How well do you know your customers?
What are their interests, aspirations, challenges and problems? Who does the research? How do they make buying decisions? Who makes the buying decisions? What kind of content do they consume when exploring, considering and making a purchase?
It’s important to have the answers. Otherwise, you’re operating without a clear picture of your customers or, worse, operating blind. It’s not enough to kinda/sorta know your customers; startups must know their customers up and down and all around. They need a crystal clear picture of their customers and the buyers journey.
It’s Sales 101, but it is troubling to see startups that haven’t done their homework. Too often, they have a high-level idea of their customers. But that’s not good enough. It’s like having a map that only show the major highways, but not the secondary roads and major streets. You can roughly get to where you’re going but the final destination is a mystery.
So, how do startups learn about their customers?
It starts with talking to customers: potential, existing and previous customers to get in-depth insight about their backgrounds, responsibilities, goals, buying habits, etc. And you need to talk to them on a continual basis.
Then, you can create buyer personas, which are detailed descriptions of your customers. Keep in mind, there are different kinds of customers, even if they look familiar. People who purchase SaaS software, for example, might be interested in different benefits or features, or they could have different titles and responsibilities. People looking for hotel rooms might have different needs (e.g. room service, restaurants, amenities). In other words, customers come in different shapes and sizes so they can’t be lumped together.
As a rule of thumb, startups should create three to five buyer personas. Too many personas can be distracting.
Here’s a template to get you started. For each buyer persona, provide details for each section. It will quickly demonstrate the differences between your customers. This delivers valuable insight that can be used for marketing, sales and product development.
To create buyer personas, an effective approach is meeting as a group with different stakeholders at the table. This will provide a variety of perspectives and insights about potential customers. Collectively, you want to identify characteristics and attributes for different buyers.
The process can start with a single buyer persona or it can start by identifying several buyer personas. The important thing is crafting profiles that put the spotlight on who buys your product or service.
Keep in mind, buyer personas need to be revisited from time to time. This takes into account changes in the competitive landscape, economic conditions and changes to your product such as features and pricing.
Buyer personas are a key part of the strategic roadmap because they show who matters and how they need to be engaged.
More: Here’s a cool infographic by MarketProfs on how to create buyer personas.
If you’re looking to jump-start your startup marketing, I can help you make it happen – everything from messaging and brand positioning to strategic planning and content development. I published a book, Storytelling for Startups, that provides strategic and tactical guidance to entrepreneurs looking to embrace the power of story-driven marketing.