Getting Persona with Automated Marketing

Automated marketing sure streamlines the complicated business of communicating with our customers, doesn’t it? The opportunity to schedule messages to reach pertinent eyeballs and earballs when they’re most likely to be most receptive is certainly a tasty prospect. It’s simply handier to have software handle the repetitive business of regular communication through email, social media, blog posts or podcasts.

But automated marketing is so much more than letting the robots do your marketing for you.  For this type of communication to have any impact at all, it has to have even more of a human element than traditional marketing. You can’t just buy a list and pump it into the software. For a potential customer to even consider opening an email from an unfamiliar source, that email has to speak directly to that customer. You have to know that customer, or he won’t even listen to your pitch. This is especially true when speaking to the finicky and traditional ag customer.

Automated marketing can be an incredibly effective way to reach a lot of prospects with highly personalized, useful content. If deployed properly, it can help not only convert those prospects into customers but turn those customers into happy, loyal customers. But automated marketing can’t do this on its own. It needs to be fed intimate knowledge of its customers. It needs to be built and controlled by those with a deep understanding of the target audience’s persona.

Getting persona: The right message to the right person at the right time

Unfortunately, it’s easy to lose sight of the individual consumer as we attempt to reach the masses. Over time, an automated campaign can easily veer off track and begin to focus more on the product or service than the end-user. All communications have to at least seem like they’re focusing on the user, or they’ll fall on deaf ears.

Retaining that focus is the key to effective long-term automated marketing. In recent years, marketers have begun using buyer personas to retain that original focus. By creating profiles of a brand’s intended customer, marketers can make sure every communication is directly reaching the people most likely to buy.

These personas are composite sketches of target markets built from quantitative behavior (analytics) and qualitative responses (customer interviews). When complete, audience personas allow marketers to create content that’s relevant. By giving the audience content that offers value seemingly built specifically for them, they’ll be receptive to whatever it is you’re ultimately selling.

Personas should be at the core of everything you do, and they are essential to effective long-term automated marketing. At any time in a particular campaign, you should be able to look at the original persona and ask, “Does this message speak to this person?” If the message is on track, the answer will be an immediate and resounding “yes!” A good, well-researched persona will help you develop ideas, messaging, formats and then target them properly, no matter where you are in the campaign.

Simply put: A well-crafted persona enables you to stand in your customers’ shoes and see things from their perspectives. When planning automated communications, you should never lose sight of that perspective.

We can build them

But how do you build a persona? If every marketer could get that deep into their audiences’ heads, why don’t they? Frankly, personas take time, effort and money to build. Often, it’s easier to jump right into the “communicating” aspect of communications. But if you can afford to be patient and do it right, the benefits of well-done personas will be invaluable. Through the use of analytics and market research, you can learn about your average buyer’s gender, age, occupation, regional location, hobbies, interests, and more. For example, if you know blueberry farmers also tend to really like the movie Wreck-It Ralph, you can connect on an intimate level.

It’s all about asking questions. Through personal interviews, surveys and focus groups, you talk to the audience. Weird idea, huh? By discovering the following information about a representative group of your audience, you can fine-tune communications and then automate those communications to really hit them in the feel-spots. This is what a typical audience persona looks like. Know this stuff and you know your customer:

  • Persona summary. Includes basic details about your ideal customer and his or her company, including a name of the person and a summary of his characteristics
  • Job details. Key job responsibilities, as well as likes and dislikes about job
  • Main sources of information. Where your persona does his or her research
  • Goals. Persona’s primary and secondary goals in work and life
  • Challenges and pain points. Your persona’s personal and professional challenges, and the emotions that accompany those challenges
  • Preferred content medium. How your persona likes to absorb content
  • Quotes. Bring your personas to life with actual quotes gathered during interviews
  • Objections. The objections you anticipate from your persona during the sales process
  • Role in purchase process. Persona’s influence in the decision-making process
  • Marketing message. The messaging that speaks directly to this persona

I got to know them. Now what?

Once you’ve developed your marketing personas, it’s time to share them with people in your organization to determine if they’re on track in terms of your product and related marketing. Don’t be afraid to go outside your department; while developing personas is primarily a marketing exercise, make sure to document and share this information with other teams in your organization. Ask your sales force for gut feelings because these are often dead-on reactions. Does this persona seem like the guy we’re going after? The sales team will know. But so will your brand managers and creative types. They’ve all spent time either in the field or working on stuff that does work in the field. Make sure everyone is on board.

Next, categorize your personas and put them to work. They’ll help you develop your business strategies and marketing tactics for each product. How do you speak to a blueberry farmer who likes cartoons?

The final step, of course, is to integrate your marketing persona into your plans, including your automated marketing strategy. Check to see if the current automated messages adhere to the newly finished personas, and begin to build your future messages in a focused manner.

Keep talking, but start being heard.