Why Startups Should Create Customer Personas

For startups looking to break into the market, identifying their customer is obvious.

Far too often, however, startups tend to look at target audiences as one amorphous group that has the same characteristics, needs and interests.

The problem with a one-size-fits-all approach is while “the customer” may appear to be the same, they may actually break down into several target segments with slightly differently needs and interests.

A startup’s product may serve all customer segments but the messaging to reach them can’t be the same. What works well for one group, may not resonate with another.

To get a better handle on your customer segments, a valuable exercise is persona creation.

This involves discovering and drilling down into the different types of potential buyers. It means answering questions such as:

  • How old are they?
  • What are their specific needs and interests?
  • Where do they discover information about your products?
  • What would solve their problems or make them successful?
  • How would they look like a hero to their boss?

In creating personas, startups may discover there are several distinct groups of customers. As a result, the startup may have to change its marketing and sales strategy and tactics to effectively pursue them.

This scenario happened with a client recently that was targeting social media managers. In creating personas, it became apparent that while social media managers were a target audience, other customer segments included digital marketers and chief marketing officers and PR/digital agencies.

Each of these customers could be served by the product but their needs and goals were different. It became obvious that having a single marketing and sales approach wasn’t going to work well.

So how are personas created?

It begins with being open to the idea there are different kinds of customers. Then, each customer has to be personalized. The easiest way is giving each of them a name, and then layering on characteristics such as age, job title, experience and responsibilities.

Let’s look at a small business owner looking for accounting products. One customer could be “Mary”, who runs a 10-person small business. Mary does her own accounting using Excel but needs accounting software to accommodate growth.

Another group could be “John”, who handles accounting and HR for a 25-person business with $5-million in sales. John is using basic accounting software but needs something more powerful and able to integrate with the company’s CRM system.

Mary and John could use the same accounting software but their needs are different. It means the messaging has to be personalized rather than generalized.

For startups, the big challenge is having a balance between having corporate messaging that embraces different types of customers and, at the same time, being able to speak to these customers in different ways.

The creation of personas is not only important but it could reveal surprising and valuable insight to jump-start your marketing and sales efforts.

There are many ways to create personas, including an online service called personapp.

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