The concept of “personas” has become a darling in the marketing world over the past couple of years. Simply put, a persona is a composite made-up person that’s meant to represent your ideal customer. To be effective, however, this made-up persona must reflect real facts about who your ideal customers are and what attracts them to your product or service.
This may seem straightforward on the surface, but if your head is spinning about how the heck to identify your ideal customers and what might make them want to try your product or service, trust us—you’re not alone.
In fact, we’ve heard as much from prospective clients who have searched for online for marketing methods to help them reach their ideal customers. They mention the slew of results that showed up touting the importance of developing personas, and how all this persona talk left them with more questions than answers.
We understand the confusion, so let’s talk about personas in a way that isn’t overly complicated. Start by identifying who your best customers are now, and who you know would be most likely to invest in, or benefit from, your product or service.
To hone in on these ideal customers and create a persona based on them, it comes down to empathy. Sure, you want to identify the general demographics of your target customers like age, gender, and income, but to stand out among your competition you must go deeper to understand the pain, problem, or challenge your ideal customers need or want to overcome.
Simply identifying age, gender, and income doesn’t cut it. To really speak to your ideal customer you need to empathize with them in three additional ways:
- Understand and name the challenges they’re trying to overcome or problems they’re trying to solve.
- Empathize with how those challenges and problems make them feel now, while they’re in the muck struggling with them.
- Help them envision how overcoming those challenges and problems will make them feel, once they’ve found just the right solution to put those problems behind them.
This empathy-based persona-driven marketing model is one we rely on and have written about previously, and it’s based on a messaging tool called StoryBrand. One of the key distinctions that makes StoryBrand such a successful marketing framework is that it establishes your ideal customer as the hero in their decision-making journey, not you or even the product or service that you’re trying to sell.
Rather, you are the experienced guide who helps them find the right service or product to solve their challenge and make their life easier, healthier, or happier in the way they’re envisioning.
So, in order to tap into this empathy vein and develop your ideal customer persona, it helps to ask a series of questions that tell a story and moves a customer from their problem to a solution.
This story communicates in a simple yet sophisticated way where potential customers think, “That sounds like the problem I’m dealing with,” or, “That sounds like how I want to feel when I don’t have to deal with this problem.”
Mapping The Persona’s Motivation: An Example
Let’s look at an example we recently developed for a client that offers computer systems and technology solutions for small to mid-sized businesses. Positioning the buyer persona as a hero facing a problem, and the tech company as the caring, qualified guide who will help them resolve that problem, is the foundation for telling a story that will truly speak to potential clients.
Here are some questions we asked them about what challenges their ideal customer may be facing:
- What challenges and problems are they facing? No judgement, just name all that you can think of, from the most simple to the most complex.
- What emotions are those challenges creating? Again, no judgement, imagine the whole gamut from embarrassment, to fear
- How are those challenges affecting their reputation? Their job security? Their self-esteem? What are they worried about when they can’t sleep at night?
- What happens if they don’t solve the challenge or problem?
- What happens if their problems are solved?
It’s helps to break the persona’s challenges down into 3 levels of the problem — internal, external, and philosophical.
The internal problem is how faulty technology makes the ideal clients feel about their IT system, such as frustrated, anxious, embarrassed, angry, scared, helpless, incompetent, etc. Do they feel worried that their clients will think they aren’t tech savvy enough to be successful? Are they frustrated about how long it takes an IT technician to return a call and fix a problem?
The external problem is the actual problem or issue. In this case it may be unreliable technology, such as not being able to send an email to a client who’s expecting it because the server is down, or constantly losing connections during important video conferencing sessions, etc. These issues are robbing them of productivity and success.
The philosophical problem is what they feel the “ought” to be able to do, or what they “shouldn’t” have to struggle with. They ought to be able to depend on technology to do their work each day, and they “shouldn’t” have to feel anxious because they’re worried about IT breaking down during a critical time.
While these questions were posed to the technology company, they’re universal to any product or service. Once you’ve dug deep into your ideal customer’s persona, you can then address how your business can guide the customer to a successful resolution.
Position your business as the guide by showing your customer persona these 2 traits:
- Empathy that you understand the challenges they are facing.
- Authority in that you have the expertise to solve their challenges and problems.
Once you’ve dug into these elements, your marketing messages should then clearly demonstrate both your empathy and authority. Show how you’re empathetic with statements that start with words like, “We understand how it feels to”… or, “You shouldn’t have to experience…” Likewise, establish that you have the authority it takes to guide these customers from the struggle they’re facing to feeling relief, success, or peace of mind when they’ve found your solution.
Describe the successes you can guide them to if they sign on for your services or buy your product. Show the transformation from the pain or problem to the happy, successful outcome you guided them to. You’ll likely find that taking the time to develop your ideal persona pays off with new leads who become happy, satisfied customers.
******Baker Labs specializes in helping businesses and medical practices grow through smart, customized digital tools and strategies, including persona development that speaks uniquely to your brand. Contact us for a free marketing assessment of your business or practice, or for a free SEO audit of your website.