We all have our favorite customers, and the ability to replicate them is the golden ticket to business success. For that to be a possibility, you must develop a deep understanding of your customers’ needs and how you plan to address them. Without this information, marketing dollars, solution development, and service offerings will suffer a hit or completely miss the mark. Evaluating your current customers based on demographics, company size, and industry type is a good place to start, but the findings are often shallow in terms of insight. For this very reason, the practice of developing customer personas is growing in popularity. According to the Marketing Insider Group, 93% of companies that exceed lead and revenue goals segment their databases by buyer persona.

A persona identifies the personality and character of your ideal customer. It is built around a fictional person and will include basic customer data like business type, job title, and company revenue or income. Even so, it goes beyond the categories we use for market segmentation. A persona gets into what drives a customer’s motivations, needs, and expectations. It provides the opportunity to paint the perfect picture of where these customers live, what they do in their spare time, and how they engage with their favorite brands. It captures what is important to them in terms of their initiatives, beliefs, and who they trust. Imagine the possibilities that could be uncovered if you shaped your marketing messages with this information! This article explores what a customer persona is, why it is important to business development, and how data plays a key role.

Don’t Miss the Mark!

It can be difficult to determine how best to approach your audience with simple data. For example, messaging your prospect based on age, gender, or income might miss the mark in several areas. Not all female Gen Xers with similar annual incomes have the same passions or priorities. In fact, in the early years of variable data and personalized print, attempts to “fit” consumers into a rigid demographic bucket ultimately failed and did more harm than good.

The customers of today can be quite different from the customers of just two years ago. A recent study from Accenture reveals that half of consumer respondents agreed that the pandemic caused them to rethink their personal purposes and re-evaluate what’s important to them in life. As a result, modern consumers will quickly abandon brands that don’t support their ever-changing values — and will spend more money on those that do.

Figure 1: Half of Consumers Are Rethinking Their Priorities Due to the Pandemic

This implies that marketers and sales organizations have much to lose if they continue with traditional methods when attempting to capture and retain customers. Businesses that neglect the process of establishing customer personas run the risk of diluting their business development efforts with apathetic prospects and customers.

Discover Your Data

Creating a customer persona is important, but it doesn’t need to be complicated! In fact, it’s likely that much of the information you need is readily available. A customer persona is nothing more than a fictional representation of your ideal customer based on what you already know about your current customers.

If you’re not sure where to begin, consider the quantitative data you collect from surveys, market research, and existing databases of current and former customers’ information. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems house valuable information like job title, education, and organizational structure. Naturally, basic demographics like gender, age, and annual income are important as well — combined with communication preferences, how they consume social media, and where they obtain the information they need to do their jobs.

Qualitative data gleaned from one-on-one interviews and conversations can further shape your data records. Details like individual goals, hobbies, interests, and social behaviors can all add value and flavor to your customer persona. A big part of a customer persona involves identifying the challenges your ideal customers face as well as any objections they might have to your products and services.

Well-designed customer personas have structure. Due to the variety of data that is available to today’s businesses, it’s a good idea to define the information you want to gather, then develop a template to follow. Many marketers find it helpful to create a persona for each market niche that they serve. Regardless of how many personas you establish, the goal is to ensure that your offerings align with each fictitious personality.

Putting Your Persona to Work

Customer personas help businesses engage with their desired audience in a meaningful way. They enable you to speak their language so you can share stories that mirror their interests and become a brand that they want to do business with. Ultimately, well-defined personas lend strategy to developing content that will drive customer engagement.

For that reason, your entire organization must be clear on the personas that you took the time to create. In fact, it’s not unusual to give each persona an individual name. For example, everyone in your organization could learn that “Riley the Researcher” will always conduct an intensive amount of research before making his decision. Meanwhile, “Marilyn the Mobile Maven” might want to do as much business as possible from her mobile device. Basically, these personas become your customer archetypes. When you talk about them like they’re real people, everyone in your firm can take part in creating and delivering a customer experience that individuals fitting that persona are most likely to appreciate.

The Bottom Line

No one wants to be overtly sold to, so sales and marketing organizations of all types and sizes are tasked with finding better and more effective ways to engage their audience members. When it comes to developing a growth strategy, data is king — but it can’t stand on its own! Your customer data must be shaped to reveal a precise understanding of the people and markets you want to serve. Today’s customers will seek out opportunities to do business with brands that reflect their personal values. Make the commitment to define your ideal customer types, then update your content to mirror their interests. If you aren’t sure how to get started, there are many persona examples and templates online that can help you. It's time to make your data smarter!

Karen Kimerer of Keypoint Intelligence has experienced the many challenges of expanding current market opportunities and securing new business. She has developed a systematic approach to these opportunities, addressing the unique requirements of becoming a leader in our changing industry. She is well-versed in 1:1 marketing, web-to-print, direct mail, book publishing, supply chain management, data segmentation, channel integration, and photo products.

This article originally appeared in the November/December, 2021 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.