the main decision-maker?
- Who do they report to?
- What skills and tools do they use in their job?
- How is their success at work measured?
- How much do recent industry issues affect them?
- What are the main challenges they face in reaching revenue goals?
Goals and expectations:
- What goals do they want to reach this quarter or year?
- What are the company’s long-term goals?
- How do they expect a solution to solve their problems?
- What makes them want to purchase now?
- What catalyst caused them to consider a new solution?
- What competing products are they looking at?
- Which features of your product convince them to choose you?
- Which features of your competitors attract them?
What your company can do to help:
- What specific products does your company offer for this type of customer?
- What's the best solution for the problems they face?
- How does your business help them improve theirs?
- Where do they go for information related to their job?
- Which social networks are they most active on?
- What groups are they involved in?
- How many decision-makers does the company have?
- Which decision-makers are most influential?
- Are there any stakeholders involved?
- Who in the company can influence these decision-makers?
- What are the main concerns of the decision-maker(s)?
- Which features turn them off?
- Which features do they feel they’re missing?
Here’s a step-by-step guide to creating targeted customer personas.
1. Discover trends from your current customers.
The best place to start when developing customer personas is with your current customer base.
For example, use analytic tools like Google Analytics on your website to see where your visitors come from or which pieces of content interest them most.
Also, take down company information from current customers (such as the size of the companies, the decision-makers, and the main point of contact). You can skim this sort of information quickly from your CRM’s customer and lead profiles.
After you’ve collected this information, try to draw links between what you see. For example, does a certain size company gravitate towards one of your products over another?
2. Get sales, marketing, and customer service teams on board to create personas.
Everyone in the company who has direct contact with your customers should be involved in creating customer personas.
Each individual could bring a unique perspective and valuable insights to the table and contribute to developing more well-rounded personas.
3. Find current customers to interview.
Information gathered from your team and from analytics tools is useful, but may not be enough.
It’s time to really get inside the mind of your customers.
Phone interviews with customers should be planned with advance notice, and should follow a clear process. The best way to do this is to keep important questions right in front of you during the call.
Finally, it’s important that you input the data as soon as possible, preferably while you’re on the phone. Using a call recording service like Aircall will give you the option to go back and review certain answers later on.
Interview at least three to five people, or as many as you feel you need to in order to get a clear view of your customer personas. If you’re able to anticipate most answers, it’s a good sign that you’ve gotten enough information to develop an effective persona.
4. Offer incentives to non-customers in exchange for an interview.
In some cases, you may need to interview people who aren’t yet customers in order to develop a strong persona. For example, if your company is opening up a new market, you may not have enough current customers to fit the new profile.
In that case, take time to interview referrals and prospects.
If you’re lucky enough to land a call with someone, it’s best to keep the call as short as possible. That shows you’re considerate of their time, and helps them not to dread your next call.
Right off the bat, be clear that this is not a sales call. (If you need help motivating them to accept a call with you, offer some sort of reward: for example, a discount on their upcoming purchase, or some other perk.)
5. Create an online survey for those who aren’t comfortable completing an interview over the phone.
Some of your customer or prospects may not feel like spending time on a phone interview. To solve this problem, try using a survey.
Sending out a quick multi-choice question survey through a program like SurveyMonkey is a fast solution that allows your interviewees to send you the information you need in their own time.
Best of all, most online survey services compile and organize data for you, giving you a quick overview of all the responses without having to handle the raw data yourself.
6. Gather data from customer complaints.
This may sound like an odd place to gather data, but hear me out.
It’s no fun to trawl through the comments of unhappy customers. However, these comments may include valuable information for your customer personas.
For example, does a certain type of customer always seem to complain about the same pain point? Could it be that this isn’t your ideal type of customer, or are they being served the wrong product for their needs?
Complaints contain insights into the challenges your customers face and whether or not your product is meeting those challenges. This is also a great place to draw information for your negative customer personas (more on that below).
7. Ask the right questions.
Whether you’re gathering data from your CRM, phone interviews, or an online survey, you need to make sure you’re asking the right questions.
So, what are the different aspects that make up your ideal customer? What common traits show you which of your product is right for a certain customer?
These are questions you’ll need to determine for yourself when deciding how you want to build effective customer personas. After all, customer personas should be unique to each business.
Most importantly, as you go along, remember to ask why they responded in a certain way. This allows you to dig beneath the surface and find the true motivations behind those responses.
8. Create as many customer personas as you need.
Don’t limit yourself to just one or two customer personas.
If your products fit into a wide range of customers, make sure you create a persona for each market you’re targeting. That way, you’ll be able to segment your marketing and sales efforts accurately.
9. Teach your team how to talk to each persona.
Each customer persona has their own language and way of speaking depending on where they’re from or their educational background.
That’s why it’s important to determine how best to talk to each persona, and share that information with your team.
To do this, develop a separate ‘elevator pitch’ for each persona.
After all, a certain aspect of your business may be more important to one type of customer than to another.
For example, let’s say you provide accounting software for businesses of all sizes. Your elevator pitch doesn’t need to mention that your software allows for over 500 users if the business you’re talking to has only two employees.
10. Identify your negative customer persona.
From the data you collected, you’ve found your ideal customer.
However, you can also use this data to create a negative customer persona. For example, this could include visitors to your website who aren’t in the right stage of the buying process, or companies that are too large (or too small) to find your product useful.
With negative customer personas, you can quickly weed out leads that aren’t valuable to your company.
11. Give them a name, and include a real-life picture.
When creating your customer persona documents, get creative! Give them a name, and add a picture of an actual person (using free stock photography websites like Pexels).
Then, flesh out your customer personas with a cool design tool like Canva, or use a dedicated tool like Smaply to drag and drop visual elements into your customer persona.
12. Segment new leads into different personas.
Once your customer personas are created, put them to good use.
Marketing can do this by:
- Aiming each piece of content at a specific customer persona.
- Creating segmented email campaigns.
- Developing personalized web experiences based on your different personas.
When Marketing segments communication based on customer personas, it helps because new leads are sorted automatically. For example, if new leads come in through a web form, include a couple of questions that help you place them in a specific persona—it makes it easy for Sales to know more about these leads right away.
Check out how freelancer network Toptal does this with their interactive web form for new companies. They ask questions that are appropriate to the service they offer, including the size of the company, the type of freelancer needed, and the specific skills they’re looking for.
That way, new leads coming into the sales team are already segmented, and they can be treated based on the customer persona that best represents them.
13. Continue to maintain your customer personas.
This last step is something continuous, and it has a serious impact on the success of your customer personas.
In fact, almost 65% of companies who exceed their lead and revenue goals have updated their customer personas in the last six months, and 81% updated them within the last year.
You know that your market is constantly changing. Your customers are facing new challenges every year, and they’re looking to you to provide solutions.
That’s why it’s important to constantly update your customer personas. Make sure you have the most accurate and most recent information to better understand your customers as they are today (not as they were three years ago).
Create more effective customer personas and watch your revenue increase.
From what we’ve discussed above, you’ve learned that creating and maintaining customer personas has a direct effect on your revenue.
Customer personas help you create the ideal customer profile and give you insights into their challenges and motivations. Equally importantly, they empower reps to build rapport and trust by showing they understand the prospect’s needs.
Once you’ve created fully fleshed-out customer profiles, your marketing and sales teams can focus on the people behind the numbers, providing a personalized experience that makes your company stand out from your competitors.