The phrase “a sure bet” is probably something you are likely to hear surreptitiously whispered between the duster coat clad boys on the spit and sawdust forecourt of the gee gees racetrack rather than in marketing circles.  And, even then, is a sure bet ever really a sure bet?

Of course, there are things in life that you can guarantee will happen, i.e. me falling flat on my face should I attempt to wear heels that are higher than 4”, but when it comes to marketing to your customers you can’t afford to gamble so need to give yourself the best odds of winning their business, and repeat business, in order to boost their lifetime value. But how do you do that?

Well, you need to get your Jane Austen or Charles Dickens on, and turn them into customer characters, or personas as the marketeers say.

A buyer persona is a profile of your ideal customer and the behaviour that shapes their buying activity which includes biographics, demographics, daily behaviour, work behaviour and pain points.  And what it does is allow you to imagine the kind of buying scenario your customers are likely to be in so that you can tailor your marketing to them directly.

In far simpler terms, it allows you to determine who you want to reach.

To make up a buyer persona, much like a bookie makes odds, you “look” at aspects pertaining to your “customer’s” life, hobbies, routines, family, income, gripes etc.  as you are trying to build a picture of the factors that will influence their buying decisions.

Now, there is a certain element of guess work to this part of the process but the important thing to remember is that this is not an exercise based on existing customers but the ideal customers that you want to reach; plus, the personas you come up with are not set in stone and can be developed and tweaked as you gather a greater understanding of your customers

Below are the top 10 simple questions you should be asking, and the type of answers you should be coming up with, in order to build a customer persona.   I have also given the reasons why you should be asking these questions.

These can be tailored for a B2B or B2C business:

1) What is your role in job / life ? – Are they the decision maker, purchaser or information gatherer?  Lets you tailor your communication and offering.

2) What skills are required? – Organisation, sourcing, budgeting? Again, lets you tailor your communication and outlet channels

3) What is a typical day? – Do they have time constraints on shopping or deadlines to meet, or a certain time when they are looking for your product? Is there an optimum time or method for contact?  Would they respond better to choice or suggestion?

4) Who do you report to, or, who reports to you?  – Are they likely to be impulse purchasers or fact based buyers? Do they need authorisation? This will dictate their likely spend £ – £££ and readiness of funds.

5) What is the size of your company / family?  Are they likely to be multiple or single purchasers?  Frequent or seldom purchasers?  Is there room for expansion?  This gives you an idea of their likely average spend and if/when it can be optimised.

6) What are your biggest challenges? What bugbears do they have associated with your product or service? How can you preemptively resolve it/them?

7) Where do you look? What channels do they go to for information? Preempt where they look for information and feature there.

8) What is a typical personal background (i.e. age, family, marital status, education, age of kids)?  What would a typical customer be influenced by and are their needs likely to change?  Allows you to asses likely the customer is to be receptive “complete” purchases from the offset, i.e. will they buy a coupé or a people carrier now? Or a coupé first and then progress to a people carrier?

9) What is their chosen method of interaction? Do they prefer remote purchasing or face to face buying? This will give you an indication of how to make your information available to them.

10) What is their motivation for buying?  Do they need quick delivery, 24/7 support etc.?  This lets you identify your USPs.

Now, this is the part of the persona building process that is the “sure bet” because it comes from the horse’s mouth…

Interview and survey your customers.  Or, if you don’t yet have any customers then ask friends and colleagues who have direct links to your ideal customers.  And if you talk to five people and they all give different answers then talk to more until a trend develops so you can build up a persona database to develop.

Once you have a persona database you can match each one to your different products and build up an idea of how often they are likely to use you based on the answers to your questions allowing you to forecast likely weekly, monthly, quarterly  or annual sales based on the accuracy of your personas.

Next week I will look at areas the information you give out; how much is too much?

Using Customer Personas to Estimate Lifetime Value

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