Using personas to shift your focus to the customer

106498980 If you look at most marketing copy — it's about the "thing" — whatever is being sold.  We get features and generic benefits but our focus and the thrust of the message sits squarely on the shoulders of the product or service.

And it's no wonder.  When you focus on something, you tend to write/talk about it.

Let's demonstrate.

If I asked you to write a headline for an ad selling these red shoes to the right — what would your headline say?

(Seriously, take a couple minutes and jot a few down…play along!)

Okay, for many of you your headlines probably ran along the lines of:

  • Isn't it time to get sassy?  
  • Give your feet some sassy for Valentine's Day 
  • Stop traffic without lifting a finger

Nothing wrong with those…but they are a bit generic.  They be be speaking to anyone of any age, income bracket, marital status, etc.

Why?  Because we don't actually know who we're talking to…other than we probably assumed it was a woman, so the copy tends to be generic.  The more generic your audience (in your mind) the more generic the copy.  Which forces us to focus on the "thing."

Which is why personas are so critical to your marketing success.  Do you know who your business is talking to?  And don't say everyone.  Every business should know who their best customers are.  These are the people who create the core of your customer base.  Creating personas based on this customer base is critical to targeting your message.  I wrote about personas and shared some examples a few years back. (click on the link to read).

Let's try the shoe example again but now I'm going to tell you about the customer.  Her name is Leslie and she's 15.  She's in that awkward half girl/half woman stage and she wants to grow up so badly.  She's a good kid, active in school and loves to hang at the mall with her friends.  She spends much of her free time texting, reading fashion magazines and watching MTV's reality shows.  

I could add (and should if this was a real persona) much more depth but you get the idea. Now try your headline again.

Mine might be:  Your dad is going to hate these shoes

Very specific and very much about my audience — rather than about the product.  That's what personas do.  They shift our focus to the prospect rather us talking about ourselves.  You can't create a love affair with a generic customer.  Getting to know your personas and really seeing them as a living, breathing person 

Using personas is a very helpful trick for writing stronger copy, creating content that gets shared, developing customer service programs, making your website sticky and driving sales.  If you haven't developed 3-4 personas for your brand — put it on your to do list for Q1 of 2011.  It will make the rest of the Q's 

P.S. If you want more info on personas, Marketing Profs is doing a webinar on February 10th specifically about the topic.  

 

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Comments

  1. says

    Helpful post Drew!

    We’ve been accessing the power of personas for years with our clients.

    The customer focusing effect is amazing. It gets people away from merely talking about customer-centeredness to actually operating their business with authentic customer-centeredness.

    Keep creating…even on a Monday, Mike

  2. says

    Love your post, Drew! I can’t help but chime in and add that creating a VISUAL of the customer and his/her persona has made a big difference for me. The visual can even be a stick person drawing, or a magazine clipping, or actual photos of the client.

    Hope it’s okay to share my study on this topic: link to jocelynwallace.com

    All the best,
    Jocelyn

  3. says

    Wow..Really good post, I never thought about it that way, I know about “niches” & “target demographics” but you hit the nail right on head with this one.

  4. says

    Mike,

    Yup, we have too. It’s an incredibly powerful tool to help clients “step into character” for both the company and their customers.

    Seeing and knowing a “real” person makes it all fall in place, it seems. I don’t know about you — but today was all about creating hot cocoa, fires and staying warm!

    Drew

  5. says

    Jocelyn,

    Thanks for the addition. We actually help clients do that too — once they know the person and can see them in their mind’s eye.

    We’re such visual creatures — it only makes sense that if we see it, we can believe it all the more. Great post — thanks for sharing it!

    Drew

  6. Rebecca says

    Great piece! Creating a persona for your target audience is one of the most fun parts of creating an advertising plan.

    I’d like to share a project I worked on where I did this; it really did make an impact on the quality of the ads and campaign as a whole.

    link to rebeccavdc.com

    Thanks for this, have a great weekend!

  7. says

    A powerful way to extend the idea of personas, especially in markets that have more complex sets of decision, is to use ‘mindsets’. Mindsets are the way we flex our personas based on context. I might have one persona when I am shopping for shoes – adventurous and extravagant, but that changes when I am shopping for clothes because I’m not comfortable with my body image so clothes are more ‘defensive’ than ‘expressive’ for me (ok, so that doesn’t describe me personally, just an example;).

    Allowing for mindsets means one individual can occupy very different personas and that can have an impact on the way you communicate to them.

    • says

      Paul,

      An excellent example of how you can use personas and the nuances of each persona (I like the term mindset) to really get a much more robust view of how the consumer is interacting with your product, service, story or delivery method. When you develop these mindsets — do you use research to form the basis of them, just observation or past experience (or all three?)

      Drew

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