Behind the Customer Persona

Everyone is your customer, right?

One of the most common mistakes businesses make with customer personas is trying to encapsulate any and every potential customer to avoid leaving anyone behind.

But that misses the point of what customer personas are designed to do.

Do you understand what customer personas are? Let’s walk through it.

Personas aren’t meant to be a catch-all – otherwise you’d need far too many of them to be useful. The three-to-five personas you develop should reflect those customers that make the best strategic sense to focus on.

Some customers will represent the greatest potential value to a business – and some will represent the greatest potential headaches. In between, there may be a wide range of customers with wildly different purchasing patterns and requiring different levels of effort to retain and keep satisfied.

So, no; all customers are not created equal. The point of personas is to identify who your business should target if it wants to attract more high value, low maintenance customers, as well as how best to target them.

One size does not fit all

One industry that illustrates this targeting very well would be car insurance. Anyone with a car needs car insurance, so that’s an incredibly wide and diverse group of people. A single marketing campaign or strategy cannot hope to appeal to every potential customer. And nor should it.

Instead, car insurance advertising is designed to appeal to those customers that represent the most value to the business. Who these people are – including their characteristics, interests and purchasing habits – forms the basis of the brand’s customer personas.

This is why you never see car insurance adverts targeting young teenagers with their first car, or speed demons in supercars. You certainly never see car insurance ads targeting whoever it is who keeps leaving burnout marks on the road near my house.

Yes, all of these people are still potential car insurance customers, but they are also more likely to make a claim, reducing their value to the insurance company – potentially by quite a lot. Instead, almost all car insurance advertising is targeted at older, experienced and careful drivers – depicting them in situations where they are most likely not at fault.

One of the best examples is the classic What About Me? 2010 TV spot from AAMI[JC1]  that ridiculed careless drivers while celebrating the safe driver who never makes a claim. The campaign was designed to attract more low-risk customers who identify with the safe driver. And if it also alienated bad drivers so they become less likely to call AAMI, then all the better.

Getting started with Customer Personas

So, the first step to creating your persona is to consider your existing customer base.

  • What does your ideal customer look like?
    Which of your customers would you clone if you could? They’re big spending, low maintenance and basically cause birds to sing whenever they are near. Easy money.
  • What does a high risk or nightmare customer look like?
    Which of your customers do you wish had never found your website? They require a lot of attention or create additional problems to solve, making you earn every cent many times over. Perhaps they’re tyre-kickers, who always soak up time, effort and attention from the sales team without ever committing to buy. You don’t want your marketing to appeal to these people, so your personas should exclude them.
  • What constitutes a typical customer?
    These customers may not be particularly remarkable but are the routine lifeblood of your business. Why do most people choose your product? What is the typical customer lifecycle?

This exercise can help you identify the characteristics that will inform your customer personas. What is it about each group that makes them behave the way they do? Understanding these factors may even help you to nurture typical customers into ideal ones.

Once you’ve prioritised which personas to create, then the research can really begin!

Wondering where to get started? Our Guide to Customer Personas will walk you through the steps.

Guide to Customer Personas

Before you can truly understand your customers, you have to get to know them first. If you want to get the most out of your marketing strategy, it’s crucial that you spend some time and create your ideal customer profile.

Download our Guide to Building Customer Personas and you’ll be creating your ideal customer profile in no time.

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Behind the Customer Persona
Jonathan Crossfield
Jonathan Crossfield describes himself as a storyteller because freelance writer, editor, content strategist, digital marketer, journalist, copywriter, consultant, trainer, speaker and blogger wouldn’t fit neatly on a business card. His regular column for CCO magazine, published by the Content Marketing Institute, would be better described as a series of angry rants fuelled by too much caffeine. Somehow, Jonathan has won awards for his writing on digital marketing, but they were so long ago it seems boastful to keep mentioning them in bios. He lives in the Blue Mountains near Sydney, Australia, with a patient wife and an impatient cat.