Preparing to ‘go-to-market’ is an essential part of every organization, from startups launching new businesses to scaleups launching into new market segments to mature companies launching new solutions. While Simon Sinek has taught the world to clearly state your ‘what, how and why’, made famous in his Golden Circle presentation, an important but often undervalued and sometimes overlooked step in the marketing and sales go-to-market process starts at the very beginning, when companies are determining who they are trying to reach. Getting the ‘who’ right enables businesses to tailor the rest of their strategy with targeted messages that resonate and move people into the buyer’s journey.
A persona is an invaluable tool for identifying the traits, characteristics, and personality of your best potential customers by developing a realistic representation. These are built by collecting demographic, psychographic, geographic and firmographic information enabled by data collection tools and customer insights and interviews.
Personas were developed around 1999, as the advertising world began to harness the power of big data collection while realizing that the ‘spray and pray’ tactics of massive ad campaigns to wide audiences were becoming ineffective. The era of the ‘audience of one’ was reaching new highs, and personas were the tool companies used to figure out what their best audiences of one looked like. Building detailed buyer personas is the foundation creating scalable, repeatable and measurable targeting that comes from reaching the right people with the right messages, at the right time.
Buyer personas are the composite identities, often in the form of a named avatar like Startup Sean or Marketing Mary, that represent people targeted by a marketing or sales strategy. Through extensive research, insights, and experience you can extract vital demographic information about your best customers’ like age, income and job title, and drill down even further to reveal behavioral information like job goals, personal motivations, skill areas and common frustrations that affect them on a daily basis. The level of detail provided through well-structured personas improves the efficiency in identifying and locating customer prospects, making it akin to fishing in a well-stocked barrel instead of casting your line into the wide-open ocean.
Follow a few basic concepts when creating personas for your business.
Build The Customer Journey Map Around Your Personas
Identifying the path your customers take from initial discovery to final purchase is the first step in designing an effective customer journey. By knowing as much as possible about the customer based on a persona, you can develop a more accurate customer journey map that becomes the foundational path to attract and engage other similar customers. A persona can help you understand whether the vice president of technology in a given industry is more likely to be an introvert or extrovert and whether they would likely prefer being contacted via phone or email.
You can use the persona to make educated presumptions about what the typical software or technology budget may be for a company based on size, when relevant purchasing cycles are likely to begin and end, and what KPIs are probably important in determining the job success of your decision-maker. Those discrete details are important factors in determining how a marketing message or sales interaction lands with a prospect, making it easier to find the path of opportunity and increase conversions.
With a customer-centric buying experience in place, friction will be greatly reduced and the buyer will have a greater sense of connection when they interact with your company.
Use Personas To Improve Your Effectiveness
An added benefit of the persona-building process is that the data gathered can be shared between marketing and sales teams. The quantitative data from marketing and the qualitative information from sales can be combined to learn even more about an ideal buyer. With a detailed picture of this persona at the center of all integrated marketing and sales activities, it becomes far easier to test, measure and improve the processes to make sure the right marketing messages and sales tactics are being used.
Personas will need to be adjusted over time as more information is gathered, so you can create a more accurate picture of your best buyer to get better results for your marketing and sales. If a sales team is approaching executive-level heads of technology for conversations about a SaaS product, they may learn over the course of their interactions that a manager-level staffer is a better target who is usually more available and may have the authority to make a purchasing decision. Armed with that intelligence, building a new persona for the managerial employee can provide more effective results.
By pursuing a better target with a clear understanding of their decision-making process, your company’s sales team will see more success in less time and with less expense because you are focusing on the right prospects.
Prioritize The Right Information
Great personas need to be focused on providing better information to optimize the effectiveness of marketing and sales. There can be a temptation during the persona building process to go overboard in gathering personal data about an ideal buyer that isn’t relevant. You probably aren’t going to need to know that the purchasing manager likes to go fly fishing on the weekends, or that their kids play in a 12-and-under coed soccer league, so don’t focus on those granular but largely irrelevant details. Instead, go after the nitty-gritty details related to their career and industry.
- Professional experience
- Their primary responsibilities
- Basic company info
- Distinct steps in their buying process
- Reasons why they would or wouldn’t buy
- Criteria for job success
- Professional influencers
- Motivators on the job
- Challenges on the job
By prioritizing the right information for your persona, you can identify and engage your audience with better presumptions to increase the value of each customer contact. With better information, you will improve the results of your marketing and sales efforts.
The persona is at the center of the concentric circles of your audience, with the target, the segment, and the market being the extended outer layers. A persona-driven approach to your audience enables you to identify and engage the right people with your marketing and sales efforts. A perfect persona tells you who your buyers are, how they behave, and how they can be influenced to advance along your customer journey.