I think it’s pretty easy to get caught up in marketing speak when it comes to customers and think in terms of target markets and market share and the like, but in the end, even the buyer at the big corporate purchasing department is a person.
Defining and sketching the make up and personality of your ideal customer, you know, the ones you love to work with, is something I’ve been preaching for years.
The impact of narrowly defining who makes a great fit for your business – meaning who you can actually deliver the most value to – is astonishingly simple and profound.
It helps you first and foremost spot business you should not take. It helps you attract the right kind of customer and it guides how you simplify and communicate your marketing message.
Over the years marketers have come to call this sketch of ideal customer segments customer personas. I love the terms as it draws heavily on personality traits and behavior – two of the most important elements of a good fit.
The term persona originates in the theater world, which translates wonderfully to the world of business where character development, story lines and emotional connection are staples.
The idea behind a persona for the sake of marketing is to describe or sketch in elaborate detail exactly what a customer segment looks and acts like as though they are a real person. This might involve a character name like Mary or a descriptive term like Techie as well as an image. But the key is that Mary or Techie’s behavior is described in a way that gives clues to what they expect and how to spot them.
For example in my world you might meet: Bob – The Learning Focused Business Owner – Bob owns a business and realizes that he loves to learn – he soaks up everything he can and knows where to find more. He reads books, attends online seminars and can spout the latest business lingo. He researches before he makes a decision and relies heavily on information from his network. He craves a combination of coaching, teaching and DIY and demands the ability to dive deeper into subjects on his own. He wants help on things he does not understand and validation on the things he is working on to make sure he is on the right course.
To give more insight into the notion of customer personas I visited with Adele Revella, president of Buyer Persona Institute and author of the eBook The Buyer Persona Manifesto
Revella describes what she calls 5 Rings of Insight that are required to accurately create customer personas.
1. Priority initiatives – What’s important to your customer right now
2. Success factors – What would success look like to them
3. Perceived barrier – What might hold them back from buying
4. Buying process – How do gather information and make a purchase
5. Decision criteria – How do they come to a decision
Revella’s work is focused primarily on large organizations but the considerations for any size business are the same. Have you ever considered the factors above as you consider your ideal customer?
Discovering and using customer personas is part gut feeling from your own experience, part stepping back and considering things like Revella’s five rings and part consistently asking your customers and prospect why they do what they do, why they don’t choose you, how they make decision and why they chose you.
Take all of that information and put into a set of characters your business is built to attract and everyone in your organization will learn how to attract the right kinds of clients.