Personas Can Lead Your Messaging Astray
Does a prospect relate and respond better to your message because you base it on a persona?
If you are like many marketers today, you have created fictional characters with names, demographics, attitudes and behaviors to help frame and target your messages.
The question is: Does your prospect’s persona drive the way they respond to your messages or the reason they buy something? Just because they share similar personal and professional characteristics, is that what causes someone to re-think their current approach and consider your “new way” to solve their problems?
Our response is an emphatic, “NO.” In fact, focusing your messaging around personas may actually lead your content astray.
Status Quo Profiles – A New Messaging Starting Point
The biggest motivator for whether a prospect responds to your messages is if they believe their status quo is at risk, and whether they are convinced they may need to do something different than they are doing today. This has little to do with demographics and attitudes.
The most overlooked “design point” for customer messaging is a “Status Quo Profile.” It’s not your target’s title, not their segment, not their persona that you need to aim your messaging at; rather, it’s about why they need to see their current approach as limiting enough to put their objectives or desired outcomes at risk.
Here’s what you need to determine before developing any customer messaging, content or campaigns:
1) How are decision makers solving the challenges your product or service offer to solve today? Your prospects think they are already doing something to solve problems and meet business needs before you come along with your story. So, you need to have a precise understanding of how your most likely potential customers are doing it currently. Your messaging will have to take aim at dislodging an incumbent, so know your opponent.
2) Why do they think it’s great? Remember, prospects live in their story. They were doing something before they chose the way they are doing it today, and they assume they already have a better solution than the one they had before. So, chances are you are sending messages to people who don’t really think they have a problem. Or at least, they still remember the “benefits” they based their last decision on, and assume they are getting that value.
3) What issues, challenges, threats, risks or missed opportunities have arisen since they likely purchased their current solution or implemented their existing approach? Not everyone is a prospect for your solution, just those who have a certain “installed” approach that can cause limitations due to a changing business environment. You need to focus on the ripest opportunities for change, so document those things that are changing in their industry, their environment, their competitive space, the global marketplace, anything that their status quo approach may not have taken into account, or is ill-equipped to handle.
4) What gaps exist in the current approach that will keep them from avoiding these potential problems, or capitalizing on new opportunities? The first reaction of prospects will be to see if their current approach or solution can “stretch” to overcome the challenges you identify. So, you have to identify and amplify clear gaps in their current approach that will prohibit them from resolving these risks. These gaps need to lead to your unique strengths or advantaged capabilities. Creating gaps that are too wide to cross with the existing status quo is essential for developing messages that will compel prospects to change.
By answering these questions, and using it as the “starting point” for crafting the messages used in your content marketing campaigns and sales tools, you will significantly improve your ability to move prospects to consider change, and choose you.
Compare this to the direction you get with a persona-based approach, and you’ll see a significant difference in the relevance and impact of your customer conversations.