As you market your new business or product, train yourself to get laser-focused on your “ideal client.“
Creating a buyer persona — fictional characters based on true-to-life prospects — is one way to do that. If you understand your customer’s environment, motivations, job title, performance concerns, gender, age, hobbies, goals and expectations, social media preferences, etc.; you’ll connect with them better.
The idea is to see the world clearly through their eyes, so clearly that you can predict where they order take-out, what kind of car they’d buy, and even their communication style and tone of voice. Once you know all those details (that may not have anything outwardly to do with your products), you enjoy a surprising benefit as you build your business:
The point of developing buyer personas is to help you directly appeal to the type of person who’d buy your products.
You can stop wasting time creating content and marketing materials for someone who will never buy your stuff, and start speaking the language of those who will.
The only problem with this exercise is that sometimes you’re blind to some very real characteristics that demand your attention.
I recently watched The Martian, the movie about the astronaut played by Matt Damon, left behind on planet Mars, his struggle to survive, and the epic attempt by NASA to rescue him after the whole world’s eyes were focused on the catastrophe.
There was one character whose role was small but mighty: A geeky guy who could barely verbally communicate, yet whose brilliant brain held the solution to the entire problem.
In one scene, he is trying to describe to the top brass how the rescue mission will go down. His method — a simple, physical, and visually conclusive explanation, enacted for, and involving the top directors of NASA, and a pen — was brilliantly played. It was almost as if this brilliant, beautiful mind was so often misunderstood, that he distilled his idea down to the most simple, childish enactment he could visualize. Lives were on the line, so he found the least common denominator of communication styles.
As a marketer, I liked this scene, because it reminded me of that old tenet:
If you can explain something in terms that a 5-year-old would understand, then you truly understand your subject.
Simplicity is power.
Too often, professionals and experts know their stuff so well that they forget that others don’t know (or care about) the same things. The people who are the best experts for the job — often, it’s the experienced entrepreneur venturing out on his own, or the solo-preneur in the midst of rebranding or starting something new — have so much juicy history behind them. When someone has forgotten more than their customers know, their ability to connect with them usually suffers. Their experience disqualifies them from helping the very clients and customers who need them the most.
If you’re a top notch expert, I’m sure you never have trouble distilling complicated aspects of your specialty to others. But if every now and then you find you’re not reaching the right people, it could be because your message is a little unclear. Don’t worry!
This is a communication problem, nothing more. Perception is everything, so you have to speak the words your customer can hear. Like the guy in The Martian, he may have lost his audience if he relayed complicated calculations, but they understood him when he poked the pen cap into NASA’s public relations director’s forehead.
If it seems like your marketing is missing its mark, then you could be making these very human mistakes. Funny thing is they don’t occur because you don’t care, or because you’re not putting in enough effort. You could be trying too hard to be understood, than to understand your customer.
Now visualize your ideal client, and avoid these nine mistakes as you flesh out your buyer personas:
Mistake #1. You see what you want to see, focusing on your direct experience with your current or past customers, and failing to see a bigger possibility. It’s a good thing to envision a customer you already serve, but you may miss other opportunities for future growth if you’re only looking at the past.
Mistake #2. You put more consideration into one aspect about your customer over another equally important aspect. Maybe you’ve been talking with someone who can’t see the whole picture. Or you’ve been discussing your market with someone in one specific department — sales or service, for example, and they have a strong opinion about what the customer should look like. It’s easy to absorb differing, passing opinions!
Everyone has a little “marketing” in them. Most people have some idea of what’s important to customers, especially if they already working in some capacity on a product dedicated to that person. It’s an intuitive human trait, one that isn’t exclusive to folks in the marketing department. The fact that silos exist in a lot of companies means that everyone isn’t on the same page. Get as much input as you can and weigh all opinions with discernment.
Everyone has a different idea about reaching your ideal clients because most people tend to tackle a problem in their own specific way. It’s not their fault, but if you can identify when you are falling into that same trap, you can avoid focusing on just one dimension of your customers.
Mistake #3. You overlook details that are important to her. Perhaps you just don’t want to include that bit about the long commute, or the hoops she has to jump through to get approval for a budget because, quite frankly, you don’t really know what to do about those problems.
Ah, but there’s opportunity, if you look closely! Sometimes it’s the details you unearth that shed light on your true understanding of what the customer is going through right now.
Mistake #4. You merge two different personas together into one, taking certain parts from one (e.g. has young children) and blending them with another (e.g. loves to travel).
You’ll discover nuances within each buyer persona, but if you merge too many personas onto one, and show marketing messages to one jumbled-up group, then your marketing will not pass the customer’s sniff test. You don’t want to come off as inauthentic, or too many things to too many people. Keep different target markets separate so you don’t send a confusing message.
Mistake #5. You mistake what your customer sees for something only you see from your insider, expert viewpoint. For example, they see a lack of cooperation from their children or boss; you see a failure in household or business organization.
Terminology is so important. Be careful to phrase problems the way they would. If you don’t address your customer’s needs exactly where they are, your totally jumping ahead of yourself. And if your customer doesn’t feel like you get her at all, then she won’t be back, no matter how great your solution is.
Mistake #6. You assume their problem can be solved with your solution. (When you only have a hammer, all problems look like nails.) The sad truth is that you may not have the right product that truly addresses your customer’s needs, fears or desires. Try not to assume that you already know everything about your customer. You might know a lot, but always be open to learning as you go.
Mistake #7. You are overly-influenced by your “manager’s” point of view…and that manager may be YOU! You pay too much attention to the future of your company, or how your business is structured to deliver service to your client… and other details that your customer couldn’t care less about. No matter where you want to be, or your goals for your product or company, that never matters to your customer.
It’s totally understandable to want to grow your company to serve more customers. But if your focus is on growth before dazzling your customer, you may not make meet those future marketing milestones.
Mistake #8. You focus too much on what you think they need, instead of what your customers are telling you they want.
Mistake #9. You compare yourself with your competition, skewing your results and making your forget what your strengths are. You’re using someone else’s (your competition’s) buyer persona, and comparing your business and offer with someone else’s.
Love is blind. It’s one of the catch-22s of being an entrepreneur with heart. You want to help, and you can see the problem from at least six degrees of separation from your customer’s point of view.
A good buyer persona begins with what your customer is dealing with right now, NOT your sophisticated understanding of what’s “really” going on. Forget about that. They don’t care. You have to get used to speaking to and serving your customer at each stage of their journey.
A solid buyer persona is often elusive because you want to serve them so well. Before really understanding them completely, you want to jump in and help. Unfortunately, your best intentions may hinder you from seeing the nuances of the real problem you can help solve.
When you take off your rose-colored glasses and see your customer for who she is, warts and all, myopic, and oh-so-complicated ( and I say that with love); then you’ll have a buyer persona you can speak to and share with your team.
If you’d like to discuss how to simplify your message so you ideal clients can “hear” you, please give us a call. We’d love to help you determine if your content “checks out” with your best prospects.