Building Personas– Part 1

people-network-blue-960x300What information should be included in developing a complete ideal persona?

 

Recently a client asked me to create a persona of their company’s key buyers.  He wanted to focus on the small percentage of consumers that spend the most and prove to be great advocates when talking about and working with his company.

Because this practice was new to the company, I started with a profile template that is familiar to me.  There are a number of persona templates available online and any would provide information needed.  However, some are more complex then others and can be a deterrent to getting the persona done and functional.

The first step included outlining the types of information that are helpful in the persona.  The second step was taking the template and talking to key buyers and advocates for this company.  In our exercise, we were able to fill in much of the information and only asked  customers about information not readily available or we weren’t sure about.

Information to include in a persona.

•    Title–If your major buyers work in small companies you may find that titles are a thing of the past.  So while identifying a specific title may be difficult, you can specify function which is still a valid selection.
•    Time in the job–How long have they been at their present job and how long have they been in the field?  This is a good indication of the group to target.
•    Who do they work with directly?  Who do they work with indirectly?
•    Responsibilities and daily tasks.  What are the daily job tasks and what are their key responsibilities?
•    Likes/dislikes include items relating to their job as well as personal likes/dislikes.  Review things this audience might appreciate during the sales process and things that they will definitely dislike if included in the sales process.
•    Frustrations and Concerns include both personal and job frustrations and concerns.
•    Pressures.  Again include both job and personal pressures.
•    Needs.  What needs is this person looking to fill both tangible and intangible.
•    Role in buying process and at what stage does the persona get involved.–The buying process consists of 6 stages.  Those stages are awareness, interest, research, desire, user and evangelist.  Which stage or stages is your persona involved in?
•    Key Drivers–What drives this persona to make the buying decision for your company’s products or services?  Include both tangible and intangible.

Once you have this information it helps to come up with a name and image.  Having a name and image of the persona helps all team members to think of this buyer as a real person.  I like to have the image available for meetings.  Or, as Steve Jobs did, designate an empty chair where the key persona joins in during meetings.

Remember that in the buyer persona, we are trying to learn who this person is both at a rational and emotional level.  We often make buying decisions by rationalizing our decisions but the emotional component is a strong influencer of behavior and should be studied.

Creating a name, image and persona is a bit like getting to know a friend so you can really understand your key customers.

Lifelong Learner

“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”     Will Rogers

One of the keys to success, in both your professional and personal life, is making a commitment to be a lifelong learner.

LQThumb_116587314483430413Once you’ve internalized this mindset, you’ll find that you’re willing to invest time in yourself and your development. This goal doesn’t take away from what you are doing in your organization; it makes that time more valuable by making you more valuable as you increase your skill set and knowledge level.

Start by setting goals for your professional and personal development during your personal goal setting planning. Decide how often you’ll be meeting with your mentor, make a commitment to engage in a professional association, set a goal for the number of applicable books that you’ll read each year, and know how much time or how many newsletters you can commit to each week.

Write down your goals and record what you do. Recording your progress is the best way to see if you’re doing what you’ve committed to do.

And always take opportunities to keep on learning.

Enhancing your reputation and personal brand

Starting with an obvious sstock-illustration-12961409-reach-the-solutiontatement, many companies are reducing their workforce. These reductions add to a highly competitive environment workplace environment.   This makes it more important than ever to make the best impression possible to management, employers and potential clients and customers.  A recent Harvard University study found that 85% of workplace success is due to personal skills.
Workplace etiquette is important.  Here are a few pointers to improving your workplace impression.
1.  Don’t burn bridges.

Every person in your company can affect every other person.  Jobs are interconnected.  The person who you are rude to today could be the person you work for tomorrow or someone you may need to ask for help. Treat everyone with dignity and respect.  This goes along way to gaining a good reputation.

2.  Make meeting time useful.

When you need to have a meeting, keep in mind other participants are busy too and be prepared with materials or information needed for the meeting.  Thank attendees for their contributions and send out a meeting recap that summarizes what was discussed, agreed to and action items.

3.  Communicate promptly

When you receive a phone call or email, whether internally or from a client, be sure to respond in a timely manner.  If the answer requires more time then let the sender know that you are working on the answer and that you will keep them posted as to your progress. Don’t leave either your employer or client wondering what is happening with their request or they will assume you have dropped the ball.

4.  Using email or any electronic communication

Take time to carefully craft your message.  This includes checking spelling, punctuation, grammar and capitalization. Be specific, avoid unclear questions or one-word answers.  Email has a tone of it’s own so be aware of the tone of your communication.

5.  Respect Others’ Time

When you need to interrupt someone,  be polite and get to the point quickly, to allow them to get back to his work in progress.  Avoid interrupting meetings unless it is absolutely necessary.

6.  Dress for Success

Even in a casual environment, err on the side of caution.  Your appearance can imply to clients and coworkers that the situation, company or people involved aren’t worth the effort to present yourself respectably.

7.  No surprises–Keep Your Manager Informed

Be authentic and be sincere.  Don’t overdo compliments and agreements. Treat coworkers and managers with respect. Provide your boss with information, since your manager is ultimately responsible for your performance.  Inform your manager of delays, setbacks, new developments or concerns.

8.  Be timely

Time is almost always a factor in anything business related, from a deadline for a project or a meeting set to begin, don’t be late. It implies that you have things more pressing than your coworkers or clients, and more worthy of your attention.

9.  Remember the Basics

Remember your manners. “Please,” “thank you” and “you’re welcome” are some of the most basic spoken manners.  Avoid raising your voice and offensive language. Disrespectful, yelling and offensive language should be avoided.  That type of behaviour leaves a lasting impression that you don’t want.

A very simple way to look at it is treat others like you want to be treated.

8 Steps to writing your story

iStock_000019172466SmallRecently, I started listening to the “Writing Tools” podcasts available at iTunes university.  The author, Roy Peter Clark, outlines 23  rules that provide the nuts and bolts of writing effectively so that what we want to communicate comes through clearly to our readers.

The last chapter of this book describes a metaphoric writer’s workbench.  A five step description that describes how writers work.

As we develop our company stories these steps provide a basis for starting the process.

Step 1–Get your ideas.  Take the time to explore your environment.  Open yourself up to listening, watching and being mindful of your company and your business.  Look for ideas that will get your customers attention.

Step 2–Explore those ideas.  Look at your business as a storage room of ideas. Collect related and even unrelated details. Keep your mind and ears open.

Step 3–Collect evidence.  Get out of your office chair. Leave your office and explore your business environment.

Step 4-Find your focus.  Get to the heart of the story.  As the author of “Writing Tools” states “Break the shell and extract the nut.”   This step requires research, going through all the gathered information and critically thinking about the message and how the message is supported by clear evidence.  In this step, the focus could be expressed as a summary paragraph, mission statement, theme statement, or a question that your business story will answer for your customers.

Step 5–Select the best parts.  A writer knows that they can’t or don’t want to include everything.  It is in this process that they eliminate research that doesn’t fit or clearly document the focus of this business story.  I find this step a difficult one because I would like to include all the information that my hard work has generated.  However, my readers could become overwhelmed and miss the nugget of what I want to get across if I included everything.  Be selective.  Keep what you don’t use because it may be useful in another story but for now cut what you can’t effectively use to make your main point.

Step 6–Put your key points in order. Outline the scope of your work.  Develop a plan and work from that plan. Working from a plan gives you, as the writer, the benefit of a vision that allows you to see the story in your head and understand fully your mission.  At this stage, simply outlining the beginning, middle and end of your story is sufficient.

Step 7–Write a draft.  Just write, if you can, fast and free.  Don’t scrutinize or criticize your initial draft–just write and get your thoughts out in writing.  If you have taken the time to complete the first six steps this step will be more fluid. Remember this is a draft and for your eyes only so just write and write and complete a draft.

Step 8–Revise and clarify. Now is the time for rewriting.  Alone in your office, read your work out loud.  See how it flows.  Does it make sense? Does your story document your goal?

Roy Peter Clark identifies the steps in these key words…Sniff. Explore. Collect. Focus. Select. Order. Draft. Revise.  Now have a good time developing your business story.

Thinking about company growth

Sometimes, even if your business is doing okay, there are things that can be done to enhance your companies growth.

It might be you know the problem but don’t have time or resources to work on the solution or you might need an outside resource to come in and from a fresh perspective look at what is working and what isn’t.social-brain-fullimage-960

You may realize that you want to engage more effectively and efficiently with your current and potential customers.

You may hear all the buzz about social media and are not quite sure which social tools fit with your business model or how to effectively combine the traditional approaches with the social media approaches to effectively communicate your brand, have one voice and not be confusing to the audience you are working to engage.

It could seem like you are trying to find a path through a dark forest. If you don’t have a compass, a map and beginning and end point you could just end up getting lost in the deep dark forest. And, just like climbing a steep trail or heading up a mountain to get to the top it can be time consuming and exhausting.

However, with the right information, thorough knowledge and profile of your target audience(s), a solid competitive analysis, a good strategy and knowledge of marketing and communications tools your planning will be more effective and your organization can move toward increasing revenue rather then exhausting funds.

With all the noise and activity in the marketplace, it is easy to become swayed and moved in different directions but with the appropriate goals, objective and plan you will know where you are going. And, when course corrections are necessary and they will be, it will be easier to understand what needs to change and how to make that change.

6 questions to answer before creating content.

I know it’s a temptation to want to move forward quickly when adding pages or new sections to your website.  But, it is really important to think about content and message before moving full speed ahead.

Before creating content,  take the time to answer the following questions.

  • What is the goal of this page or section?  Thinking through this question will not only help you determine the purpose but also the necessity of adding a page or section to your site.  It is necessary?  Is this information better handled elsewhere?  If this is the best place to add this information, what is the key point that you want to make.
  • What is the one thing that you want your reader to understand after they have read your copy? Skimming and scanning is the way web readers review content online, therefore, make sure that the design and copy of your page focuses on the key point and supporting points in a succinct manner.   Use headlines, subheads and bulleted copy for easy reading.  If applicable, visuals such as photos, video or slide presentations are helpful and can hold your audiences attention longer if they relate to the needs of the audience.
  • Who is the audience that this page or section is targeting? Knowing your audience and their goals, needs, ways of working, and their environments will help your site resonate with your audience.  Research, as much as you can, about your audience including who they are, where they are, major characteristics, their questions and their concerns and ultimately how what you are providing meets your audiences specific needs better that your competitors.
  • What phase of the buying cycle is the page addressing?   The buying cycle includes 6 distinct stages–awareness, interest, research, desire, user and evangelist.   Where does the audience you are targeting fit and what stage of the buying cycle are you focusing on?  I know we would all like users but you may find that your audience is only at the interest stage.  If so, they will need different information and approach then someone ready to buy.
  • Considering the topic you are covering, what is the primary benefits you need to communicate?   Knowing your audience is essential in knowing how to identify the key benefits of your product or service in relation to your audience.
  • What keywords and phrases do you need to include for search engine optimization?   The mentality of create and they will come does not work in any area of social media and particularly not your website.  Learn how to enhance your SEO by researching articles online.  There is a wealth of SEO articles all over the internet.

Taking care to answer these questions first will help make the development of the copy and design of your section or page much easier and more effective.

Social Local Mobile

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SoLoMo is when someone accesses social media on a mobile devise to obtain information on the local area.  I like to have my vacations planned a little better than this but many people don’t.

SoLoMo lends a great deal of help to the tourist or someone new in the area that wants to gain information about places to stay, places to eat and visit. All with recommendations on how others did or did not like their experience.

The hospitality industry has a great tool to make themselves known to consumers quickly and easily. And, with good recommendations, a possible place for the connected consumer to land.  By using the social networks (So), geo location (Lo) and mobile devices (Mo) everyone can find exactly what they need either close to home or when traveling for personal or business.

For example, after touring a few sites, the individual wants to find a place to eat.  Just using their smartphone and an application like Google Maps, Foursquare or Yelp, they can find a restaurant that satisfies their needs in an area that is close to their current location.  In addition, using the rating system, find the one with the best rating.
A recent Google survey found that 51% of mobile users find trip information with their smartphone.

Next time I am in an unfamiliar area, I will try this SoLoMo and see how helpful it is to me.

Finding your target audience

To be a successful marketer, get inside the head of your prospects and customers. Think like they think,  feel what they feel and literally become that person.

Before spending any marketing dollars, it is important to articulate information about your targeted audience(s).  Putting this information in writing is a useful tool to make sure that there is agreement within your company about the audience and you have a document that you can revisit on a regular schedule or as needed to make sure the information is still accurate or update, if needed.

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