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Struggling with Customer Engagement? Audience Personas Could be the Key to Success

Tim Ahlenius | September 23, 2014 Comments
Struggling with Customer Engagement? Audience Personas Could be the Key to Success

Imagine it’s Monday morning. You’re sitting at your desk staring at your computer in frustration and thinking, "Why is there so little interaction on my website? Why is my ROI so low? Why aren’t there more conversions? Why isn’t my content on social networks working? Why are my promotion actions so unattractive?

Why, Why, Why!?"

You spent an appalling amount of time creating content, trying to engage with the online community and posting social network updates, but have nothing to show for it. You even updated your website to include all the latest bells and whistles. What are you doing wrong? 

Struggling with Customer Engagement? Audience Personas Could be the Key to SuccessMany companies put so much effort into reviewing their marketing and social media strategies but fail to start with a fundamental step of defining their audience / buyer personas before producing web content. Businesses will ask themselves over and over again if the tactics they’re putting into practice are right or not, but never stop to ask who their consumers are, what they are trying to accomplish on the website, what goals drive their behavior, how they buy, or why they buy. You need to get on a personal level with your clients by investigating more qualitative data and asking the who, what, when, where, why, and how questions. This is extremely crucial because by understanding your customers and developing audience / buyer personas based off that knowledge, you will gain incredible insights that will help guide and align the various efforts of your business, including marketing strategies, sales messages, brand message, and product development.
Struggling with Customer Engagement? Audience Personas Could be the Key to Success

What we’re really trying to say is that it’s absolutely imperative to know what you’re offering as a solution and whether or not how you’re offering it fits the needs, the desires, and the ideals of users you would like to have as a customer.

Stop and think for a minute. Before you create content, do you ask yourself the following questions?

•Is this how our customers would like us to interact with them?

•Is this the best way our customers process information about our products and services?

•Are the topics we focus on the ones that will persuade customers and move them through the customer journey?

•Are the features we’re highlighting important or appealing to the customers?

Defining who your users are (personas) is hands down the most critical step in planning an online strategy and unfortunately is almost always overlooked. According to Pam Moore, "the error is to start with the tactic and NOT with knowing our audience and ideal customer" (Read her full article here). Marketers need to know the heart and soul of their customer, what moves them, makes them tick, and keeps them up at night. This information is the key to defining successful strategies, and also the perfect way to execute them.

Alright, so we’ve convinced you that audience personas are extremely important. Not only are they vital to your online success, but developing buyer personas can be quite complex. Therefore, we’ve outlined some key points that are important to remember to help you get started creating your personas!

1.What exactly are audience / buyer personas and how will they benefit me?

HubSpot really nailed this one on the head when they provided the following definition:

"Buyer (or audience) personas are fictional, generalized representations of your ideal customers. They help you understand your customers (and prospective customers) better, and make it easier for you to tailor content to the specific needs, behaviors, and concerns of different groups."

At the most basic level, personas will allow you to personalize or target your marketing for different segments of your audience. So for instance, instead of sending the same lead nurturing emails to everyone in your database, you can segment by buyer persona and tailor the messaging according to what you know about those different users.  
Struggling with Customer Engagement? Audience Personas Could be the Key to Success
Great. How does that benefit you?

Potential increase on ROI (Return-on-Investment): Your investments in marketing have a much higher probability of being profitable because they are now based on behaviors which have been researched and analyzed.

Facilitate the planning and design objectives: Defining personas will provide you with information you need to design marketing messages, sales messages, and content sharing.

Develop a strong brand message, and even better, the RIGHT one: Knowing who, how, and what to convey allows the message not to be lost by an audience you don’t even want! This will also enable you to gather higher quality leads, saving time for your sales team.

Social Media: Having details about your personas can simplify the decision making related to basic aspects of a content strategy. This can help you specify:

• What topics to engage in

• Which social media channels make sense for your business

• What the best times for each persona are

• Which devices to optimize for

Happy Customers: If you can address your users’ needs and answer their questions with personalized messaging, you will help them find exactly what they need and want more quickly which cuts down search time. In this day and age, customers want instant gratification so the faster they can find what they’re looking for, the happier they will be - thus strengthening the relationship with that customer.

Struggling with Customer Engagement? Audience Personas Could be the Key to Success

2.What do I need to know about my audience?

  • Who are they?
  • Where do they live?  
  • What is their lifestyle?  
  • What is their education?  
  • Are they engaging with your competition?  
  • What’s their occupation?
  • What other sites do they visit?
  • What problem do they need solving?
  • How can you help them?
  • How is your service or product positioned to help them?
  • How are you different from your competitors?
  • What are your competitors doing?

3.Great! Now how do I design a persona?

RESEARCH

Your best bet in creating your personas is to go directly to the source and talk to your customers. Do some user research and reach out to those who have purchased from you, as they are the type of customer you want more of. This can be accomplished through surveys and interviews. You will want to ask questions that will help you determine the best way to communicate with them, how to retain their interest, and how you can influence their purchase-making decisions. Remember, obtain the qualitative data.

NARROW IT DOWN

Identify the most common and main profiles that correspond to the majority of your consumers. You should probably have roughly three to five personas. Larger companies may have slightly more. If you’re unsure, start off small! You can always add more personas later if you need to.

CREATE

This is the fun part – creating a "semi-fictional" character to represent each persona you have identified. The purpose of this is to humanize the resource as much as possible using analytical tools like Google, social networks, or even information from your competitors by using sources such as Quantcast or Quicksprout. Use these resources to determine gender, age, location, education, annual revenue, etc. for each persona you are creating (qualitative data!). And remember, the data doesn’t have to be EXACTLY accurate, as it’s a general classification for that type of user!

Personas typically include the following pieces of information:

  • Persona Group (i.e. Web Manager)
  • Fictional Name
  • Job Title / Major Responsibilities
  • Demographics (age, gender, education, family status, location)
  • Goals they are trying to complete using the site
  • Physical / social environment
  • Casual picture representing that user group  

 Struggling with Customer Engagement? Audience Personas Could be the Key to Success

CONCLUSION

So overall, the importance of audience / buyer personas lies in its ability to reveal insights on the profile of your ideal customer, enabling you to produce a better sales strategy, create and guide content strategy, adjust the brand message accordingly, and more. Personas allow you to make the user experience more personal and suitable to every user group in every stage of the customer journey. That’s the real power of successful digital marketing.


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