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Five ways to get personal with customers

Five ways to get shutterstock_121092478 [Converted].eps

By Dawn Wagenaar

These days, advertisers can follow you around online. They can send you personalized emails. They will set up boutiques, magazines and newsletters created especially for you. Do you feel special? Maybe, if it works. There is an art and science to building these customer profiles — also called personas — that result in new customer relationships and sales.

Personas have been used in product marketing and advertising for decades. Mainly, they help business owners explain the benefits of their product or service by stepping into the customers’ shoes and learning their likes, dislikes, goals and shopping habits.

Whether you call them personas or avatars or customer profiles, this branding tool makes your sales team and customer service team deeply knowledgeable about ideal customer relationships. Here are five ways to incorporate personas and make your customer experience more personal and effective. Look at:

  1. Industry and influence. Create a persona for each market segment/industry served and the influence you have on this potential client to choose you. You may describe the persona by title, percentage of influence in the selection process and any end users represented. This gives your firm a good sense of your desired “A” customers.
  2. Sales range. Include the size of customer revenue or purchases you most desire. Each persona may have a different sales range based on the individuals or businesses you seek. You might also note if the company is privately held or public or not-for-profit.
  3. How to work with them. This really shows the value of personas. It helps your team establish expectations for working with your best clients or customers. Describe the personality traits, pressures, expectations, pet peeves and ideal relationship with this persona. You may also note business or social connections — who they will tell if you do a good or bad job.
  4. What else they need. In this section, assess what this persona typically needs from your business and what may be needed in the future. If it is a new relationship, anticipate the persona’s role in buying certain services or products regularly. Maybe this persona is currently buying from your competitor. If so, those in this group need to know that you can deliver more things that fit their needs or desires.
  5. Visual depiction. For visual learners, it helps to imagine what this persona looks like, the age range, gender or ethnicity. This depiction doesn’t have to be perfect. It should be close to what you’ve seen in the marketplace or the current customer relationships you have. You can use stock photography models to help team members visualize the persona, or simply give the persona a name. Make this persona real to them in order to support greater awareness.

One more tip: The next time you are creating a new product or service, or determining whether or not to attend a tradeshow, ask if your personas will go for it. If “Bill” or “Shirley” will buy it, or if they’ll be at a tradeshow, your marketing and sales decisions just got easier.

Dawn_Wagenaar-6-WebDawn Wagenaar is principal of Ingenuity Marketing Group LLC in St. Paul, Minn., and a certified Women’s Business Enterprise helping businesses grow through branding, marketing, web and media strategies. Contact her at or (651) 690-3358.