Online dating app on a phone with someone's finger about to swipe right.

Why companies should swipe right on Personas

When thinking about the marketplace, most businesses like to envision closed sales coming from “ideal” customers – those who love everything about your product or service and who view your company as having all the answers to their problems. But, the vast majority of people in your marketplace will not resemble this type of customer and you and your team will have to focus on more realistic targets in order to meet your sales goals. 

Infographic with cartoon images of a man and a woman that shows the difference between an Ideal Customer and a Typical Customer.

The best way to achieve success with your marketing campaigns lies in how well you know your customer (see previous post). Creating PERSONAS is a very successful tool to help you do that. And here’s how we suggest that you do it.

First, have a brainstorming session (virtually or in person) with your team and ask each person in attendance to contribute to a description of who they believe the buyer of your product or service is. Ask them for specific details on who the buyer REALLY is, what problem the buyer is trying to solve, if the buyer has the means to solve it, and what the buyer gains by solving their problem. You will likely need to do this for more than one type of customer.

Get really specific on personal details of the buyer, whether they are an individual consumer or another business. Sample specifics will include things like, age of buyer, marital status, job title, or in the case of B2B, company size, revenue or product/service they provide. A more detailed list can be found in our Unified Marketing System™ Guidebook.

Quick tangent: tips on creating personas

Personas are not “types” of people, they ARE people. 

A persona should be well-developed, like a character in a book or movie. A well done persona is not an “educated professional woman, aged 25-35, who is in a relationship and lives in Denver.” It should be more like, “Angela is 27-years-old, a lawyer, and lives in a RiNo loft in Denver with her girlfriend Megan.” People unfamiliar with Denver likely don’t know what RiNo is, but the idea of an urban loft in a trendy neighborhood is universally understood.

Always be as specific as possible. When it comes to B2B, don’t just think of it as a general description like  “Fortune 1000 Tech company, based in the U.S.” Remember that there’s an individual person who signs your check or purchase order, be mindful of that person as well. At the end of the day, you are selling to an individual – someone tasked with making decisions on behalf of a company.

Back to the exercise

Let’s come back to where we left off a minute ago in the process of creating personas. The personal details about each persona should be collected in a way that everyone in the brainstorming session can see them (on a whiteboard, a giant Post-it® flip chart, or shared document.

Next, you’re going to edit the details that have been gathered. Hopefully your team has created multiple personas, so there may be personas that are similar, but there might also be some outliers, i.e. atypical customers. 

Remove any persona that does not represent a potential customer that is core to your business. For example, let’s say you owned an automotive service shop and 90% of your revenue comes from corporate fleet sales; the example of the 60-year old lady who comes in religiously once every three months to have her oil changed may not be a persona that you want to develop, especially if you intend to continue building the business on corporate sales. 

By the same token, you should also combine personas that are very similar. My strategy is often to consolidate personas based on what their problem is. In the auto service example, some of my fleet customers may be concerned with reducing the cost of ownership of their vehicles as a primary concern; others may not be nearly as concerned about raw costs as they are about downtime or lost sales that may occur as the result of a vehicle being out of commission. Sort personas based on their problems and the means that you, as a vendor, have to remedy those issues.  

Finally, validate your persona assumptions. Whether you do it before the brainstorming session or after, it is critical that your company has done both quantitative and qualitative research on the customers in your marketplace. By validating your personas against the research you have done you will ensure your team is working with realistic characteristics of buyers instead of hypothetical ones. 

The idea of using a persona exercise to have a better understanding of where your customers are in the marketplace has been around a long time, but unfortunately many outside of marketing and sales have viewed it mainly as fluff, a tool that is just for show but has no real importance. This couldn’t be further from the truth: by creating these personas, you bring the customer into the room with you and give them a seat at the table. If they are not “sitting with you” when you plan your marketing, then you are leaving out the most important person in the discussion. 

Don’t miss this opportunity to get to know your customers. Swipe right!

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The UMS method has transformed our business. The discipline it gave us helped us survive through tough times and then thrive with years of double-digit growth. This process works and we are evidence of it.

David DeCamillis
VP Sales & Marketing, Platte River Networks