5 Steps to Developing a Customer Persona

5 Steps to Developing a Customer Persona

Written by: Melissa R. MacCaull, Director of Marketing, Union Savings Bank

Take a moment to think about one of your best customers. Perhaps they come into your shop every week and connect with you and your employees or maybe they send lots of referral business to your company. Wouldn’t you love to have five, ten or even fifty more customers just like them?

If you are surveying your customers and using digital analytics tools, you’re already off to a good start to find more customers just like that one. But as a small business owner in your community, you know there’s a lot more to your customers than just numbers and metrics.

To help you reach your next group of top customers, take a deeper dive into what makes them tick by developing a customer persona.

Step 1: Start with customer demographics.

While we will not focus exclusively on numbers and metrics (see above), starting with concrete facts about your target customer can help you create a baseline for your persona. Remember, you want to find more people like your top customers, so picturing someone who lives on the other side of the country is probably not going to help you identify customers for your brick and mortar business in Connecticut.

Consider where the majority of your customers live, their average household incomes, age and gender, and other details. By now, your customer persona is still a loose outline of your existing customer base, but we will add more layers of detail to help paint a clearer picture.

Step 2: Find what motivates your customers to work with you.

There are many reasons why your small business customers decide to work with you over your competitors. Consider your points of competitive differentiation, such as your customer service policy and commitment to your local community. You may also want to consider some practical reasons like your location, years in business or selection of products and services. Beyond separating you from your competitors, these factors can tell you more about why your customers want to work with you.

If the convenience of your small business’ location is frequently cited as a positive in your customer surveys, that might tell you that your customers value being close to home. If you receive a higher number of orders or appointment requests online, you can deduce that your customers are largely tech savvy.

These details can help you fill in some of the gaps around your persona’s story. Coupled with your customer demographics, you can now picture your persona as someone who enjoys being home with their family in their free time and prefers web communication over more traditional media. Most importantly, they are not likely to go far out of their way to get what they need, but instead choose to work with you in order to make their lives easier.

Step 3: Get creative with your customer persona’s story.

Now that you know the basics about your persona and what motivates them to choose your small business, it’s time to put your creative hat on. Using what you know so far and thinking about your existing top customers, how does your persona spend their free time? Before you cast this off as a frivolous exercise, remember that your customers are making an emotional decision as well as an economical or practical one when they choose to work with you. Understanding a little more about their lives can help you paint an even clearer picture of them as individuals.

Start by giving your persona some hobbies. Perhaps they love to read and watch movies or maybe they prefer an active lifestyle filled with travel and sports. Zero in on a few specifics and add them to your persona’s story.

How else might they spend their free time? We’ve already determined that they value time with their families and prefer online engagement, so maybe they attend their children’s school activities and shop online in the evenings. You can add as much detail as you’d like in this step as you further develop your customer persona.

Step 4: Determine how they engage with media.

This should be a fairly simple step since you have already determined that your persona likes to operate online. If your small business has an active social media presence, you might assume that this customer follows you on Instagram and Twitter. If you stay in contact with customers via email, you can refer to Google Analytics to determine what devices people use to visit your site.

Do you know how your customers get their news? Do they prefer social media feeds over newsprint and video content over text? Piecing these details together can tell you how your persona behaves online and off.

Step 5: Put it all together.

Your customer persona is likely coming more clearly into focus now that you know their basic demographics and have deduced their motivations, hobbies and media preferences. Now it’s time to piece all of these factors together to create a full picture of your target customer. Here’s what your persona’s story might look like.

This customer lives within 10 miles of your small business. They share their single-family home with their spouse, children and pets, and together they enjoy watching movies and traveling. When this customer is at work, they are focused on advancing their career. Each morning, they browse Twitter for the news headlines and in the evenings, they spend time with their kids before heading to bed, after doing a little online shopping. They choose your small business because you help them free up their time so they can focus on doing the things they love.

Can you picture your persona now? Better yet, when you are crafting your next email or making a change to your small business website, can you envision who will be seeing it? The ultimate goal of creating personas for your small business is to help you identify your next top customer. Whether you are training your employees in customer service, writing a blog post or sending an email, keep your small business customer persona in mind and you will stay on brand and top of mind.

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