The art of making your customers real

How can you connect with future buyers if you don’t know who they are or what they care about?

Picturing your customer in a personalised way is key in (at least) two major business phases:

1. When we start a new business.

Clearly define your target public and focus on your customers’ needs before spending lots of money and time on developing a new product or service.

The Lean Startup principles are an excellent way of testing and experimenting whether the product or service we’re developping has the potential of seducing our potential customers into buyers

Testing and experimenting means leaving your office and talking to customers face to face, listening to them and adjusting your product or service based on real life feedback.

2. When we sell an existing product or service.

Businesses – even if they sell traditional products – will increasingly require online marketing to replace traditional advertising methods such as the Yellow Pages. Online marketing implies attracting clients to visit our website and connecting with them. Google handles 11 billion queries a month (ComScore October 2011) ; to redirect a small slice of this traffic to our website, a miminum of Search Engine Marketing (SEO) is necessary.

Most SEO efforts are focused on creating and optimizing content against a list of keywords.

But keywords don’t buy products and services –customers do!

Based on discussions with your potential customers, we can picture them more easily by creating buyer personas. According to the Buyer Persona Manifesto, a persona is an archetype, composite picture of the real people who buy, or are likely to buy products or services like the ones you sell.

Here is an example of a Buyer Persona:

John Banker might represent a 52 year old man who is married with children and owns a house. He has a high level university education which includes an MBA. He works hard at the bank where he has held various management positions over the past 10 years. He travels at least once a month to international destinations. He worries about the long-term prospects of this job and at the same time is considering a change of career which corresponds more closely to his personal needs.

John owns an iPad, a smart phone and several computers at home. He connects to news, entertainment and friends digitally but rarely uses social media channels for professional sharing. John’s preferred search engine is Google. He rarely clicks on ads (but does so occasionally when one is relevant).

He’s busy and doesn’t spend much time on any social network other than LinkedIn and when he does, it’s usually via his iPad. He consumes social and online news content daily but briefly, early in the morning and in the evenings.

John is increasingly interested in finding alternative ways to making a living. He is consulting business startup websites and is looking into personal development coaching. He also buys – online – numerous books on the above topics, most often from Amazon.

Based on what we know about John Banker, we can make preliminary decisions about our product or service. And as we understand where John is coming from and what he cares about, we’re able to present what we sell in a meaningful way online. Picturing John Banker clearly in our minds points us in the right direction to reach and connect with him (or her).

Have you already created a buyer persona for each of your products or services?

This post has been inspired by Lee Odden and his book Optimize, a book I highly recommend.

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