The goal of consumer research is to mine as much data as possible so you can use it to psychologically manipulate your customers into buying more of your products or services. Right?
Aside from the dubious morality of that approach, this kind of mindset can be poisonous for a company that interacts with clients and customers on a daily basis and relies on their returning business. And importantly, that strategy won’t fly as consumers gradually become more aware of marketing tactics and skeptical about getting played.
If millennials have taught the world anything (besides that avocado toast is delicious and that cats can be celebrities), it’s that authenticity—and a genuine respect for your customers matters. And right now, an even younger, “woke-r” generation of consumers is demanding more from the companies they patronize. They want respect, transparency and really, just a sense of decency.
So, how can you use data in a way that is honest and respectful of your customers?
It’s all about the approach you take.
The goal of customer research should be getting to know who your customers are as people—to understand them. To empathize with them. To know what problems they face and how you can help. This way, you’re not selling a product or service—you're selling a relationship.
You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours.
To really, truly understand your customers, you need more than just cold, hard, quantitative data. You also need a qualitative analysis to make sense of the data points and paint a larger picture. And you do this by putting time and effort (and a hell of a lot of it) into what we call personas.
What is a persona and why should I care?
In simple terms, a persona uses customer data to tell the story of your average customer or a customer your brand aspires to reach. It goes beyond the basic demographics to portray your customer as a real live human-being—not a data set.
For instance, instead of seeing your customer as “White female; age 24-46; annual household income $62-100K; Bachelor’s degree or higher; married with children,” a persona pictures her as “Lauren—proud mother of two who likes to travel and read Jane Austen.”
At de Novo, we create persona worksheets that are usually somewhere around the 600-1,000-word range. But there’s more than one way to structure your personas. Regardless of the format you use (power point slides, a word document, infographic, etc.), a persona document should at least answer the following questions:
- What does your customer value?
- What pain points are they struggling with, and how can your company help?
- Where do they go for information?
- What does a day in their life look like?
To answer these questions, you’ll need to comb over your data and use some common sense to piece together the threads. But remember: “use common sense” does not equal “make an ‘educated’ guess.”
If you want to say, “Lauren likes Jane Austen,” or “Lauren prefers to shop for clothes online,” you need the data to back it up. Inserting your own ideals and assumptions into your persona won’t tell you who your customer actually is—it will only reiterate the biases you already hold. (Sorry slackers—that means you need to gather A LOT of data to create a solid persona.)
Assembling an effective persona can take weeks or months of hard work, but the return you’ll get is equal to what you put into it. Now comes the tricky part:
I made a persona—now what do I do with it?
Once you have a few solid personas, it’s time to put them to work. Use them to inspire your marketing content: if you’re writing a blog, for instance, consult your personas. Consider their pain points, their opinions, their personal style. Not only will this give you an idea of what voice to use when writing, it will help you determine what topics you should write about, and where you should publish and post your content in order to reach them. Your personas should also guide your strategic planning and your sales approach.
But here’s the thing: none of this will matter if you and the rest of your team don’t hold yourselves accountable to these personas—if you don’t truly respect them. Your marketing tactics should align with the best interests of your customers, and if not, that’s a good sign that you’re either targeting the wrong customer, or that you need to rethink your approach to marketing.
Wanna talk more about customer personas or ethical marketing practices? Get nerdy with our copywriter Kelly, who is standing by, ready to listen to your marketing challenges (or just shoot the breeze about the new Star Trek: Discovery).