Simon Sewart

Every one of your customers is a hero. But what sort of hero?

In our favourite books and films all protagonists go on a similar journey, known as the hero’s journey. They will overcome many obstacles to reach their ultimate goal. Those obstacles will differ, as will the hero themselves, but the end result will be the same – they will achieve their objective.

What does this have to do with my business, you might well ask? Presumably you don’t manufacture magical rings or run an organisation dedicated to witchcraft and wizardry.

But you are very likely passionate about your product, and you do want the heroes in your narrative – in other words your customers - to reach their goal: to do business with you and leave entirely satisfied with the experience.

Your job is to know your hero

In marketing getting to know your hero is known as making a ‘customer persona’, and it is much the same process as the one used by storytellers when they create a believable hero. Through research and analysis of real customers it is possible to build up an accurate picture of different hypothetical types or personas who regularly do business with you. Along with basic information such as age and economic status, you should also find out more personal details such as their interests and relationship status.

The more you know about your customer, the better you can understand how they will respond to certain approaches and the more likely you are to make a sale. A study by MarketingSherpa found that there was a whopping 174% increase in income generated from marketing that used customer personas.

Even for small startups, creating accurate customer personas has never been easier. You don’t need a powerful marketing team or acres of consumer research to do this – just start with what you already know. Talk with your customers, either by picking up the phone or via an online questionnaire such as Survey Monkey. Ask about their experience, take on board both the positives and negatives and you’ll soon have the information you need to build your first customer persona.

Your hero is beginning to look like a real person

Eventually you will round out their character and hone in on the specifics of their experience. You’ll discover details about why they bought from you over other brands and how they like to be contacted. This will allow you to begin to tailor their experience, addressing different groups in a format that speaks directly to them.

You will also avoid pitfalls that might prevent return business. For example, if you receive an email from a customer whose profile shows you they work in a busy business environment, they are unlikely to be impressed if they have to wait several days for a reply. In fact, it works both ways – MarketingSherpa found that email response rates rose 111 percent when using customer personas.

Every business will have more than one type of customer. Typically you will be interacting with three to five several distinct personas – the number of central characters in an average story. It’s not a huge group of people to get to know so make sure you really do know them. Give each one a name and even a face. Introduce them to everyone in your business. Over time you will add to their profile and they will become as well known to you as your favourite fictional heroes.

Now you have your cast of characters, send them out into the world.

Make the most of powerful online marketing tools offered by the likes of Google and other social media platforms. Facebook's paid advertising is particularly useful, allowing you to reach your audience by ticking off an impressive list of characteristics that relate to your customer profile, including age, employment, education and interests.

Just remember that the customer journey, like that of your favourite heroes, is ever changing. New challenges will arise, distractions from competitors or evolving interests that mean they can easily outgrow the persona you have devised. If you stay tuned in to their wants and needs and keep their profiles constantly updated, you’ll stay relevant to them and that journey will remain one you take together.

About the author: Simon Sewart is the CEO of his 2nd startup (simple help desk software for small and medium sized businesses).