customer personas“Location, location, location,” has been the adage for success in marketing for generations. For a store, being on a busy street corner means lots of pedestrian traffic past your shop window. Ads in newspapers draw eyeballs if they’re “above the fold.” Morning drive-time radio and afternoon TV news get the most listeners and viewers and charge the most for broadcast ads.

Traditional marketing relies on casting the largest net possible to reach the most viewers in the hopes that a few might be good prospects. These old “outbound” methods of advertising bombard readers, listeners and viewers with ads and commercials when most are likely not interested, not paying attention, or at least not yet ready to buy. As a result, the “spray and pray” mentality of outbound marketing interrupts consumers and is often tuned out.

But the Internet is fundamentally changing the shopping landscape. Consumers today control their own buying cycle by searching online for the products and services they want. This trend toward inbound marketing methods is no longer about reaching the most eyeballs. It’s about reaching the right eyeballs: The ones who have indicated, by their activity online and actions on a company’s website, that they are interested and ready to buy.

The days of the website as virtual brochure are long past. After all, your website is not for you. It’s really for your customers and prospects. If you don’t speak to them in their language and address their needs, then chances are slim that you’ll achieve good conversion rates.

So, who are your customers?

One way to identify your customer is to create personas. Personas are fictional representations of your ideal customers, based on the data that you’ve analyzed about them.

Where the intent of outbound marketing is to reach an audience of thousands, the goal of inbound marketing is to reach a thousand audiences of one. Do not confuse customer personas with target audiences. Personas help you create content that communicates specifically with target individuals rather than broadly defined groups.

The more data you have on your customers and prospects, the more dimensional and useful your personas can be. In terms of data, we are talking about demographics, online behavior, quantitative and qualitative research if you can get it, and educated speculation about their personal histories, motivations, and concerns.

What do customer personas look like?

Let’s say you are a marketing manager at a hotel and the goal of your website is to increase your reservations.  Who do you want to attract?  Your personas could be an independent business traveler, a corporate travel manager, an event planner, a vacationing family, and a couple planning their wedding reception.

Here are three ways to help build your personas:

Segment By Demographics

Research your existing customer base to identify the most common buyers of your products and services. Assign characteristics to these buyers – job titles, roles, types of industry, company information, and demographics. Then start grouping them, based on commonalities. You will begin to see several personas emerge.

Identify Their Needs

Once you organize your loose groups, look at their needs. What problems can you solve for them? What kinds of information are they most interested in? Do you see any trends emerging? Now your personas are started to get a little personality.

Develop Behavior-Based Profiles

You have their basic information and you have identified their needs. Now it’s time to learn more about their behaviors.  How do they interact online? What do they look and how active are they in social media? When they are on your site, which of your products do they spend the most time researching? Now you can start putting a name to the personas, like Event Planner Patty, and start relating to them as human rather than names on lists.

Once you’ve developed meaningful personas, you can build pages for them, and create messaging that they find relevant, which will be far more likely to generate qualified leads.