Over the years, you’ve likely received (okay, maybe even given) a bad gift here and there. Gifts that just aren’t quite right. As sweet as it was for your girlfriend’s aunt to knit you that sweater, it’s just not quite your style.
And hey, no offense to her. We’ve all been there. She just had you pegged wrong—and she probably isn’t the only one.
Turns out, marketers constantly act on inaccurate assumptions about their audience, which result in similar blunders as your poor girlfriend’s aunt.
But the truth is, getting it right isn’t as hard as it seems. All it takes is a little data, research and a willingness to set aside your assumptions on who your audience is versus actual facts.
So, how do we go about it? First, let’s take a closer look at what they are, in order to understand how to determine the right one for your brand.
What are audience personas?
According to Ardath Albee,
“A persona is a composite sketch of a key segment of your audience. For content marketing purposes, you need personas to help you deliver content that will be most relevant and useful to your audience.”
Simply stated, a buyer persona helps you and everyone on your brand publishing team answer and agree on:
- Who will we talk to?
- Why will they care?
- What will we say that’s relevant to them?
What do they look like?
You probably have more than one type of buyer, so you’ll also need more than one customer persona. In order to outline what your persona might look like, you need to use existing data on demographics, habits and interests. Then combine those with your own knowledge of your audience and what they all have in common. While you may have more than one persona for your brand, you don’t want to create too many and risk speaking to a small, hyper-specific audience. Instead, spend the time to create a few personas with a significant amount of research and analysis.
There are even tons of buyer persona templates, tools and generators freely available on the internet. Take this one from Xtensio, for example. It allows you to enter your buyer persona’s demographics, goals, frustrations, bio, motivations, preferred channels and brands.
Whether your buyer personas are basic or complicated, at the end of the day they’re only going to be effective if you can truly paint a clear picture of what the different types of audiences are, and what drives them to your brand.
Creating a very real but fictional character
When creating a persona, you’ll have a biographical sketch of a fictional person, your ideal buyer. To refer to them in the future, it’s a good practice to give the person a name (e.g. Denise Designer, Steve Startup). Though your persona is fictional, he or she is defined by very real qualities—characterized by demographics and psychographics, actual pain points and behaviors.
In fact, MailChimp took this practice quite literally and created graphics with images of real people to represent the different segments of their customer base.
The project started once they realized that they could broadly generalize about their users (savvy, self-reliant, techie, motivated), but that they couldn’t actually define four or five archetypal MailChimp users.
They go on to describe in their blog,
“What we needed was a clear idea of our current users, so we could better empathize with them, and in turn design for and delight them—especially with a massive redesign on the horizon.”
In order to discover how their brand/service fit into the daily lives of their customers, they had to find answers to who their customers were; what, why, and how often they use the platform; what kinds of issues they face; where they work and what kind of people they are.
By looking at their audience as a real customer and developing a “persona” to match, they would be able to design a smarter, more efficient tool.
In the end, giving your personas names and faces are much less important than ensuring they are actually based on real people, not stereotypes. To make sure you’re on the right track, Tony Zambito notes in his article, 7 Criteria To Ensure Doing The Right Things For Buyer Personas, ineffective buyer personas often “…read like job descriptions and offer little insights.”
Essentially, your goal is to create a composite sketch (whether literally or figuratively) of a target market based on commonalities of which you can actually validate.
Why do they matter?
Audience personas are a content marketer’s best friend. By using audience personas to inform every part of your marketing strategy, you can tailor your moves and decisions to align with the preferences of your ideal customers.
On the other hand, by not taking the time to create defined personas for your audience, there are also consequences. According to a study by the Edelman Group, brands have been failing to understand fundamental insights about their audience.
In a survey of 11,000 people across 8 different countries, they found that 51 percent of respondents feel brands are underperforming when it comes to asking about their needs. Only 10 percent consider brands are doing this well.
Similarly, Responsys surveyed more than 2,000 U.S. adults to find out how they feel about their relationships with brands. Of the respondents, 34 percent said, “They have ‘broken up’ with a brand due to receiving poor, disruptive or irrelevant marketing messages.”
Seriously, what is going on?
Take a look at your audience and the campaigns you’ve used to target them. Is the content you’re serving up actually relevant to the people within that audience?
Though we make it sound like it’s an easy, black-and-white solution to apply, it’s not. Even big name brands make this seemingly simple mistake from time to time.
Take JC Penney’s 2012 rebranding debacle, for example.
Within a month of taking over as CEO at the well-known retail company, JC Penney, Ron Johnson launched a radical rebranding. Not only did he change the look and feel of the stores, he got rid of JCP’s private label brands replacing them with designer brands that were just too costly for JCP’s customer base.
And the real kicker—he overhauled their coupon-based sales model to “every day low prices.” Following that decision, sales collapsed within months.
Ron Johnson told Businessweek,
“I thought people were just tired of coupons and all this stuff. The reality is all of the couponing we did, there were a certain part of the customers that loved that. They gravitated to stores that competed that way. So our core customer, I think, was much more dependent and enjoyed coupons more than I understood.”
The key to any successful marketing or branding campaign starts with understanding your audience. And any well-defined audience starts with a buyer persona. Would JCP have done this beforehand, they would have realized their consumers loved all the things they did away with, which would have saved them time, money and embarrassment.
Personas allow you to walk in your audience’s shoes and actively work to help them overcome challenges and achieve goals. You can mobilize your brand advocates and support by gearing your content marketing efforts toward engaging the right people, building relationships with and ultimately driving your personas to take further action.
As for how to buy the right gift for a significant other’s family member, we’ll have to tackle that another day.’
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