In my last blog post about making the best use of seasonal or forced downtime, I highlighted the creation of customer personas. As marketing is about creating the most suitable products to meet the needs of the people we serve, we can’t do that well until we define who those people are and immerse ourselves in their lives.
Most companies will define their target audience two-dimensionally with demographics, but rarely do they dive into the psychographics, which define their attitudes, beliefs, aspirations, and other personal factors. For example, “Expat Arabs aged 20-35” is a target definition I see often, but this kind of classification doesn’t account for a difference in attitudes or interests among expat Arabs in this age group. We need to go further if we want to create something truly meaningful for them.
Creating personas not only helps us create better products, but it also helps us sell our products better. By taking the time to think about and understand our diverse customer segments, we can also begin to develop sales tactics that will resonate better and improve conversion.
In this post I’ve broken down the creation of personas into four easy steps. Ideally, parts of or all of this would be done as a group exercise with your team. Including them allows you to gather as many insights as possible and create characters that feel true.
Step One: Identify key segments
When defining a target audience, people usually write sweeping statements like “Age 25 – 45” or “Arab Expat and Western Expats”. While these parameters do narrow our focus, they’re not enough to help us understand how to attract and convert our potential audience.
The first step of creating personas is to sit with your team and brainstorm about your most common customers. Note down all observations about the types of people who frequent your business, and soon you’ll begin to notice themes arising. From these themes, create segments like “fitness fanatic”, “single workaholic”, “eco-conscious consumer”. Try to limit yourself to four key clusters.
Step Two: Create a fictional character
When your audience segments have been defined, it’s time to start on your personas. For each cluster, create a fictional character. Using the observations from the team exercise, begin to flesh out your character’s life into a short story of 200-250 words. The important thing in this part of the exercise is not to focus on the role your product plays in this person’s life, but rather spend more time illustrating the character’s lifestyle and situation to help your team understand why he may have reached a point of needing your product or service. Write about his job, his routine, his obsessions, his family, and anything else that will paint a picture to understand him better. As a final step, search for a royalty free stock photo online (we are big fans of Unsplash) and use it to bring the character to life.
The example below is a character I created from the “fitness fanatic” archetype in step one. I named him Dominic Harlan and wrote about his job, his routine, his fitness goals, his issues, and his life overall. Only at the very end did I touch upon the topic of protein shakes, which is the hypothetical product category I wrote this fictional character for.
Step Three: Dissect his life
The story is the starting point, but now we need to zoom in on a few important factors that will be defined for each persona and enable you to compare your audience segments. These can vary depending on what is most important to your business, but the factors we usually define are:
- Education level
- Job role
- Daily/weekly routine
- Aspiration (as it relates to our product category)
- Pain points (as it relates to our product category)
- How our product can help overcome the pain points
Remember, these are to be defined specifically for the character you have created and not for the general segment. Link everything you write in this section back to the story you wrote about the persona. To portray his life more clearly, create a mood board of photos that represent his world and what matters to him.
Step Four: Extend to the segment
In the final section, we take a step back and look at our character through a more generic lens. What aspects of his life are shared with other members of the audience segment? What is the age bracket for this group? Which of our products appeal to this segment and how often would these people use our them? What other factors tie them all together?
Below, you will see how I’ve done this for the fitness fanatics segment. Often when working with brands, I highlight things to watch out for with this segment (some clients are more difficult than others!) or key ways to persuade them. For example, Dominic and others within his segment consume protein powder daily, and thus taste is incredibly important. Highlighting the variety of delicious flavors of our ProteinPlus shakes could be one of the ways to hook him or others like him.
After creating these personas, I advise business leaders to speak about them often. When planning new products, ask your team “would Dominic really need this? How much would Sarah pay for this? Where would Rawan shop for a product like this?” The more we use the personas, the more engrained it becomes for our teams to keep customers at the heart of everything they do – and that is the ultimate goal of marketing.
Maya Itani is the Managing Director of Itani & Company Marketing Consultants, which she founded in 2015.