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Why we should be creating fictionalised customer personas

A customer persona (or avatar) is a fictional profile that represents a particular target customer. Usually, businesses will have a handful of them to cover the majority of their customer base. Though these personas aren’t real people, they’re informed by data and research – some of which will come from your real customers, if you have them. 

Customer personas help businesses understand the people they’re trying to sell to and how those people will be using their product or service – they’re particularly useful for marketing and product design departments. A thorough persona will include both demographic details (eg, age, gender, income) and the answers to more intimate questions, such as what their passions, concerns, challenges and buyer motivations are. How much detail you go into is up to you but, generally, the more you flesh things out – and we’re talking about drawing out the persona and giving it a name – the more useful the process will be. 

The beauty with customer personas is that creating them doesn’t cost a lot and all parts of your team will benefit from knowing who your customers are, from sales and marketing to customer support and product development. With this shared understanding, you’ll be able to identify problems that require solving; make educated decisions on attracting and supporting customers; and make better calls on content, product design and communication techniques as well as how to market your services online and on social media.

We live in an era of personalisation. One 2018 study suggests that 91% of people are more likely to shop with businesses that provide relevant offers and recommendations, while another suggests that 80% of people are more likely to purchase a product or service from a brand that provides personalised experiences. Creating personas can add value at any point in your business’ trajectory – and, indeed, you should return to them as your customer base evolves. Reviewing personas regularly can help you to identify new challenges, desires and potential product enhancements. The closer you are to your customer, the more value you can add. 

Creating customer personas can be done at any stage of business – even before you have any customers! It can help with preconceptions about your customer base and product. Schedule a few conversations with people you’re looking to target. Remember, the conversation focus should be on understanding them at this stage, not talking about or selling your idea. Iterate regularly as you learn more about your target audience, and keep these people engaged – they could end up being your first customers.

If you’re unsure of where to start, make use of online resources – there are templates, checklists and specialised platforms for building customer personas. Along with the usual demographic sections, a good persona template will include customer challenges and frustrations, gains and desires, and what the customer is ultimately trying to achieve or get done.

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