How to Use Customer Personas

The first and most crucial step of a successful marketing strategy is to develop a deep understanding of your target audience. In a recent post we described the process of building a customer persona — an exercise through which you create a thorough description of the kind of person who is most likely to buy your product or service.

This description is called a “persona” because as you work through the exercise, you truly bring that customer to life. That way, as you work through the rest of your marketing strategy — writing copy, deciding on graphics, placing ads, etc. — you have this “person” in your mind the entire time, as if you’re talking directly to them.

A customer persona answers the first of a series of important questions you should ask before deploying an online ad or writing a blog post: It’s the question of “who” you’re marketing to. Now you can use this persona to answer the rest of your questions:

  • What does your target customer want or need to hear?
  • When are they most likely to see your content?
  • Where should you post it?
  • Why are you making the effort?The struggle is real

Let’s say you sell and repair commercial heating and air conditioning systems. You’ve built a persona for your target customer: Building Owner Bob, a 45- to 65-year-old upper-middle-class male who owns a midsize commercial office facility downtown. As the property owner and landlord to five to ten tenants, he’s busy seven days a week. He wants to keep his tenants in place for the long term, so he’s willing to invest in good quality equipment and maintenance plans, but only at the most reasonable cost.

Of course, your persona is much more detailed than this summary. You’ll know Bob’s education level, income, family demographics, hobbies, lifestyle preferences, and more after going through the persona exercise — you’ll even have an image in your head of what he looks like and how he dresses! If this sounds silly, just wait. Having this mental picture of your target customer will soon come in handy.

So what does Bob need to hear? What does your message need to be? You may not realize it, but you express your message through not only your ads, but through every aspect of your marketing, from your social media posts to your tagline to the logo on the side of your service trucks. If you want Building Owner Bob to pay attention, your message has to be something he wants or needs to hear.

To determine what to say, you have to think about Bob’s challenges — which are also integral to your persona. Bob is busy, so doing business with you should be convenient and streamlined. He has an eye for detail and believes in quality, so your products should be long-lasting and well-built, and your technicians need to be highly skilled and knowledgeable. Bob has no patience for delays or frustrations — especially when it comes to disturbing his tenants, so you should offer dependable same-day service and a great warranty on products. These features and benefits are what Bob will be looking for when and if he needs to service or replace his building’s HVAC system. If this is your message, Bob will choose you.

When and where to put the word out

Now that you’re clear on what your target audience — in this case, Building Owner Bob — wants to hear, you have to figure out when and where to place your message so Bob sees it when he needs what you’re selling. For this, you’ll again consult Bob’s persona.

Based on your understanding of Bob, you know he’s not one to spend all day at a desk. He owns a couple of commercial properties in town, and therefore, he’s often on the go in his late-model SUV. His smartphone is his lifeline, but he does spend some time on his laptop. He also reads the local newspaper online and subscribes to some local print magazines and a few business publications. He’s involved in his community personally and professionally, supporting the area’s university and high school sports programs, and participating in civic organizations. Bob doesn’t have time for social media during the day, but he will scroll through Facebook and watch YouTube as he relaxes in his recliner at home after a long day at work.

This information gives you a pretty good idea of when and where you should reach out to Building Owner Bob. If you want Bob to hear your message, you’ll buy ads with the local sports organizations and the digital version of the newspaper. You’ll put your logo on ball caps and smartphone accessories that you hand out at Rotary or Main Street meetings. You’ll create helpful videos demonstrating how to keep your HVAC unit running longer and post them to YouTube. In addition to those videos, your Facebook content will include testimonials from satisfied customers who are similar to Bob — people with similar challenges and frustrations. And you’ll post later in the afternoon or evening, when Bob is more likely to see your message in his news feed.

Why go to all this trouble?

Creating a persona and then building a marketing strategy based on that description of your target audience is definitely an investment of your time and effort — but it’s the kind of investment that could pay dividends for years. Unless the products and services you offer change, or you decide to take your business in a different direction (maybe focus on residential HVAC or ditch products and only offer service, for example), you can continue to deepen this same persona with rich detail as you learn more and more from your actual customers.

Also, keep in mind that Bob is never going to be your only target customer. In this case, an HVAC company might also build a persona for a large organization’s facilities manager or the owner of a commercial construction company. Even though they all may eventually need your products or services, the messages you send and the places and times you share them will be quite different from the other personas you create.

If you need help painting a picture of your target audience, determining what message to send them, or the best way to reach them, Ad4 can help!