They say that the best marketers narrow the gap between them and their audience so there’s as little space between them as possible. And that the very best make sure there’s no room left, so that they’re completely in line with everything about them, from their proudest values to their most embarrassing flaws.
There’s no massive secret to it. It’s merely a matter of knowing your audience well enough — something that’s within the power of every single business thanks to a simple method known as user personas.
Borrowed from user-centred design methodology, user personas can help businesses segment their audience, deliver customised campaigns, target specific customers, and overall provide a superior experience for their audience. And in a time when customers are screaming out for personalised, stand-out experiences, and businesses are getting more hung up on stats and data, they can be the method that makes you rise above the crowd and become truly able to meet your customers where they’re at.
User personas are fictional, generalised characters that encompass the needs, goals, and behaviour patterns of your real and potential audience. The data they’re made up of will depend on your market, but it can generally be split across six categories — personal, professional, goals, challenges, information, and preferences — and can be gathered by asking a set of specific questions.
Every bit of data aims to dig deeper and deeper into what makes up the person on the other side of the screen. As there are endless types of people out there, you may find you come up with several distinct personas, maybe even a handful. Don’t worry about that. After all, that’s what the process is for: defining your audience in as finer detail as possible.
So, with your feet firmly in the shoes of your ideal customer, here are some examples of the questions you want to ask:
- How old are you?
- Are you single or married, and with or without children?
- What level of education do you have?
- What is your income?
- What are you responsible for?
- What does it mean to be successful in your role?
- What are your biggest challenges and how do you overcome them?
- What is your typical day?
- What skills do you require?
- How do you learn about new information for your job?
- How do you prefer to interact with friends and businesses (email, phone, in person)?
Instead of just guessing, there are several ways you can attain this information from your customers. For information that’s appropriate and differs among customers, for instance, the size of company, ask in the form fields on your website. For personal questions, it’s best to do in-person interviews or contact them via phone or email, for instance as a courtesy follow-up to buying your product or service. Finally, analytical data on your audience, such as demographics and buying habits, can be instrumental in uncovering wider trends and tendencies.
You’ll know you have a good user persona if by looking at it you can answer all the big questions surrounding your audience. Things like where you should advertise, what types of advertisements you should use, what vocabulary and tone of voice work best, and what overarching story your marketing should be telling.
To be most effective, user personas should be constantly updated and questioned. Although it is a fictitious character, it’s playing the representative role of your ideal customer. Therefore, it needs to reflect the changing behaviours and wants of real people, and not simply become another set of data to consider and overlook.
Once created, don’t produce any piece of content without consulting them first — no matter if it’s a Facebook ad or an ebook. If you have several personas, allocate your customers and leads to each one so that every message you craft and deliver will be well received.
If you’re committed to a personalised, user-centred approach, even give them a made-up name, face, and a position in your company — anything that humanises your audience further and makes them into a constant presence in your workflow. That way, when it comes to promoting your business or selling your product or service, the space between you and your audience will be all but non-existent.
Joseph Pennington is a freelance writer and long-term traveller from the North of England. Find him on Medium exploring remote working, technology, spirituality, meditation, and everything in between.