There’s just one little problem with your target audience. It hasn’t got a pulse.

Lots of marketing people do it. Do you too?

You create imaginary people and give them cute names like Adam the Administrator or Carol the Coordinator. You give them a job and a family, and some hobbies as well. Then, you paint targets on their chests and start firing messages.

You can hit the targets over and over. But you still won’t reach their hearts, because they're not real people.

Why most marketing strategies miss the mark.

The first important objective of your content marketing strategy is to figure out who your audience is, and what moves them.

To that end, marketers create ‘personas’. A persona is a fictional version of your customer, based on demographics and data. It's built from aggregated statistics about history, motivations and behavior.

Personas often lack a pulse.

They help you understand logical reasons for a prospect to buy your product or service. But they’re almost always missing the subconscious factors that drive your real customers’ behavior.

Are you speaking to a flesh and blood person, or a cardboard cutout?

Are you speaking to a flesh and blood person, or a cardboard cutout?

Your customers aren’t targets.

‘Target Audience’ is an often-used term in marketing. But the phrase suggests a two-dimensional object rather than a person.

Your ideal customer’s behavior is influenced by anxieties, hopes, fears and desires. If your persona fails to convey the feelings that drive his behavior, and the experiences he craves, your content marketing strategy will fall flat.

How to get a clue

Your best clue to creating a lively, three-dimensional persona comes directly from your ideal customers.

Who are they, and what makes them ideal?

They’re the 20% of your customers who account for 80% of your profits, job satisfaction and positive word of mouth. If you can consistently attract more of them, you’ll create a high-octane growth engine for your business.

I believe you should focus your research and your thinking on defining that narrow group and fulfilling their desires. Because they’re many times more valuable to you than an average customer. And they attract other valuable customers to your business.

How we add an extra dimension to your personas and give them a pulse

We use a unique interview technique to get your ideal customer to reveal what’s going on beneath the surface. The point is to understand his or her needs and wants—to serve them better.

We begin by asking basic questions about his job and life situation, which allows him to get comfortable speaking about himself.

Continuing, we gently probe, using open-ended questions about his work successes and challenges, getting a feel for his aspirations, anxieties, preferences, and pain points.

Understanding his work and life through the lens of his feelings and beliefs, helps us find out why he chose to be your customer.

Next, we ask how you fit into the picture

  • How long has he been a customer?
  • Did he have any initial reservations? How did your company resolve them?
  • What has his experience been?
  • Would he recommend you, and what words would he choose to do so?

And so on…

The conversation is about his perceptions. So we explore them, and validate them with more follow-up questions. It helps us understand how he feels about your company, how you help him achieve his goals, and how his association with you mirrors his personal values.

This is how we put some flesh and bones on your customer personas.

Last, we find out about media habits

Questions include:

  • What are his favorite web sites, forums and blogs?
  • When he researches products and services, what are his trusted sources of information, online and offline?
  • What are his favorite shows and sources of entertainment?
  • What companies or thought leaders does he like to follow online, and what makes them interesting?

This part of the interview lets us know how and where to effectively reach your ideal customers and allows them to unwind as it concludes.

The deliverable—how we make the findings actionable

We summarize the process, learning and conclusions in a succinct visual/verbal presentation. The end result is a three-dimensional persona, and a customer value statement. It guides your strategy unerringly for branding, content and marketing communications.

We’ll also help you understand how to create, and consistently recreate the experience your ideal customers crave. And how your company’s culture and business activities can produce the ideal customer experience.

You’re an important part of the process, but it pays to have help

The point of the interviews is to validate your customer’s perceptions and uncover their feelings. Customers naturally reveal more to a neutral observer, because they feel comfortable, knowing their answers are less likely to be judged. We’re able to bring some objectivity to the process because we aren’t employees of your company.

Through over 30 years experience in advertising and marketing, we know how to transform customer feelings into powerful concepts for your brand and your content strategy.

The important role you play is one of internal champion, guiding the process to align with your company’s mission and your understanding of your ideal customers.

Personas are not the sole responsibility of sales, marketing, or an outside consultant. They should grow from a shared understanding of your ideal customers.

Would you like some help creating personas with a pulse? Let’s connect.