Once you define your target audience, creating web personas of your ideal clients and customers can help you understand their buying behaviors. A persona is a “fake” member of your target market. It is the collective summary of a group of people who share similar interests, demographics and world views.
Web personas help you put a name and a face on impersonal statistics and focus your marketing around what specific wants and needs each group faces. Marketing works best when you write your materials to one specific person. Developing personas for each type of customer you work with can help you better serve those types of clients.
Personas involve more than just market segmentation or choosing a niche focus. Those can be great tools for identifying how you will reach people, but they aren’t as effective in determining which marketing tactics or messages to use. When you use personas, you have a specific “fake person” in mind, and can write your marketing materials in a way that will convince that “fake person” to buy your products and services.
Create Web Personas To Understand Your Prospect’s Goals
The first step to understanding your prospects is to think about who you want to do business with. If you’ve been in business for some time, think back to past clients. For the last 5-10 clients you’ve had, answer the following questions:
- How did he/she find out about you?
- Why did he/she need your services?
- What was his/her role in making a decision to hire you? Who else was involved (ie boss, spouse, family member, coworkers, etc)?
- What were his/her major concerns about hiring you?
- What kinds of questions did he/she ask you to explain?
- How long did it take from initial contact to signing an agreement?
- What was the best thing about working with this client?
- Would you want to work with this client again? Why/why not?
- Did any problems come up when you worked with him/her (ie not paying bills on time, not managing expectations, any arguments, etc) If so, what could you have done to avoid such problems?
If you’re just starting out in business, this exercise might be a bit more challenging. Go out and talk to people that might be potential prospects. Read the magazines they’re most likely to read. Go to a local bookstore and browse the titles on the shelves in your area of expertise. Take a class or go to a seminar or trade event and get to know people in your field. Then, sit down to write personas based on your research.
Writing Your Persona Descriptions
Now, write a 2-3 paragraph story summarizing each person’s goals, motivations and behaviors.
Why do this? When many people sit down to think about marketing, they start thinking about generalizing. Everyone they’ve ever done or will do business with becomes lumped into the same category and they start generalizing about how all clients want this or all prospects want that. When you start to look at each individual story, however, you break that mode and can be more relevant to each person’s concerns. Here are examples of three buyer personas:
- John Evans, 43, has run his own law firm for the past 15 years. He primarily got most of his business from referrals, but in the last few years, his referral sources have dried up. He knows he needs new ways to attract clients but is overwhelmed with all the marketing options out there. He wants help deciding which marketing strategies will be the most cost-effective for his specialized practice. He wants to put together a marketing plan that will allow him to add a few marketing activities to his to-do list each week without taking too much time away from his billable hours. (Marketing Consultant)
- Bob and Jennifer, 32 and 30, live in a beautiful suburb of Philadelphia with their beloved Labrador, Vinnie. They have just planned a 3-week vacation of a lifetime to the Tuscan countryside but are sad to leave Vinnie behind and don’t want to burden friends with pet sitting. They are looking to hire a sitter who will treat Vinnie as a member of the family and will keep them updated while they are away. (Pet Sitter)
- Linda Johnson, 65, is a single, newly-retired, high school geography teacher who is transitioning into a second career as a travel writer and photographer now that her kids have left home. While she has a sizeable nest egg to get her started, she feels she isn’t good with the “numbers” side of working for herself. She would like help putting together a financial plan to use her money wisely while she kicks off her new career. (Financial Planner)
For each of these examples, I could have made them more generic: small-business owners who want to create a marketing plan, affluent couples leaving their pets behind while traveling or start-ups needing financial advice. But it is much easier to picture your “ideal client” when you have made the description personal. This way, you get inside of their heads and look at what their wants and needs are.
Use Web Personas To Plan Your Website
Once you’ve written your personas, your next step is to prioritize which ones you’d like your website to be most relevant to. Which clients did you most enjoy working with? Which were most profitable? Which do you hope never to work with again?
When it comes to any marketing (websites, ads, newsletters, etc), the general rule of thumb is that the more specific you can be, the more likely it will be relevant to someone. And being relevant to someone is far better than not being relevant to anyone. We’re exposed to over 3000 marketing messages a day, so we’re very good at filtering out things that aren’t relevant to our lives. Yet when something is relevant, we start to see it everywhere – once you buy a new car, you start to see lots of people with your make, model and color.
With your website, your personas will help you make decisions about features, navigation, and web content should be on your site. It switches the focus from your personal preferences to how prospects will interact with your website. For instance, instead of focusing on your preferences like:
- What features should we have on the site?
- How can we generate more leads or sell more of this product?
- Should we use this for web copy?
- Where should we put this content?
you focus on your main persona’s objectives:
- What is Sue trying to accomplish on the site?
- How can we help Sue accomplish her goal?
- Will Sue understand this web copy?
- Where will Sue look to find this content?
By creating a handful of key personas that describe members of your target market, you can cater your website and marketing materials to their specific needs and goals. Personas help you visualize your “ideal client” and create your marketing messages around what would appeal most to them.