Personas: The key to developing an effective vertical strategy
We all know that people aren’t a construct void of intelligence, motivation, or existence. But when it comes to their customers, many companies aren’t of the same mind. They market to the masses without differentiating one group of customers from the next, resulting in messaging that doesn’t connect.
Customers are completely observable, and these observations should be used to create customer personas. These personas will serve as composite pictures of the subsets within your target audience.
While personas are fictional representations of your ideal customers, they’re still based on facts. You’ve taken the time to get into their heads, hearts, and hands by knowing what they think about, care about, and do.
This lets you make more informed decisions around your marketing. Suddenly, brand content becomes personalized to personas and specific points on the path to purchase.
As with most things, it’s best to start at the source. Think about the customers you already serve to build personas. Ask yourself, “Who is most likely to buy? What do they do? What do they want? What role does your product play in their lives? Why exactly do they want to buy a product like yours?”
If you’re B2B, you should also include characteristics like industry, company size, decision makers, job function, and challenges facing businesses today. You can gain further insights by asking questions during sales calls, joining peer groups to have conversations, following their social channels, and talking to your current customer base. The goal is to get as much information as possible to add real depth to the personas.
I suggest starting with one or two personas. As you get more comfortable with the process, expand out. Continue to develop new personas to create hyper-targeted campaigns that make your brand the obvious choice.
Also, don’t be surprised when your personas start to evolve. As you get to know them, their personas will grow in detail. That’s the byproduct of getting into their heads, hearts, and hands.
Taking it vertical
Once you’ve developed your personas, you can use them to strengthen a vertical strategy. The following steps are a good place to start:
1. Solidify a vertical focus. All the time you’ve spent developing personas should highlight where you’ve built a solid base in a particular vertical. Brainstorm the benefits and drawbacks of going after a persona in this market segment. Look at how this persona uses your products or services. Discuss whether there’s room to grow within the vertical and what needs are inherent in this segment.
2. Develop an offer. Now that you know who you’re targeting, put together an offer. Align your messaging to the pain points affecting that particular persona, which adds relevance to your marketing and highlights how your products or services are the solution.
3. Establish a go-to-market strategy. Once you have the customer’s attention, you need a process to actually close the sale. That’s where your go-to-market strategy comes into play. You know all the components necessary to move someone successfully from end to end, which could include content, SEO, sales personnel, etc.
4. Analyze the results. As you move people through the sales funnel, gather data. Compile the information to deepen your understanding of these customers, and add more detail to your personas. You may find another vertical with similar characteristics.
Chances are, there’ll be some trial and error. But as you refine these personas, you can use them to improve your products or services based on customer needs, building trust and loyalty from your base.
This is really a great article. We have spent many years working on our marketing. However, when it gets down to detailing the personas, we always shy away because of the effort involved. This is a great reminder as we approach the new year and are working on budgets. Thanks for the specific, actionable guidance.
I think that you'll end up with only a few (perhaps 2-3) different Personas so it doesn't have to be too complicated. When you create content for the different Personas you'll find that some content can be used for all Personas and just needs to be tweaked a bit.