3 Reasons Your Customer Personas Aren’t Working - And How to Fix Them

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Why your customer personas aren't working - and how to fix them

If you’ve ever been to a crowded market, you know how noisy it can be – all the conversations happening around you, the vendors shouting over one another to promote their best deals. Most of the time it’s easier to tune out.

In today’s hyper-connected world, it’s a bit like being in the middle of this crowded market all the time, with social media, entertainment, marketing messages and more all fighting for consumers’ attention. Personalised marketing is becoming increasingly necessary to cut through the noise – and customer personas can be an essential piece of the puzzle.

Done right, personas help marketers humanise their customers and figure out the right types of content for their audience. But many marketers find that after they create their personas, nothing seems to happen – engagement doesn’t increase, conversion rates don’t improve.

So what’s going wrong? Here are a few reasons your customer personas may not be working as effectively as you’d hoped – and what you can to do fix them.

1) They’re based on guesswork

If your personas are just based on what you think you know about your customers, they probably won’t be that effective. Too often, they seem to be developed from a three-hour brainstorming session, where everyone debates who the typical customer is, how many kids they have and what they like to do over the weekend.

The people in your company who interact with customers regularly (e.g. salespeople, the customer service team, etc.) will have valuable insight into who your customers are and why they buy – but this shouldn’t be the sole basis for your personas.

How to fix it: Do more research into your existing customers. Start by looking at some of the data you hold in your CRM or marketing database and see what similarities you find. Maybe your customers in the 16-24 age bracket only seem to shop the sales. Or perhaps the majority of your online customers live a certain distance from your physical stores.

Be sure to gather more information directly from your customers, too. This might be in person through interviews or focus groups, or via sign-up forms and online surveys. Ask questions that help you understand what customers’ challenges are and why they buy from you.

2) They’re too specific (or you’re taking them too seriously)

It’s easy to get carried away embellishing each persona with extra information to make them seem more realistic. Humanising your personas is good, but if you make them too detailed, you can end up writing all your content for a specific customer – who doesn’t actually exist.

Personas are intended to guide your content, rather than give you a set template to write into. If you find yourself saying things like: “I can’t use that stock photo on my blog because they only have two children, and Frank the Family Man has three!”, overly-detailed personas are probably the cause.

How to fix it: Go back through the description for each persona and look for information that isn’t adding any value. Keep details focused and relevant to your product / service – for example, if your customer’s weekend hobbies don’t impact their decision to purchase, there’s no need to include them.

Aim to have enough detail so that each persona feels realistic, without adding too much extraneous information. It’s a delicate balance, so don’t be afraid to keep updating and editing your personas as you learn more.

3) They’re just gathering dust

One of the most common problems marketers face with personas is knowing where and how to actually use them. All too often, businesses create a set of personas because they know they’re supposed to – and then file them away somewhere, never to be seen again. So how do you put your personas to work?

How to fix it: Keep your personas in mind as you plan and create marketing content, from blog posts to e-shots. Chances are, each persona you’ve created will have different needs, pains and goals when deciding whether to buy your product. So, use them to find the right topics, the right channels and the right tone for your content and comms.

Consider the types of questions different personas will be asking, as well the format and channel where they’d prefer to consume the content. Remember that personas are helpful for marketing to your existing customers as well. Marketing automation software can help, allowing you to group people into the right personas and automatically send each group the most relevant content.

 

Your customer personas will likely need the occasional update – as you learn more about your customers, as their needs change, etc. – so remember to give them a health check from time to time. Done well, they’ll become a key component of your marketing strategy. Check out our blog to learn more about using your customer personas to guide your content strategy.

About Jade McFarland

Jade McFarland

Jade is Content Marketing Executive at HTK, a software provider specialising in insight-driven marketing and loyalty. Jade and the HTK team write about insight and data, personalisation, lifecycle marketing, and customer loyalty. 

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