Part 2 of 2
(You can read Part 1 of this article over here. It contains all the basics of what a persona is, why it’s useful and how to create one).
So now you know how to create a persona, you’ll want to take things a step further to really get the most out of all those super useful insights.
The holy grail of customer research
A quick point of clarity here before we go on – by taking things ‘a step further’, I don’t mean getting into the head of your customer to find out what they had for breakfast, why they chose to put on red socks this morning and why they did or didn’t respond to that marketing email you sent them today.
But why not? I hear you cry.
Surely this is the holy grail of customer research – finding out the what, why and how of our customers.
Well let’s just take a step back and think about that for a moment.
🥣 Do you remember what you had for breakfast?
Actually, you probably do.
👖 Do you know why you went for the black pants over the blue ones this morning?
Hmmm, probably not.
📩 And that email you received earlier inviting you to an event that actually looked interesting.
Why did you delete it straight away rather than keep it until later?
My point is… we can only go so far with customer research to understand general intentions and trends.
What we can’t (yet) do is understand exactly why individuals take or do not take specific actions.
Because they (we) don’t fully understand these things themselves. And despite what some tech giants and data scientists would have us believe, psychology and neuroscience are not there yet, at least not with any degree of certainty.
The 3 Key Things you need for the Perfect Persona
So if we can’t quite get into the heads of our customers, what are the key things you need to create the perfect persona?
1) Number 1 is Balance.
Namely, the balance between the emotional and the rational that makes up every human being on this planet.
To put this into context, let’s take a few examples.
1) A chocolate bar. More specifically, a chocolate bar that is bought at the till of a coffee shop.
Here, you have a pretty emotional purchase.
2) Buying a car. Where you take weeks or months to research different options, in order to buy the most fuel-efficient model available within your budget.
Here you have a slightly more rational purchase, but probably with a good dose of emotion still thrown in depending on if you have a specific brand allegiance or were turned off by one of the showroom sales people!
3) A B2B-type purchase for a CRM system. Where a group of say 4 or 5 people are involved in making a decision.
Depending on the people and brands involved, you’re probably going to have a mostly rational purchase, but with an element of emotion baked in too, quite often down to brand allegiance again or which provider puts on the better customer event each year!
In other words, every sale or purchase involves a mixture of the emotional and the rational.
Depending on the product or service you’re marketing, as well as the customer you’re trying to engage with, you’ll need to mimic that mixture as best you can.
↪️ Which brings me back to the Persona.
Every Persona document needs to include a good balance of the rational and the emotional.
You’ll notice in the immerj version here that we focus on Decision Criteria – the rational – and Pain Points – the emotional.
What’s important is that when you come to actioning that Persona, be that through copy you write or marketing campaigns you launch, you need to remember to include elements of both.
2) Actionable data points
Speaking of actioning that Persona, the other factor in creating your perfect Persona document is including ‘actionable data points’. In other words, things you can actually use to take the next step in your marketing plan.
Again, if you take a look at the immerj version, it includes the following:
- Job Title
- Business Size
These are actionable data points that you can use to easily slice and dice your customer database (also called Segmentation), or to help with purchasing data if you’re just getting started with building up your lists.
Not just that, but they can help with targeting.
So when you come to promoting your latest campaign or kick-ass piece of marketing content, you can use this info to target the right customers – for example, on LinkedIn or Facebook, or even Google Ads.
And what about ‘Preferred Behaviors’, i.e. the behaviors that your customer will normally show when they’re researching a problem or trying to find a solution?
Well that sits neatly between your more quantitative data points and your qualitative research.
Not only does it help with your targeting and focusing on the right channels or activities in order to reach your customers, but it also helps with having a rough idea of what your customers are doing on these channels when they get there – for example, browsing, researching specific solutions, or chatting to peers.
Again, just remember – you’ll never know exactly what’s going in your customers’ heads at any given moment of that browsing or researching, but at least you’ll know where they are likely to hang out and where you’ll therefore get more bang for your marketing buck. 🤑
3) Realistic persona groups
For anyone who’s battled with a ‘Gen Z’ persona or an ‘Ian from Finance’ customer profile, you’ll know what I’m talking about here. 😉
But before we go on, I’d like to clarify the difference between a ‘Persona’ and a ‘Job Title’ or another similar label.
Because these are two different things.
Your ‘Job Title’ or other piece of demographic information is a data point.
See point 2 above for more on this!
Your ‘Persona’ is a representation of a customer that includes things like their pain points and challenges, their decision criteria, and their professional (or personal) goals.
👉 So people with different job titles may actually fall under the same Persona group. 👈
For example, Ian from Finance may have the same frustrations in his day-to-day job as Claire from Procurement.
Put another way, you wouldn’t put Madonna and Angela Merkel in the same Persona group, would you? Even though they are the same age!
The point here is that really good Personas are based on grouping similar sets of customer pain points, because the marketing stuff you create after this step speaks to people’s challenges, rather than some meaningless demographic point.
Not only that, but grouping this way actually saves you money and time because you’re not creating loads of duplicate content for different sets of job titles when actually that content is the same.
Creating the perfect persona is no easy feat – and maybe ‘perfect’ is the wrong word, we should be happy to settle for ‘extremely good’.
Because the reality is that we’re all complex individuals making purchases based on a whole heap of emotional and rational factors.
And we don’t all fit into neat boxes according to our age, or where we live, or what job we have.
Understanding all of these factors is an impossible task, but the next best thing we can do is identify the general trends and patterns and use these to inform our marketing plans better.