Every time I sit across the table with a potential client the first thing that I ask them is who is their target audience. Almost every single time the answer that I get from them is “everyone in the age of 18 to 35”.
Now if you look at it, it seems like a valid spectrum of a target audience to have since, bigger the market, higher the chances of you making money.
But on the other end, you need to remember that if everybody is your audience, then nobody is your audience.
Imagine that your target customers are spread across a spectrum. The leftmost part represents someone who is least likely to convert into your customer, and the rightmost part represent the one who is most likely to convert into your customer.
Ideally, what you need to be doing is you need to be targeting both the extremes. Once you target the extremes, everyone else falling in between is taken care of.
But to identify who these extreme cases are going to be, you need something called “user personas”.
They are also called as customer avatars, buyer personas, buyer avatar. Pick your preferred word; it honestly doesn’t matter as long as you are working on user personas.
What are User Personas?
Uses personas are basically the ideal profile of your ideal customer. Imagine you are creating a Facebook account for your ideal customer, what is all the information that you will be putting in?
You will start the obvious ones like name, age, gender, location, and then proceed towards interests, choices and preferences.
That’s precisely what you should be doing with user personas.
What user personas will allow you to do from a marketing perspective is to deliver the right information at the right time which is extremely relevant and useful to them.
And when you do this, your customers are going to reciprocate your value addition in the form of paying you money for your product, service or offering.
What are User Personas used for?
User Personas are not just customers. They are people. They have specific aspirations, motivations and challenges they face achieving them.
User Personas will allow you to empathise with your target customers. It forces you to get into their shoes and understand and see the world through their eyes.
You understand what motivates them and what challenges they are facing in achieving them. Once you understand this, you have to present content which aligns with their motivation.
This alone will dramatically increase the effectiveness of your marketing communication.
User Personas are anti-ego-centric. It’s not about you or your product or your service. It’s about them, their problems, challenges and aspirations. Your job is merely to communicate how you will deliver value and help them achieve their goals.
And this comes from a deep understanding of your customers.
I would like to quote the famous management guru Peter Drucker here
“ The aim of marketing is to understand the customer so well that the product or service basically sells itself” and that’s exactly what you are trying to do with user personas.
If you look at it, it’s almost a mirror image of selling. You are trying not to sell but making your customers buy.
Why should you be creating user personas?
The simple answer is, to understand your audience on a deeper level.
Now that you have created user personas you might know their name, age, gender, occupation and the other obvious ones but do you understand them on a deeper level?
To understand them on a deeper level you really need to get into their shoes, and as we spoke about this previously, you need to truly empathise with them.
It’s not enough to know that your audience is a small business owner. You should also know what is motivating him to take that action and what concerns he has in his mind. Once you figure this out, you can address all of this through your content which is when you build something called ‘trust’.
The more relevant content you create, the more trust you build and the more trust you build, the more willing your customers will be willing to transact with you.
Some people call this “Brand.”
Your User Persona represents a segment
When you create a user persona, what you are doing is creating a representation of a lot of people exactly like your potential customers.
It goes without saying that, not everyone is going to have the same name, age, interests etc., but there is a good chance their motivations and goals overlap.
So technically, your user persona is representing an entire segment.
In essence, the more user personas you create, the more segments of your audience you are unearthing. And the more you do this; you can create content that resonates with them.
You can personalize your communication.
The advantage of creating user Persona and thereby creating user segments is that you can personalize your message.
Now imagine if you had different segments of your audience; one can be students, the other can be housewives and the other business owners.
Anyone with half a brain would know that you cannot communicate to a housewife the same way you communicate with a business owner. So it is crucial that you create content that each segment of your audience can consume and digest.
Not the only field it will be useful
Don’t be of the perception that marketing is the only field where user personas are used. In fact, the whole concept of user Persona is borrowed from the UI/UX industry.
Create user personas for your business or your product or service, and you can use it in various other fields like product development, design, sales etc.
Negative personas are mirror images of your user personas.
These are the guys who you know is not going to be your customer. You would not want to waste your time on these guys because they are either not your target audience or not advance enough to be your customer.
For example, a student might not be in a financial position to buy certain products or services from you. Now you wouldn’t want to create content which specifically caters to them. Of course, they might still end up on your page for whatever reasons, but there is no conscious effort to attract them.
In fact, you are making a conscious effort NOT to attract them because the most significant advantage of creating negative personas is you will lower your cost per lead and cost for acquiring a customer dramatically.
Key elements in a User Persona
Apart from the obvious elements of a profile, there are other things you need to be including in the user personas. Here is a list that might help you.
- Education Level
- Relationship Status
- Sources of Information
- Channels ( eg: Facebook, Google etc )
- Preferred Communication ( Email, Whatsapp etc )
- Job Title
- Income Level
- Size of their organization
- Goals & Objectives
- Biggest Challenge
- Buying Motivation
- Buying Concern
User Personas VS User Stories VS User Journey
Often, you might find people using all of these terms interchangeably. But, these are very separate terms and mean very different things.
So to simplify it,
User personas are basically who your target audience is and describing them in great detail to try & understand them.
User stories are basically what your customers need and what and why do they need, what are they planning to accomplish from doing or taking a particular action.
User journey is the path your potential user takes from becoming an unknown face to a customer. So if you understand what stage of the journey your user is in, you can create relevant content which connects with them.
I would recommend that you create user personas user stories and user journey to understand your users well.
User Personas in Digital M
I know at this point, you might be debating whether user personas are overkill and if it can be used in digital marketing at all.
It’s not overkilling and digital marketers, including myself, are using it very successfully.
I will go as far as to say that, creating user personas is the first and the most crucial part of marketing.
Let’s look at how it is being used in digital marketing.
For example, after you do your keyword research, you can understand the intent behind the keywords. The intent not only tells you about your user personas but also what stage of the user journey they are at.
Another use case is that I see a lot of people rank for keywords which have no intent in them which results in very poor conversions. So if you understand your users well, instead of ranking for high volume keywords you should rather focus on creating content which solves problems and kills the pain.
Also in email marketing, you can create a separate segment, and for each segment which is represented by a single user persona, you can create a different email marketing path.
Social Media is one place where it can be extremely useful. Not only can you create content that you think will be relevant but also test it out by targeting your audience and boosting your posts.
These are just a few examples but trust me when I say this; you can apply these insights in any part of your business function.
So in essence, having a deep understanding of your audience inadvertently makes you a better marketer. Before trying to understand marketing you need to develop a sense of understanding of your audience.
And that’s where user personas step in and help you approach marketing in a completely new way and hopefully, make you into a better marketer.
What do you think of user personas? Let me know in the comments