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A Guide to Understanding Customer Personas

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Customers are people.

Whether you’re in B2B or B2C sales it is people who make the decisions be it individuals or groups of people and they all share on thing in common: personas.

What is a Customer Persona?

A customer persona is a thorough understanding of who you are selling to so you can deliver the proper digital experience. It consists of a customer’s job title, department, product knowledge, education, experience, likes, dislikes, where they trust information from, who influences them and who they influence, their goals, challenges, responsibilities and skills.

Understanding the mass of customer personas out there — and the ones you’d like to target — enables you to ensure your marketing stack is built to maximize your return on investment. So how exactly do you go about tracking down the customer personas you want to target? It’s quite easy actually. I’ll start with some heavy tech speak and then translate it into English for the sake of waxing intellectual.

The K Nearest Neighbors Algorithm

The K Nearest Neighbors algorithm is used by Netflix, Amazon, Spotify, Facebook, LinkedIn and pretty much any company that has a “You might also like…” function.

But how does it know that?

The answer is the K Nearest Neighbors algorithm which is exactly what it sounds like. It looks for users who are most similar to you and then recommends what they watched, read, listened to, befriended, connected with, etc. Now apply this algorithm to your existing customer base — not literally — just conceptually.

Look for patterns that are consistent in your customers and you’ll likely find a few sets of patterns consistent across clusters of your customers. Example: You look in your customer database and see that your customers who:

  • Spend the most are typically well off stay at home mothers in their mid-30's-40’s from the suburbs who are active online yet typically have little product knowledge
  • Make the most amount of purchases are men in their mid-20’s from the inner city who are more active online and seem to have more product knowledge than the big spenders
  • Are the most loyal are men and women in their 50’s and 60’s from the outskirts of cities, have the most product knowledge, a strong dislike for all things “online” and typically make rare yet consistent in-store purchases

Bam! So with a little research using the K-Nearest Neighbors algorithm in your brain — or perhaps you’re a high tech company that runs the algorithm on your customer database — you have three customer personas. So how can this help you? I’m going to take a wild stab in the dark and assume you have one website, one TV ad, one PPC campaign, perhaps a radio campaign, and some social media accounts that have a bit of traction.

Targeting Customer Personas

Ok — so let’s assume that’s your marketing stack. Now you have to connect the two — how can you pivot your marketing stack to target your three main customer personas?

First, you’ll probably want to go after the big spenders — the stay at home moms who are active online and live in the suburbs. Your radio ads probably won’t do you much good here so tailor your reach to avoid the suburbs altogether in the radio department. Focus on PPC, Social Media, Landing Pages on your Website, Commercials and create new ad content specifically aimed at this customer persona. Your sales will skyrocket because their digital experience won’t just be generic, all about the product and company, it’ll also be about how it benefits them specifically. Allocate your marketing dollars accordingly.

Let’s go after your second customer persona, the ones that make the most amount of purchases but don’t necessarily bring in the most revenue. For this customer persona, I’d recommend in-store marketing since they’re in your store so much. Create a rewards program and get them to come back more. Tailor your online ads and landing pages to focus less on product knowledge and more on the benefits they provide to this customer persona — they already know what they need to know about the product. These people don’t listen to the radio so scale back on the inner city radio spend.

And lastly, the loyal customer persona. These are important because if sales from the other personas drop off, you’ll always have this persona so treat them accordingly. If you’re going to spend money on radio and TV, here’s where to do it. Just keep in mind this persona typically lives on the close outskirts of cities. They also aren’t online so no need to create ads for them online or spend ad money online here. Tailor your TV and Radio ads to this persona. Believe it or not — some customer personas still buy things based off TV and Radio Advertisements.

So now, instead of an amazing one size fits all digital experience, tailor the digital experiences you deliver to the right customer personas. As your company and products/services evolve, you’ll notice the customer personas change, then you’ll need to change your digital experiences and tailor them to the new customer personas. Always keep in mind that you have multiple customer personas and create different digital experiences for all of them to get the most bang for your advertising buck.

CMS & Marketing / A Guide to Understanding Customer PersonasLast updated on January 5, 2019
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