What if you discovered that one of the most valuable tools needed to build a successful marketing strategy was easily accessible, free of cost, and is likely sitting a few seats over from you already?
By taking the time to meet with your colleagues to develop customer personas together, you will produce a clear and synchronized understanding of your core audience across all project stakeholders.
Personas are partially fabricated representations of your existing and potential customers based on data and insights. Creating them helps define your users, so you know where, how and to whom you should focus your content marketing strategy.
Take Tegan the Traveler, for example. She is an aspiring brand ambassador who loves luxury travel, bourbon-tasting parties and sharing stories on Instagram. If you run a high-end travel company, taking the time to learn her behaviors, goals and challenges will help you reach her in the most appealing way.
But acquiring these nuggets may sometimes be difficult. That’s because getting colleagues to casually chime in on what your customers want is pretty painless but asking them to take time out of their busy day to meet for an in-depth, deep-dive into your customers’ challenges, goals, interests and demographics is a whole other story.
Once they see the value in this exercise – and there are multiple benefits – getting their buy-in for future interviews will be much easier, but for now, you may need to drum up ways to get them in the door.
It’s well-known that cross-functional alignment can be tough but it’s a must for any organization that wants to be efficient and successful. Find goals in common with the participants so they see the value of this exercise. If you find yourself talking to Sales, for example, explain how this will bring better-qualified inquiries that will speed up the buying process or when talking to Finance explain how by targeting the right audience you will be able to reduce the customer acquisition cost.
Here are eight tips for hosting a successful discovery session:
- Be direct. Before the session, explain very clearly how they can contribute to the overall strategy and how worthwhile their insights are. Send a few sample questions to help them get familiar with the exercise.
- Decide on a format. You may not have the bandwidth to host a large brainstorming session with multiple people. If that’s the case, conduct one-on-one interviews with individual stakeholders.
- Mix it up. If you decide on brainstorming sessions, include groups of people who do not normally work together. Getting different perspectives will help to build a well-rounded persona.
- Lead with empathy. Ask as many open-ended questions as possible. Focus on their experiences and feelings. Don’t rush the process. Provide them with enough time to answer. If there are moments of uncomfortable silence it’s ok. Chances are, that’s when you’ll get the most useful insights.
- Get leadership buy-in. Having senior staff participate in the sessions will show their commitment to support the initiative and may also encourage others to participate.
- Incentivize it. Face it: not everyone will intuitively see the value in this exercise. Can you offer a gift card or a “Leave-early Friday pass”? Once they see the final persona, the value will be clear, but you may need to gently nudge participants at first.
- Follow up. After the session, be sure that all relevant stakeholders – including the ones that participated in the exercise – get a copy of the finished persona. Remind them that regularly referring to it helps establish a customer-centric strategy.
- Review results regularly. This is a dynamic and ever-evolving exercise: as your understanding of customer personas shift over time, you will want to review and update them regularly.
At the end of it all, you’ll be left with a well-defined understanding of your core customers that can be shared with all project partners. By doing so, you will help establish loyalty, trust and create customers you can nurture for life.
Go even further with our Content Mapping Guide and toolkit, complete with best practices and templates for persona development, content journey mapping and content planning.