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What's Your Customer Persona?

Knowing your customer correctly is critical to crafting the right message and offer.

Perhaps you have done the work of identifying your customer persona in the past, but in a recent McKinsey report, it was found that consumer sentiment and behaviors have changed significantly during, and since, the pandemic entrenched itself in our lives and upended the way we live, worke, and shop. Now businesses everywhere are asking, "Do we still know our customers, or do we only know an outdated version of our customers?"

If you have yet to work on your customer persona, now is definitely the time to do so. And if you haven’t worked on your customer persona lately, it's important to reassess.

What is a customer persona? It is a semi-fictional archetype that represents the key traits of your target audience. You create an archetype by using data from your actual customer demographics, behaviors, feedback, and website analytics. Most companies have a primary customer persona - the customer they dream of having 100% of if they could. They all have a few related characteristics, which may be entry-level customers, aspirational buyers (who love your products and services, but are still in the not-quite-ready economic or lifestyle phase), and supplemental buyers (the occasional gift buyers).

Your primary customer persona should always be developed around someone who is likely to be a repeat buyer, buying at least annually and ideally more frequently.

When you develop your personas, make them as realistic as you can - almost like developing characters for a movie or a novel. Describe their backgrounds, motivations, and expectations. Talk about where they shop, how they spend their free time, how much income they have, and how much of that income is discretionary. 

How does this help you? Well, imagine someone said, "He's a real George Clooney." What does that suggest to you? You may picture the actual face of George Clooney, but you may also think "sophisticated, well-dressed, suave, wealthy, never crass, warm." That's a persona.

On the other hand, if someone says, "He's a real Fred Flintstone," you might picture the cartoon character. But you may also think "regular guy, working man, family guy, a bit dense, a bit chauvinistic." That's a persona.

When you develop customer personas, they inform your marketing team, your sales staff, your promotional planning . . . even your merchandise selection. Doing this work ensures that you create more relevant product selection and messaging, which are both essential to building a strong brand. How does this work? Well, you start using your customer personas to guide your ideas and decisions. You start thinking:

What would George think of this product?

How should I pose this suggestion to George?

Can George afford this piece?

Is this something George would like to give to his girlfriend or wife?

What would it take to get George to buy from us?

One of the best ways to clarify your company's differentiation is to start speaking directly to your primary and associated customer personas. This simple act will ensure that your messaging is consistently unique and relevant to the exact group of people you want to attract. So start thinking about your merchandising and marketing relative to your customer persona, and hit your target more often.