One of the biggest reasons that a startup’s marketing initiative fails is because they aren’t treating potential customers like people. It’s an easy mistake to make.
When you have target KPIs to meet, you need to be thinking in terms of numbers and metrics. But if you start seeing the world merely through the lens of numbers and begin to neglect the human element, your message is unlikely to connect with your target audience.
What’s the solution? Buyer personas.
Buyer personas are fictional representations of your ideal customers, based on real data and categorized by market segment.
When you envision a composite “person” as you’re creating your marketing content and messaging, you’re more likely to create something that’s relevant and meaningful to the people you’re trying to attract.
In order for these buyer personas to be effective, they have to be based on real data, not just your best guess or what you assume to be true based on your own experience with a few people you know in the same demographic as your target audience.
But, how can you find this information as a startup, without a pool of existing customers to study, if you don’t have a big budget for market research?
Even if you’re going to be targeting several market segments, you’ll want to focus on just a few personas to start with. It’s better to thoroughly know and understand a few personas than to have a surface-level understanding of many personas.
After you’ve run campaigns that performed well for your initial set of personas, you can tackle more.
While interviews take more time than surveys or focus groups, they’re less costly and easier to conduct.
Surveys have a low response rate, so you’ll need to find thousands of people in your target market to send to.
Focus groups tend to be expensive because you’re hosting a group of individuals on site. Interviews, on the other hand, can be done over the phone.
And you really only need about a dozen people if you get a truly representative sample of your target audience.
Typically, companies rely on their own customers and on purchased lists to do market research. But startups usually don’t have access to these. Instead, you’ll need to get creative. Here are some ideas.
The questions you should ask will depend on your specific product or service and the problems you solve or value you deliver. The questions will be quite different if you’re selling B2B vs. B2C. Here are the kinds of questions you’ll want to focus on to get you started.
During your interviews, don’t be afraid to dig into the answers people supply. Ask “why?” to find out what’s underlying the answers.
As you conduct your interviews, you’ll start seeing overlaps in the responses.
When you’ve finished all your conversations, analyze all the responses and look for answers that appeared in the majority of the interviews — these are the things you’ll want to focus on.
You can be fairly certain that these characteristics, feelings, or beliefs are shared among the majority of the people in your target audience.
The final step is to build the character of your persona. Give this fictional person a name, and describe who he or she is and what he or she cares about. Tell the story in a way that brings the person to life.
Now, when you’re creating your marketing campaigns, you and your marketing team have an accurate reference point. When you’re wondering if a certain tagline would resonate, “ask” your target persona.
When you’re considering which social channels to promote your new ad on, you won’t be wasting money on platforms that your audience doesn’t use.
Personas not only make your marketing more effective, they also save you from making costly mistakes.
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