How to build a super effective customer ‘Persona’

How to build a super effective customer ‘Persona’


Who is your ideal customer, the one who will not haggle the price, who loves the product you sell, and proselytises for you? Knowing that person in great detail would be marketing and commercial gold.

Like all gold, it is hard to find, subject to all sorts of distractions and false starts, but immensely valuable when discovered, and discovery is usually incremental, rather than a ‘eureka’ moment. This means it is also a demanding challenge.

What is often also forgotten in the effort to define that ideal customer, is that every customer also has an ideal supplier, one who meets all their needs, delivering value in excess of the cost to them. It is a two way street, and a relationship only prospers where there is value being delivered to both parties.

It is always worth remembering that customers will buy when they are ready to buy, and that is not necessarily when you are ready to sell.  The name of the game is to be around when they are ready, with the credibility and value proposition that is compelling to them, which means that the better you understand them, the more effective your revenue generation efforts will be.

How do you define your ideal customers?

I have used the ‘Who, What, Where, When, Why & How’ model extensively to define the ideal customer with my clients. It is an iterative process, deceptively demanding, as it requires decisions about who is not an ideal customer, and therefore excluded from primary consideration. Choices like this are challenging, but necessary, particularly for small and medium businesses which do not have the luxury of a big pot of marketing money, you have to get it right or waste limited resources.

Following is a quick explanation that will enable you to at least start the process

Who: Is the demographics they may exhibit. Where they live, age, sex, education, job,  and all the other quantitative characteristics that are available. These parameters are pretty much all that  was easily available in any detail until digital tools came along.

What: are their behaviours. Do they go to the opera or rock concerts, perhaps both, do  they travel overseas for holidays, what sort of causes, if any, do they support, are they likely to demonstrate their beliefs publicly, or are they just internal. All the sorts of things that offer a picture of how they think, feel, and behave in all sorts of situations.

Where: will you find them digitally, as well as in the analogue (perhaps real) world, and what means can you use to make a connection. Are they likely to be avid users of Facebook, Linkedin or other social platforms, are they comfortable buying on line, do they ‘showroom’ digitally then visit the physical retailer, do they get their news from Facebook and Reddit, or more focused news sites, or even, surprise, surprise, newspapers and magazines.

When: will they be ready to buy? In some markets this is not a big issue, but in many, it is a huge one. For example, if you want to sell to government, the best time to be on the doorstep with an offer is towards the end of the financial year when departments have unspent money left in their budgets. Normally there is a Strong ‘use it or lose it’ mindset in government departments, and they are loathe to lose it, as that will reduce their bargaining power at the next budget round. In private enterprise, the two items that require watching are the budget cycles, getting a major purchase into the budget is often a part of the game, and being aware of changes in the customer and markets that often acts as a catalyst is the second. Takeovers, personnel movements, large contracts being let, are all situations where change is occurring, and the enterprise is normally more receptive to new ideas, and new suppliers.

Why: should they respond to your entreaties, to do whatever it is you are asking of them. What is your value proposition to them? What promise of a new and better tomorrow can you deliver? What can you deliver that is different and more valuable to them than any alternative? If you cannot answer these questions, it will come down to price, and winning a price war is a great way to go broke.

How: will you service the transaction, and the subsequent relationship that may emerge. This is usually down to questions about your business model and the ‘fit’ that has with the customer.

An essential adjunct to the creation of a persona is to create a customer journey map. This is the process that your ideal customer will go through from the initial itch, to awareness, consideration, preference, then to the transaction. This will enable you to use the persona to inject yourself into the decision making and buying process a customer is going through to optimise your chances of success.

I would be delighted to assist you to work through the process, it will deliver significant rewards when done well and implemented effectively.

‘Organic’ investment should be the saviour of (some) retail.

‘Organic’ investment should be the saviour of (some) retail.

I went into a retail store last week with a problem, not really expecting to find anyone or anything that remotely met the immediate need I faced.

My web search had revealed many solutions, none of which gave me much confidence for one reason or another, but it had sparked a few ideas.

Lo and behold, the store I went to, (after a bit of web research) an independent store that clearly understood the niche it was servicing, had made a significant ‘organic’ investment.

They had several people who understood my problem, and were able to offer several sensible alternative solutions, one of which was perfect.

When faced with the same or similar challenge again, guess where I am going!

It may not be for a while, but inevitably it will happen again. Meanwhile, guess which store I am touting to my friends and colleagues.

Ironically, it seems that the most successful retailer on the planet, when measured by the standard retail sales/sq foot, and margin/square foot metric is one of the tech disrupters: Apple. They have redefined bricks and mortar retail by adding ‘organic’ sales staff to the best long term branding job ever seen, except perhaps for a couple of the major religions. At the end of 2017. Apple had 499 stores worldwide, and not content to leave well enough alone, are continuously investing and experimenting with formats, layout, branding, and the important ‘organic’ part of this hugely successful bricks and mortar puzzle.

On Wednesday (Feb 14, how appropriate) the Myer CEO was dumped by the board for failing to turn the ship around. The last time I was in a Myer store, admittedly some time ago, as I have no wish to repeat the experience,  there was no staff anywhere to be seen. My intention had been to buy a suit that had been advertised as part of a sale. Good price, good brand, I was in the store to buy, but no sale for Myer, although I did buy a similar suit elsewhere. Firing the CEO will have little impact on my future purchase intentions, without the long term investment in one of the the foundations of successful retail, good people at the customer coal-face, and a management culture that recognises and nurtures those people.

Digital is great, the convenience, price, and range are seductive, but there is no substitute for a person who has deep domain knowledge, has seen the problem before, and who is happy to help, and clearly gets a kick out of doing so. After all that, price does not matter so much, it just needs to be in the ball-park.

Just ask Apple.

Photo credit: Harry Pappas via Flikr

Three metrics by which to measure the value of marketing content.

Three metrics by which to measure the value of marketing content.

All marketing content I have ever seen is driven by one, or a combination of three things:

  • Vanity
  • They have something to sell
  • They have something to say.

There is always some overlap, but when you dig deeper, the motivation is always one of the three, and by a vast majority, one of the first two. To be clear, ‘Content’ is everything you post, from a thoughtful and original marketing blog post you wrote, to a research paper published elsewhere, to a cat photo.

However, the most successful content is when you have something to say, an idea you want to articulate and spread, a perspective that throws light on a question.

It becomes pretty easy with some level of objectivity, to put some numbers against these simple measures, even vary the sizes of the ‘bubbles’ to reflect the relative size visually.

When the purpose of a piece of content is to inform, educate, enlighten, and that purpose is met, financial outcomes may follow, but they should not be the objective, they are the outcome of great content.

What is your purpose for your content?




Your ‘enemy’ makes you stronger.

Your ‘enemy’ makes you stronger.

Strategy is as much about what you will not do as it is about what you will do, perhaps even more so, as it forces difficult choices.

Equally, the old marketing buzz-word ‘positioning’ which was defined in my university days 45 years ago as ‘how your customers see you’ benefits hugely from the addition of a clear statement of what you are not, what you will  not do, and even calling out the ‘enemy’.

When you define who is your enemy, those who feel the same way as you will find it very hard to do anything but support you, it rallies support to your cause.

This means that you can never create a product for everyone, the more defined you are the better, as you will then have more potential for rallying groups of those who are against what it is you are against.

Where would Mohamed Ali be without Joe Frazier?

Where would Apple be without Microsoft?

Would Neil Armstrong have taken a moon walk in 1969 without the Russians?

Mr. Churchill would have remained a backbencher without Herr  Hitler

Would Coles and Woolworths be the most successful FMCG retailers (as measured by domestic market share) in the world without each other?

In the back streets of Ashfield in Sydney there are two small grocery stores, almost opposite each other, fighting to the death for the last 20 years, and in the process keeping Woolies and Coles at bay, at least in the very local area they service.

Respect your enemy, and learn from them, they make you stronger.

Photo credit MrT HK via Flikr

A brand is a red highlighter in your brain.

A brand is a red highlighter in your brain.

Brands have a number of useful commercial purposes. They can build margins, gain distribution, provide a base for expansion, and a whole lot more, but that is all from the perspective of the brand owner.

From the opposite perspective, that of the customer, and potential customer, a brand also has a whole lot of purposes, none of which have anything at all to do directly with your prosperity.

A brand is the end result of all the impressions and emotions individuals have experienced while coming into contact with the thing to which the ‘brand’ is attached.

Our individual responses will be marginally different, but as a group, we label those collective experiences  a ‘brand’

Our brains are just massively complex parallel computers, something the boffins in Silicon Valley are trying valiantly to replicate.  In effect, we absorb and process all sorts of things at the one time, mashing them all up to something that gets ‘remembered’ and which our brains can retrieve automatically when presented with the ‘trigger’

This is a combination of rational and emotional inputs that has its roots in evolutionary biology.  It enables all the things going on around us to be sorted quickly and efficiently without resorting to consciously making a series of choices. This applies as much to the choice of yogurt on the supermarket shelf as it does to the rustle in the bushes that last time resulted in your sidekick caveman being a tigers breakfast. You do not forget that, but at the critical point, when you hear the rustle again, your brain registers the rustle, and auto responses kicks in, and you get the hell out of Dodge.

There is a lot of bullshit and hyperbole around the notion of ‘brand’. However, like many things in life, we complicate it past the point of common sense. The challenge then is to dig sufficiently deeply to understand and articulate the trigger/response mechanism in the minds of those we most want to influence.

It sounds a bit creepy, but is just the way we respond to our environment.





Your network is the second most valuable asset you have

Your network is the second most valuable asset you have

Networking in this modern age has been digitised, so it is made easier, but is it more effective?

Probably not, when most of the time the so called Networking’ is little more than an opportunity for a sales pitch.

Over my time, the most value that has evolved has come not from those I know well, but from those I know not so well, or at all, but who are in the networks of those in my networks.

When I first left corporate, one morning after another barney with the MD (never a career enhancing move) 23 years ago, the first thing I did the following morning, after processing the fact that I had a young family, with heavy commitments, and suddenly no income, was to write down the name of everyone I knew  with the intention of ringing each of them to let them know I was now looking for a job.

The really surprising fact was that the greatest level of support came from those I did not know well, but with whom I had interacted in some way. They not only offered me the support I had assumed would come from my closest connections, but they were the most valuable source of new connections. With hindsight, it is obvious, those I knew well were less likely to be able to offer valuable new connections, as I already knew them all.

The networks of your networks are of enormous value, if you treat them with respect. The weak ties they deliver are more likely to create the unexpected than those you know well.

Over the years I have discovered a few things about networking, which is the source of 100% of my activity, as it has always been  since the first consulting gig came 22 years ago. This came from a vague acquaintance to whom I had offered some insights in the course of a general conversation I did not remember,  but he did.

It is not about selling, it is about trust.

When an approach is with the objective of selling, most can smell it a mile way, and run for the hills, we hate to be sold to. Networking is about being valuable to others, which builds trust, which eventually leads to a transaction, in a tiny percentage of cases. You always need to give a bit before you can expect to get anything of value back.

Networking is highly personal.

Human beings are social animals, but having said that, we like to be social with others who are ‘like us’. There has to be some human connection before we will allow somebody new into our personal circles. This is where most of the digital platforms fall down. A ‘Like’ on Facebook is utterly meaningless, except to Facebook as a track along which to send more ads. A generic ‘let’s connect’ message on LinkedIn is much less likely to attract a positive response than one that is personalised, and the more personalised the better. After all you are more likely to trust someone who has taken the trouble to do some basic research and sent a personalised note, than a random generic connection request which you know in most  cases will be followed by a sales pitch.

Networker or connector?

Being a networker implies that it is all about you, who you know, and what you can make happen as a result. A better outcome is to be a connector, someone who ‘knows who knows,’ and in this way can add value to two other parties, which will build trust, and the likelihood that both of the connected parties will remember and return the favour, usually in spades.

Networks work as clusters.

Because we are pack animals, who tend to stick together, once we are in a cluster, we can ‘work’ the cluster, but there are always a few who have connections beyond the cluster, the ‘connectors’ referred to above.  Being the connector between these tight clusters is a position of great influence. The more diverse the connections you have access to, the greater the potential for that the one piece that completes the puzzle is likely to be in there somewhere.

And, your most valuable asset: your health of course.