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Who is Your Ideal Customer? 5 Tips for Creating Buyer Personas

A buyer persona is a hypothetical customer profile that defines what values, wants, fears and objections your marketing should speak to in blog posts, white papers, webinars and other promotional content. These personas should be reflective of your actual customer base. Otherwise, you risk sending the wrong message, to the wrong audience, at the wrong time. That’s a huge waste of time and money.

The basic idea is that the more relevant the content, the more apt the person is to pay attention. These insights are invaluable for maximizing your marketing team’s spend.

Unfortunately, understanding every customer nuance is not always as obvious as dog owners loving dogs. So how do you find these relevant traits? Market research is certainly helpful for getting the ball rolling, but why not leverage employees that interact with your real customers every day? Start with your customer service department.

Here are five tips to empower these frontline employees to help create your buyer personas and refine marketing content:

1. Communication Channel of Choice

One of the first things customer service can reveal about a buyer persona is the communication channel of choice. The customer usually reveals their persona just in the nature of the support request. For example, Hubspot client Goodbye Crutches has a persona called “Andy the Athlete” and another called “Gerry the Great Grandparent.” If a customer called and said the crutch alternative broke when he tried to take it down a skateboard ramp, he’s obviously the athlete. If the caller said they were having trouble putting the product together, the agent knows that’s probably Gerry because his persona says he’s most concerned with how to assemble the product.

So at the opening of every service ticket, your reps should record both the persona and whether the connection was first made through email, phone, live chat or self service. This allows management to later pull a report by persona and identify whether they prefer one communication channel over the other.

Knowing this trait helps marketing decide how they should interact with a person during the pre-purchase buyer phase. Going back to the Goodbye Crutches example, when Gerry reaches out to support he almost exclusively calls. So when selling agents follow up with that persona, they know calling is more effective than email drip campaigns or social media offers.

2. Technical Savvy

Your agents should also have the ability to identify the “question type” during the call, chat or email. First, meet with your customer service team and identify the most common questions. Then, for each question discuss what technical bucket they would fall into: “highly technical,” “general,” or “basic.” (You could choose more macro tiers that are specific to your company and product.)

This aggregated data should reveal technical savvy, which also dictates how marketing and sales communicate with that persona, as well as what kind of content they should create.

Hubspot, for example, discovered that large enterprise clients ask complicated functionality-related questions, while smaller businesses have more general questions. In response, their marketing team creates how-to blogs and guides for small business customers, and more product documentation for enterprise customers.

3. Fears, Wants, Values

Your marketing team should work with customer service to identify other possible support behaviors that reveal buyer intent for your product, or realized fears from the pre-purchase stage.

Say for instance, Goodbye Crutches’ “Mary the Motivated Mom” persona called wanting to know if the scooter could be disassembled because it wouldn’t fit in the trunk of her car. That could be useful as a potential fear during the pre-purchase stage. “Will this fit into my trunk?” In response, marketing might include a diagram in marketing materials that shows how the scooter folds up and fits the dimensions of most standard vehicle trunks.

To record and track this data, allow space either on your agent tickets or a separate document to track these fears, wants and values so they can share experiences just like this.

4. Identify Timely Marketing Opportunities

Customers don’t always use your product right away. Sometimes they purchase it for a particular occasion, or just for “when they need it.” This time might be obvious, but it’s likely there’s other situations you didn’t imagine your customers would use your product.

Customer service can help unearth these “when they need it” moments. This can happen in two ways. One, have your service team start to record how customers are using the product or service. In other words, what were they doing when they had to call to figure something out, or solve and issue. Then, you can look for trends on those uses.

The second way is to allow space to record calls that are relevant to a particular time of year or event. Does your persona attend a certain festival every year? Are they a parent, and need to prepare for back to school? Understanding what is timely to your consumer will help reinforce relevancy and immediacy to buy.

5. Prioritize Marketing Spend

Customer service can also enable your marketing team to prioritize spend. Earlier, I mentioned support agents identifying every ticket with a existing persona.

This aggregate data is useful not only for identifying communication channel of choice. The marketing team can also analyze support request volume from each persona. How often does each persona call? How long does each call last? How often do they refund?

Depending on what percent of sales that persona contributes, the company might decrease marketing investments for that profile if spend exceeds customer support costs.

It Takes Understanding and Process

In order for these suggestions to work, you need to make sure your customer service team understands the persona traits and the value of refining them. Keep a poster in the service department that provides a visual representation of your personas so they are always top of mind.

Equally important, you need to enable process and procedures for recording and tracking these buyer persona traits through customer service. This could be as simple as a physical checklist they keep at their desk with lines for “communications channel” or “Use case.” Or you could go one step further and integrate this into your issue tracking software with custom fields and reports.

Have you used customer service to create or refine buyer personas? How? Let us know by commenting here.

Image courtesy of Timothy Krause

About the author: Ashley Furness is a CRM Analyst for research firm Software Advice. She has spent the last six years reporting and writing business news and strategy features. Her work has appeared in myriad publications including Inc., Upstart Business Journal, the Austin Business Journal and the North Bay Business Journal. Before joining Software Advice in 2012, she worked in sales management and advertising. She is a University of Texas graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism.

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