Recently I talked about getting to know your audience on a deeper level if you want to understand the different kinds of consumers who buy from you, and why.
Let’s say you’ve done that research and gathered that intelligence. You’re starting to see patterns emerging in customers who share similar priorities, behaviors, and purchasing habits.
You’d typically synthesize those findings into buyer personas, to help get more of your ideal customers on the proverbial hook.
But I’m not going to define what personas are or tell you how to create them. Those resources are abundant online. With a little help from Google, I’m sure you’ll find them.
Instead, I’m going to demonstrate what personas are intended to do for you.
No two fish (or customers) are alike.
The hero photo inspired me to write this post. Here was this glorious fish bearing Sailshaker colors. And I knew nothing about him (her?). That got me wondering what goes on in his little world.
Since I don’t know much about fish, I view them through a generic lens. They’re creatures with gills, fins, and scales. Some live in salt water, some in fresh water. It struck me that some businesses must think about their customers in much the same way—as one large buying population, with little difference between one purchaser and another.
So I went on a fishing expedition. I decided to invest an hour in learning what I could about the fish in the photo, to see if I could generate insights that would be helpful from a marketing perspective.
That, after all, is essentially what creating buyer personas are all about.
In search of Gil.
I guessed that Gil is a tropical fish, so I scoured Google Images for species that looked like him. To be honest, I’m not sure whether he’s a Mandarin Goby, a Gourami, or another type entirely. And I’m not even sure he’s a he and not a she. But for the sake of argument, I’m calling this:
Gil. Dwarf Gourami male. 3 years old.
With his basic demographics established, I delved into Wikipedia to learn more about where Gil might live and what his ideal living environment might be.
He lives in the warm, thickly vegetated river plains of Northern India, where food is plentiful.
Now I was getting somewhere. Questions flowed. What do we know about Gourami eating habits? Why is thick vegetation vital to their survival? What’s their ideal water temperature? How long do they live? What causes them to stress out? What dangers do they face? And so on.
Details and characteristics started surfacing:
- The Gourami is a labyrinth fish, which means it breathes straight from the air with a lung-like labyrinth organ, so it needs access to the water’s surface.
- Gil is rolling in green, as it were. He and his less colorful bride have more food than they can eat, like small insects and larvae from the surface of the water and algae on plants.
- Gourami tend to be peaceful by nature—this is where the Good-Time comes from—and prefer a nice, quiet location far from larger, more aggressive fish.
You get the picture. And, with a bit more research, my semi-fictional Good-Time Gil came clearly into view. Here’s where my buyer persona netted out:
- Gourami male
- Age 3
- Annual household income: 65+ insect heads
- Lives in a rural floodplain
- President of the Gourami Association of Fiji
- Graduated from the School of Tropical Fish in 2016 with a BA in Marine Biology
- Married for 1+ years with 800+ young
- Stay calm
- Avoid larger species
- Be close to the surface in thick vegetation
- Live a long, full life of four years
Hobbies & Interests:
- Spending summers at the family’s atoll in the Maldives
- Swimming in pairs
- Being bullied and nipped at by neighbors
- Getting enough sunlight
- Keeping warm (needs waters above 72 degrees Fahrenheit)
- Having to fight over territory
- Eating insects infected with iridovirus
- Small, crowded spaces
Assuming you filtered fact from fun, I hope you’ll agree that this simple persona* description would give any marketer a bounty of insights.
Making Gil useful.
How might Good-Time Gil inform your strategies?
Let’s say your customers are a school of Gourami. With Gil’s persona in hand, you can almost predict how your customers will behave in different situations or respond to different products and services:
- If you were selling vitamin C, for example, which is known to alleviate stress in densely populated fish cultures, you’d be hard-pressed to make a sale. Gil already lives a pretty laid-back lifestyle.
- If you run a funeral parlor in a part of town where insects are known to carry the fatal iridovirus, you have an opportunity to become the trusted local provider.
- If you’re selling retirement condominiums on the Rainbow Reef—a quiet, stunning environment within a reasonable swim—then you’ve got a good chance of closing a piece of business.
See what I mean about personas? They make it easier to focus your efforts and to tailor your messaging and product development to meet the specific needs, behaviors, and concerns of your segments.
Hey, all fish can’t all be caught with the same net.
Have I convinced you that personas can make marketing more relevant and real? Or are you already putting your own “ideal customer” characterizations in play?
*My good friend and writer-colleague, JoAnn Gometz, sometimes describes a persona that’s written out in prose as a word portrait.