In our previous blog post, we discussed the importance of customer segmentation – ways of separating out your many types of customers into collective ‘groups’ with shared characteristics. Personas are then used to characterise each group and the participants/type of customer within it. This blog will look at customer personas in more detail; how they differ from segmentation, how to create them, and the immediate and longer-term benefits for your business.
Customer personas, according to the Digital Marketing Glossary, are a fictional character that embodies “the characteristics, needs, motivations, environment, and behaviour of typical distinct audience types.” Though the creation of personas heavily relies on a segmented customer base, personas have a greater focus on the emotional and behavioural differences between each group and help put employees in the shoes of their customers. Let’s briefly return to the Greggs example we used in our previous post; in this case, segmenting the customer base might include separating out by dietary requirements (e.g. vegan, vegetarian, meat-eater) whereas building out a persona for vegan customers might include looking at their broader motivations and interactions with the brand, such as wanting to purchase from somewhere that not only offers a vegan option but uses ethically sourced animal products for the rest of their range.
The number and variety of personas will vary according to your business – as each organisation operates differently, naturally, your set of personas will also be unique to your customer base. As a starting point, try breaking down personas into a few key groups. For example, if you are creating B2B personas this could be buyers, influencers, and users. Once you’ve identified the key groups, use the Pareto principle (the 80/20 rule) to help prioritise efforts by focusing on groups that are generating the most value (revenue, profit, etc.).
It’s very easy to get stuck in the detail by thinking about each customer individually, so start at a high level and think about where you can deliver the most value from what you create. Build your personas based on user research where possible – this could be primary research from surveys and interviews (sales teams/customer-facing staff can often provide insightful information here), or even using data already accessible to you such as CRM or web analytics. Building personas as “fictional characters” may sound like a subjective task but it’s important to keep in mind that these should still be based on factual information and observations with limited assumptions.
Once you’ve gathered the basic demographics, focus on the customer’s behavioural drivers. These include your customers’ goals and needs when interacting with your brand, what they are looking to accomplish, and their journey from discovering to consuming your business. Take into consideration what would delight them but also any hesitations or concerns they might have. How do they perceive your product or service and how does that view impact the information needed to make a decision?
The details from one persona to another will vary, and the differentiation is where you will find the most value. Combining this with your findings from customer segmentation will enrich your existing view of customers, allowing you to further enhance the benefits achieved from segmentation. For example, if segmentation has allowed you to focus your marketing message and deliver personalised communications, personas will help you to understand what aspect exactly needs to be personalised – and how customer mindset will impact the success of this personalisation effort. A study by BrightTalk found that using buyer personas for email campaigns led to twice as high an open rate and five times higher click-through rate.
Other benefits include:
- Developing a deeper understanding of customer needs, how they vary by each segment, and how to meet them
- Guiding product development by creating features that help customers to achieve their desired outcomes
- Understanding what customers don’t want, and what might be negatively impacting acquisition and retention rates
- Helps you to prioritise which projects, campaigns, and initiatives to invest time and resources in
- Creating alignment across the organisation using a customer-centric vision so that all employees understand the end to end customer journey and their role in relation to this
- Inform your change management approach by helping you to create more targeted change initiatives
- Understand where things are broken internally from a customer’s point of view. This consequently enables you to make changes so that the correct organisational design, processes, and technology foundations are all in place to underpin the CX journey for all personas
If you need a place to start, have a look at the template below:
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