Screenwriters and novelists are not the only ones who can create imaginary characters. Business people can also get in on the fun. Personas are all the rage in marketing circles. They are fictional characters that represent a company’s ideal customers.
Effective marketing starts with an appeal to the customer’s emotions. Personas help marketers craft emotional appeals. It’s not enough to simply crunch your data. You also have to put a human face on your customer information.
One way to create personas is to conduct in-depth interviews with current or prospective customers. Another way is to base your personas on the data you have collected. You can also use your imagination, guided by a series of questions.
Start with the basic demographic information about your personas and then going on to include specific questions relevant to your project. For example, you could ask what your persona’s professional goals and challenges are, what kinds of things your persona worries about, and what your persona would typically say when trying to put off making a decision about your company’s products or services.
After the questions are answered, you will end up with a specific type of person who your company will target. For example, if your goal is to market a small business credit card from American Express, a good persona might be a 35-year-old briefcase-carrying manager of a startup who works 70 hours per week, switched majors twice in college, wants to start his own company before he turns 40, is engaged to be married, and loves to cook and climb mountains.
Using personas is especially critical for companies that do business online. Market segmentation for digital content has to be far more detailed than the broad-brush market segmentation used in the past for pre-Internet organizations. Marketers might think of their target audience as being divided only into age groups or other very broad demographic categories without personas. Personas change that limited way of conceptualizing by enabling marketers to think of their customers as very specific individuals.
Once a persona has been created, online marketers can craft powerful and specific emotional appeals. Content writers can use their knowledge of the personas to flatter their potential customers, using either direct praise or indirect humor. Knowing what your persona hates, and using it in copy, can also be an effective way for a company to connect emotionally with its customers. Utilizing your customers’ special brand of jargon is also effective. In all of these cases, the company is creating a bond with its customers by making them feel like the company really understands who they are and what makes them tick.
Personas can be used to craft messages in a variety of media, including traditional print ads, online ads and social media. They can help you figure out where your customers can be found within the social media universe. Personas can also be used when choosing keywords for SEO.
The beauty of using personas to craft social media messages is that it enables marketers to create the illusion that they are talking to people one-on-one. While prospective customers may tune out mass-marketing messages, they are much more likely to listen to messages that seem to be directed right at them.