Is it Time to Revisit Your Customer Personas

by Katie Joll

Have you ever felt that something isn’t quite “clicking” with the marketing for your business?

Perhaps you’re ending up with customers who use a lot of extra resources because nothing is ever quite “right,” or you’re simply not getting enough customers who are a great fit for your business in the first place.

Or maybe you’re getting a lot of cancellations and you’re trying to put your finger on what is behind them…

In some cases, you might find that things have changed in your business but your marketing messages and techniques haven’t been updated to meet the new changes.

All of the examples above are good reasons to ensure that you’re regularly revisiting your customer personas, keeping them updated, and making sure they reflect your business as you want it to be.

Is it time to revisit your own customer personas? Let’s take a look:

Do your personas need updating? Get our checklist here

Why you need customer personas

If you haven’t already got clear customer personas in place, this could be the answer to any issues with “wrong fit” customers or marketing not bringing in the results you’d like. A buyer persona is an archetypal representation of who your buyers are, including their goals, pain points, demographic information and preferences. This can be used to guide your messaging so that it appeals to those customers and entices them to learn more about you.

The short answer as to why you need customer personas is because they can form the basis guiding virtually everything you do as a business. Personas help you to:

  • Inform the development of your product/service, including any new features or iterations.
  • Provide clarity and “voice” to your writing and marketing messaging.
  • Guide your sales strategy.
  • Create the right content for your audience.

When you create your buyer personas, it’s important to go into detail. The more accurate your personas are, the better you will nail your messaging. On the flipside, if you don’t use personas or don’t pay attention to detail, your marketing efforts can suffer and you can end up attracting the wrong people, or no one at all. Check out the example template from HubSpot below to see how a customer persona can be built:

Remember to consider “negative” personas

Negative personas are important to consider too, particularly because they help you to avoid attracting the wrong people. The problem with doing so is that you can waste a lot of time and resources trying to keep “wrong fit” customers happy when the reality is, if they’re not the right fit for your business they won’t be staying long anyway.

In our previous blog post on negative personas, the Groupon story was highlighted as an example. If you’re slashing prices and couponing service to get attention, who are you likely to attract? The answer is bargain hunters, and that’s fine if you’re in the business of clearing out sale stock, not so much if you’re a gym or SaaS owner looking for more long-term clients.

Sometimes business owners worry that they might disclude some people, especially during the crucial startup phase. But this actually can be a good thing. Instead of casting a wide net, spreading yourself thin and taking up resources dealing with people who aren’t a good fit, a narrower approach means you can focus your energy on ideal customers.

Language, presentation and the staging of your offers all count when it comes to attracting the right customers. Knowing who you don’t want means you can avoid messages that appeal to them.

Why you need updated customer personas

Recently, Brian caught up for a chat with Jeremy Biron of Forecastly. Jeremy talked about the success Forecastly has had with content marketing and something he said about it stood out;

“Have customer personas from day 1 and keep developing them over time.”

Personas are not a task to do once then file away. They should be kept as true reflections of how your business is developing. Here’s why:

You learn more about your customers over time

As your business grows and you have more experience with your customers, you learn more about what works, what doesn’t, and who your product or service is truly best suited to. Early customer personas tend to be your best effort based on fair assumptions and what little data you might have already.

Over time, you might find that your early customer personas missed some things or had inaccuracies. You also learn more about your customers – the type of content that resonates with them and the marketing messages that really draw them in. You may even find some of your early assumptions need further qualification, for example adding in the stage of business the customer is at or the amount of revenue they bring in. There may be new trends that have come up which affect the characteristics of the customer persona.

In any case, it’s important to update your personas with this information so that you’re working from something that is as accurate as possible.

Your business doesn’t stay the same

There are very few businesses out there which look exactly the same as they did when they started up. For various reasons, your original product or service might evolve as you learn more about what your customers really want.

You might introduce new product lines or add new features based on feedback or market research. Some businesses discover that after a while, they need a complete change of direction – perhaps a new audience or entirely new product.

Any time something changes about the product or service, this should be a trigger to revisit your buyer personas and ensure that they accurately reflect the position of the business right now.

Communicate better with your team

Jeremy Biron is a client of Audience Ops and talked with Brian about how he was very aware from the beginning of wanting to make content outsourcing work. How could he ensure that the team putting together his content “got it” and that the writer could convey an appropriate voice?

One of the solutions he put in place early (and something we go through with all clients at Audience Ops), was to be very clear about his customer personas and ensure that the team here was kept up to speed with any changes. Keeping those personas up-to-date meant that documentation was available that clearly communicated who the content needed to speak to.

Being clear about those personas helps to facilitate delegation to other team members or outsourcing, whether that is your content, other marketing tasks or even sales. Anyone who is completing work which will in some way be in front of customers should have clarity about who they are communicating with. Even if you don’t outsource or delegate much just yet in your business, having up-to-date personas can act as a “sense check” for any work that you do – is it really speaking to your customer base?

Is it time to update your buyer personas? Get our checklist here

Final thoughts

Customer personas are an excellent tool to help your business gain clarity about who you are targeting and the messages that will appeal to them. Many businesses begin with the best of intentions in defining their personas, but have you revisited yours since they were made?

To remain effective, customer personas should be “living” documents, updated to account for changes in your business or the many things you learn as you go along. If you’ve noticed data such as a drop in organic traffic or lower conversion rates, these might also be triggers to check whether your personas are up-to-date.

Finally, updated customer personas help you keep team members informed, including for tasks that are outsourced. Keep everyone on the same page and ensure that your messaging is cohesive.