Personas for your business marketing (and a quick how-to or two)

You need to focus

They’re your perfect customer.

You want to talk to them.

You know it’s easier to talk to your one perfect customer than to talk to a whole room full of them, so it’s good to get the idea of Mr Perfect into your head. (I’m using Mister, but it could just as equally be Mrs, Miss, Ms or Mx.)

Knowing your ideal client also makes your information more relevant for your audience. Yes, I’m talking to you, the small business owner in the corner of the room who’s hiding from the rest of the folk because you feel like you’re an outsider. (By the way, you’re not an outsider, you’re perfectly fine.)

If you’ve done any kind of public speaking, you’ll know that in order to get your message across it can be good to concentrate on one person in the audience, right at the back so they don’t realise you’re focussing on them.

Basically, you want to get your message across to your perfect audience, but in order to do it you need a focus.

Personas are an important part of business planning. But they can be so much easier to create when you’re invested in them

You need a persona

In the business world, this perfect being is known as a persona, avatar, pen portrait or archetype, and it’s a big thing. Go look on Google (no, don’t bother, really, they’re everywhere) and you’ll see page after page of advice.

You’ll find downloadable sheets, images, cartoons and more advice than you can fling a stick at.

But I’ve found one problem with all this.

It’s bloody hard to imagine.

Yes, you know who your perfect customer should or could be, but how do you get that person in your head to feel like a real human being?

To create your perfect client persona, you need to dig deep into the kind of person you want to attract to your business. What are their likes, dislikes, things that make them go ‘meh’.

But sitting there with your pen, paper and business knowledge can still make it pretty difficult.

Two ways to build the perfect persona

I have two ways that you can figure out your own avatar that depends, really, on your aesthetic.

1. Use a D&D character sheet

The first is to use a D&D character sheet. Yes, that’s right. A Dungeons and Dragons character sheet.

Now, if you’ve never played D&D, or if you are one of those who pooh pooh it, perhaps it’s time to change your preconceptions. Dungeons and Dragons is not all about spotty, teenage boys in their parents’ basement, it’s a fabulous way to get your imagination working and is the perfect storytelling vehicle.

You can use it for creating a story around your persona, and could even, if you really wanted to, create D&D adventures that are business based. Less Dungeons & Dragons, more Shopping & Service Stories. Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it.

But do play D&D at least once in your life, your imagination will thank you for it.

D&D character who can help you build your persona

So, there’s idea number 1. Use a D&D sheet to create your persona. You’ll find them online. Use a basic level sheet and don’t worry about some of the attributes (don’t worry about hit points and how good your persona is with a battleaxe, unless you’re talking about the mother-in-law).

Note down on the sheet all the character points of your perfect customer. Get a real feel for them and allow the creativity to really get that persona on the page.

2. Use a photo of a real person

The problem with using a cartoon or no image at all, is that it can be difficult to imagine your perfect customer.

Meet Frederick.

Handsome isn’t he?

Now I know what you’re thinking. He’s a bit stiff. A bit old school.

Well he can’t help it, he was around in the 1860s.

Seriously though, Frederick can help you.

I like to take old photos to help me, but you could equally take a modern day photo to provide the inspiration. But for me, because I collect old photos, there’s a mystery to the people that helps me dig deeper into their character.

Take a good look at old Freddy. He’s a bit nervous, look at his eyes, he just isn’t comfortable in that studio. He’s been told to stand still, so that’s just what he’s doing. He’s not what you’d call a rebel.

But he’s artistic. His clothing is that of someone of a more artistic, less formal nature than many gentlemen of his time. So not rebellious, but with an artistic heart.

His hand is resting on a top hat, which may or may not be a prop. But it’s a symbol of status. He’s got a pocket watch, with the chain just peeping out of his waistcoat pocket. His shoes are shiney and his trousers are a fashionable houndstooth. He’s not short of a bob or two.

And the photo was taken at Bethnal Green Road in London – this chap’s a member of the artisanal class that lived in the area in the 1850s and 1860s. Perhaps he had this photo taken as he was on his way up in the world and he wanted to share his good fortune.

it’s easier to talk to your one perfect customer than to talk to a whole room full of them

Where does this help you with your persona?

Well, by taking a photo of a real person you don’t know you can really dig down. That’s why I like old photos, you can really build a story around them. Brendon Urie did it wonderfully in his song ‘Golden Days’ on the 2016 album ‘Death of a Bachelor’. Go listen to it if you haven’t. He’s an amazing storyteller with his music.

If I were to use Frederick as my persona, I would know that he’s uncomfortable in formal situations, he’s on his way up and wants his friends to know. He likes the fashion of his own people and is an artistic soul. His parents are both living, and he wants them also to see that he’s doing well.

His sister, Agatha, is married to the local butcher, and his younger brother is still at school. He lives in a fashionable area and works hard to have a decent, comfortable standard of living, with a reasonable amount of disposable income.

He went to a local fashionable photographer because he doesn’t want to scrimp on the things that are important to him. He loves a fine artisan beer, his favourite meal is a good old-fashioned steak and ale pie, and he will fight to the death for the knobbly aniseed jellies in a bag of liquorice allsorts.

I could go on and really get to the heart of this persona.

But can you see where I’m coming from?

Use these props to get it right

Personas are an important part of business planning. But they can be so much easier to create when you’re invested in them. A good old D&D sheet or an antique photo can be used as props that can really get your imagination flowing.

Why not give it a try and see how your ideal customers come to life the next time you write for them.

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