Building Customer Advocacy Using Personas

It’s the undisputed Age of the Customer and she has all the power.  She can research your market and make decisions without ever talking to your sales team.  Her expectation is that you will understand her needs and challenges and be able to proactively provide solutions over time.  The bar is set high and it’s rising!

In order to compete it’s imperative to have a clear picture of your customers and know exactly how you serve them.  The more complex your business and diversified your services the more difficult this is.  But there’s no greater success criteria today for a company than to understand their customer.  

Why?  Because Understanding your customers and how you serve them creates competitive advantage that allows you to improve 3 functions of your business:  

  1. Your Service (or Product).  First and foremost, if you have a great service you’ll tap into the holy grail of marketing – word of mouth.  After all the technological advancements, word-of-mouth and referrals remain the most effective way to scale a business.
  2. Your Marketing.  Define your target in such a way as to broaden or contract your total addressable market.  Depending on your business, it can be more beneficial to maintain a tighter focus on a core group.  Other times call for expansion.  Balance here is the key here.
  3. Your Sales.  By having a clear vision of your target customer means you waste less time chasing bad leads, e.g. those that don’t have the budget or take too long to close.  The goal here is to increase your sales velocity and lower your cost of acquisition.

Last week I covered the vision statement and discussed how it delivers a broad sketch of your target customer (see “Powerful Vision in 5 Simple Steps).  In order to arm your marketing and sales teams, a more detailed representation is required.  This is where buyer personas come into play.

Buyer Personas are detailed representations of your target customers for marketing and sales.  They inform the product roadmap, the marketing message and the sales pitch.  

Here are some simple steps (5 to be exact) to create customer profiles:

Step 1:  Do Your Research

  • Look to the past as you likely already have data.  Who is buying from you and why?  Divide them into groups (industry and title are key) and interview a few in each group
  • Filter the above with key metrics such as average sales cycle and average deal size to understand how valuable the personas are
  • Look at your competition.  A brief survey of their website and blog can indicate who they’re going after and how  

Step 2:  Define the Target Company

  • Industry is a key criteria and has the added benefit of allowing you to personalize your messaging
  • Size of company is crucial for targeting.  You can find employee headcount in LinkedIn and use that to size companies relatively   
  • Other operational or situational variables include such things as the technology they’re using (or not using) and geography which can be crucial for some companies

Step 3:  Define Your Target Prospect

  • Title is essential especially as it denotes seniority and functional departments such as IT vs. Marketing
  • Demo – age, gender, HouseHold Income can help improve understanding
  • Goals and Challenges to inform the problem you solve and how you position yourself.  Pro Tip – don’t  focus on the product or service features, but rather the benefits you provide them   
  • Layer in other data like actual customer quotes, what organizations they belong to, where they spend time and socialize, and other targeting factors

Step 4:  Identify the Anti-Customer

  • Much of the benefit of customer personas are defining who you don’t want to target.  This could be due to several factors including 1) they can’t afford your service, 2) are too expensive to serve, 3) the sales cycle is too long, and 4) high barrier to entry, perhaps because of complex procurement requirements.
  • Pro tip – empower your marketing and sales people to be thinking about whether the customer is a good fit for your organization.  Customer fit should be part of your pre-sales process.  

Step 5:  Craft the Message

  • As a final step, make the message part of the persona.  Include both the marketing message (brand slogan) and the sales pitch (including elevator pitch, objection handling)  
  • Pro Tip – If the message isn’t unique you may not need an extra persona. If the message is too broad you might need a separate persona. Start simple as you can always build in more complexity over time

The Bottom Line

An intense focus on customer advocacy will pay off if you build process around it. View it as a journey not a destination.  Test, measure, and innovate to build momentum and scale.

I’d love to hear what’s working and not working for you. Please leave a comment.  See next week for more on revenue sharing for CEOs.

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