Having a deep understanding of buyer personas can be critical to acquiring and retaining customers. We spoke to Sofie Annikki Dralle of StopMyCraving – a startup that helps you find tasty, healthy and ethical alternatives to your daily cravings – and found out her strategy behind creating and targeting customer personas.

When I think back to the time of finding out who my customers were, I was scared. Sharing my idea came with a fear of rejection. Ultimately, we all want to be accepted. But in order to succeed I had to get past this. This is how I let go of the fear of rejection and turned it into something positive. Something that taught me what my customers want:

Finding your persona the old-fashioned way

  1. Share your idea

Share your idea with friends, family and trusted people and professionals. Stick to your dream and vision, but do not be afraid to tweak the way you get there. The response will show you whether your product/solution has interest, which will help you to solve problems or make you aware of new problems that can be alleviated through your solution! Always look at the customer as if you are there to serve them and genuinely provide a solution to their need.

  1. Try to understand the problem

Talk to people about what their problems are. Do not talk about how great you are. It will fall flat if you are not creating any value for the customer. It’s all about loving your customer or client. It’s not about your product, but only how it can solve their problem for them.

  1. Understand how they are solving the problem

Understand what your customers are buying as an alternative solution and where they are buying it from. Find out what it can do for them, what it is not doing for them and what they are paying. This will help you to discover if you can provide extra value to them. If you can provide the same service at the same price, you are in a good position! That said, if the value is great and the customer is willing to pay, you should see if they are willing. You might find you are looking for customers with higher purchasing power, e.g. a higher budget to spend.

  1. Identify the loyal person

After this exploratory phase, write down the demographics (age, salary, job, gender, location, etc.) and psychographics (interest, values, morals, beliefs, etc.). The people from these groups that show the most interest, understanding and need for the product are your potential customers.

You can give each group a name, fictional photo and description, meaning that you always know who to focus your sales on. As time goes and your product evolves, you may see these groups expanding. But for the time being, you will want to increase your runway and business life by as much as possible. Therefore, you have to focus and follow the money.

The first four steps can even be structured as a focus group, where you invite people in to see and comment on your product. This is a great way to learn what they think without them knowing anything beforehand. Honest opinions are invaluable to see if you are able to solve a problem and communicate your message. Pick up the positive phrases they use to describe your product and use them in your marketing!

Testing who your customers are online

There are two ways to figure out who your customers are, both in B2B (business-to-business) and B2C (business-to-consumer). These are split testing, which is more exploratory, and Beachhead testing, which is based on assumptions.

Before I go into more detail, it is important to note that both options can be tested on Facebook advertisements. This is advantageous as you can get a real response right away for as little as £5. If you have an online shop, traffic can easily be directed to your website. This will hopefully lead to purchases. I use Facebook Ads because it is cheaper and easier to manage than Google Ads. It’s also harder to make mistakes and easier to define your target with Facebook Ads for an early-stage startup.

  1. Split testing

Split testing means that you try to find out who is organically interested in your product or service.

Simply find five to 10 photos or small videos you made with a new slogan or call to action in each. If you create a few ads on Facebook with different messages, USPs and types of photos then you will not have to define your user group. By pushing this to everyone and not identifying your target, you can see who is organically interested in your product. You may have one group across all ads, e.g. women between 25-35 that are interested in health. Or, as a result, you may find out you have a mixed range of different target groups, meaning that you will have attracted a few different types of persona. You may find that one is dominant, or that there are a few subcategories of a more-or-less equal range.

Note: Due to copyright claims, always make sure that you only use your own material

  1. Beachhead

This is based on the war theory that if you are stranded on a beach and want to protect yourself against the enemy, you always start with conquering the easiest point: the beachhead.

It teaches you to think about who your clients may be and which of them has worse alternatives than your company. This means that if you have a strong competitor serving one group, it may be a waste of time to start with them because it could prove difficult to convince them to change.

The beachhead theory helps you to visualise and theorise who your customers could be and allows you to create some imaginary customers. The good thing about this theory is, that if you are right, you win customers fast. But if you are wrong, you can do a lot of testing before finding the right starting point. This can potentially end up with you wasting time and money on advertising.

This approach is also supported by testing using advertisements. However, in this case you should identify your user group of two to three people and create different ads for each group. Then you can compare which group converts most visitors. For this, you have to create three campaigns:

Campaign One: Traction

For example: Brides, Dads, Sports people

  • Create an ad set for each and identify the targets.
  • See which groups gets most traction and close badly performing ads.

Campaign Two: Visitors:

  • Use the best ads and continue with the best performing groups.
  • Direct them to your website.
  • See which groups convert best.

Campaign Three: Conversion to sales

  • Focus on the best ads and best performing groups.
  • Try direct/indirect messaging and create a call to action button for sales.
  • As a result, you can see which group is your target group. Please note that the most active groups might not be the most powerful purchasing groups.

This approach can also partially be used with split testing. If you split test first, you can go onto testing which groups want to buy. You may have a lot of visitors and only a few of which are likely to become loyal customers. They may account for only 5%, but if they are loyal then do not underestimate the power of serving them well. They may turn out to become your champions!

When it comes to online testing, I have the best experience with split testing. This is because you can end up spending a lot of time on beachheads that may or may not work. In combination, the two may work well together!

Note: for advertisements, remember to install your Facebook Pixel ID. This is available on your Facebook ad manager account and will help you to distinguish what ads are leading to online traffic. Also, at this point you should have your Google Analytics account set up in order to track visits and overall behaviour.

After the sales start, you will want to keep testing how you can finally get to repeated sales. This comes through customer loyalty, email marketing, blogs, community building, campaign discounts, spots sales and much more! Tracking this on Facebook allows you to better identify your targets, while by using Google Analytics you can measure overall website conversion.

Speaking from experience of doing online and physical marketing, I like to use both. Remember, even if it might not be what you hoped for, try to see how you can use that information and turn it into something positive. Of course, you can’t use all the advice you receive. If you can get to a point where you laugh at negative feedback and try to change it into something positive, then ultimately you are winning.

Remember, don’t be afraid to fail. It is not about one big win, it is about how you can overcome every little obstacle on the way and turn it into a success. That is the key to growing. And if you get a no from a customer, don’t stop. Instead, let it help you to shape your focus. If you have a big market, a need and people who understand your product and see your potential, then never allow yourself to be discouraged.

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