There's a lot of buzz in the digital marketing community lately about "personas". For those of you who are still a little bit unsure about customer personas, why they're important, and how they can help your marketing efforts online, I've put together this brief explanation to get you started. Basically, customer personas (personae for all you word-nerds out there) are demographic profiles that help you understand a customer's mindset by helping you understand the customer ecosystems in which they find themselves. Think of it as the meta data about your customer's buying behavior. The goal is to use this data to begin building stories around your products and your customers to create a vivid picture of the relationships between them. I like to call it "storybooking." Conversions happen in the place where your product's story and the individual customer's story connect. Like anything else, personas aren't static. There are a lot of shifting variables to consider, so you should revisit your profiles at regular intervals to tighten them up. This will keep your perspective fresh and your stories relevant.
A Good Place to Start
To construct great personas, you've got to do great research. Here are three great places to begin gathering information:
It should go without saying, but use your analytics! Google Analytics gives you an incredible amount of demographic information based on your real-time web traffic. I also recommend services like HubSpot as a great source for web traffic analysis.
Conduct surveys! This one gets neglected more than any other method of gathering data. It's a goldmine of information, and all you have to do is ask for it. Keep it short, and offer something in return to sweeten the deal. You'll get the information you need, and they get a value-added bonus. Win-win!
Read reviews! You should be reading reviews of your products/services, your competitor's products/services, and related products/services on a regular basis. The best part about this method: IT'S FREE.
Here's a graphic identifying some of the key elements of a solid customer persona: