Should your brand be on Instagram?

January 30, 2019

instagramA while back, I wrote about some of the trends that I thought would be shaping marketing in 2019. Visuals and video were among the tactics I said we would all be wise to explore in the coming year. I still know that’s the case and I thought we should take a more detailed look at how some brands are using Instagram to connect with their community and introduce themselves to potential new customers.

According to the Instagram Marketing 2019 Trends and Benchmarks report, there are over 1 billion users on Instagram, and about 80% of those accounts are personal accounts. 51% of Instagram users access the platform at least once a day and the average user has over 600 followers and follows over 350 accounts.

Users can post photos, and videos on Instagram and photos still earn more engagement than the video content. There’s a huge opportunity for brands to create business accounts and interact with a highly engaged audience.

But what kind of content makes sense for the channel?

Behind the scenes peeks: One of the most popular uses of Instagram is to create a sense of intimacy and connection by giving your audience a sneak peek at the inner workings of your company. Factory tours, photo shoots, upcoming launches or on the go videos are all good uses of the medium.

Testimonials or customer spotlights: Instagram is an ideal vehicle for turning the camera towards your best customers. Help your audience envision what it looks like to be a part of your tribe by introducing them to other customers who are delighted by your work. Because you can use text in the photos or have sound with your video, it’s also a smart place to share testimonials.

Get a read: Think of Instagram as your informal focus group room. Ask your audience for their opinion on new options, helping you celebrate a local charity or deciding which product to feature in your new ad campaign. You can use Instagram stories to invite your audience to a landing page or poll as well.

Teach: Why not educate your audience while you entertain them? Adobe uses work that their clients have created to highlight some of the capabilities of their software. By inviting their best customers to share their work, they are guaranteed a stream of fresh content and fans who are willing to share that content.

Sell: You can craft special offers, create coupons, buy ads or highlight new products and services within your stream. Instagram is owned by Facebook so you can advertise on both channels at the same time.

Inspire: Visuals can create a deep emotional connection. You can use photos to form a bond with your audience and inspire them to make a difference. Many non-profits leverage the channel for this reason. Interestingly, one of the most inspiring accounts is Playdoh. They use stop animation content to draw in their audience and get them to re-connect with their inner child.

Make them laugh: There’s power in being entertaining and making people smile or laugh. It creates an endorphin rush that creates a sense of affection that the audience associates with your brand. Why not share a bit of your personality and invite your followers to do the same?

Instagram’s audience is growing every day. If you haven’t considered giving it some time and attention, so you can explore how you might use it to bring your brand to life – you may want to make the investment before your competitors do. Odds are, it’s not going to drive a ton of immediate sales, but when it comes to creating a relationship with your audience, it’s a smart option.



Do you subscribe to the subscription trend?

January 23, 2019

subscribeYou can subscribe to just about anything today. I can remember, as a kid, that one of our neighbors got a fruit of the month shipment. We were fascinated by what kind of fruit he might get the next month and when the box arrived – we were all there for a peek and a taste. It wasn’t just that we didn’t see a lot of papaya in Minnesota, but it was the novelty of the monthly shipments.

Fast forward to 2019 and you can subscribe to pretty much anything from razors to dog toys to clothes, cosmetics, ingredients for a complete dinner or fine wines from a specific region of the world. On the B-to-B side, there’s Leadership in a Box, MentorBox and many more. In case you think it’s all consumable products, Porsche even has its own subscription offering.

There are quite a few websites dedicated to telling buyers about their subscription options. Those websites had over 37 million visitors in 2017 and the numbers are rapidly climbing. It’s a fascinating cultural shift and it’s worth thinking more about, in terms of how we go to market with our products and services.

Like most trends, this one snuck up on us a little. Technology made companies like Netflix and Spotify seem natural. Why wouldn’t we want hundreds of thousands of movies and other videos at our fingertips for a small monthly fee? Why buy CDs when you can mix and match your music on a whim for a few dollars a month?

The subscription market has grown by more than 100 percent a year over the past five years, according to McKinsey and many of the big brands like P&G, Under Armour and others are now jumping in. 46 percent of consumers subscribe to some sort of streaming media service and if we have one, we’re likely to have more. The McKinsey study found that the “median number of subscriptions an active subscriber holds is two, but nearly 35 percent have three or more.”

What are the elements that make a subscription model work?

Personalization is key: In many cases, it’s the ability to cherry pick the items or types of items that are appealing to the subscriber. The personalization might also be in frequency of delivery or the number of items in the shipment.

A specific why: Some subscription services like Dollar Shave Club are all about having a steady supply of the items. The fashion boxes are all about having someone else recommend the right look for you and then do all the work of putting together just the right pieces. Some are a blend of the two. The meal subscriptions are about having someone else figure out what’s best for you and serving it up right when you need it. The B-to-B boxes like MentorBox are about access to information and insights.

Creating a connection: All subscribers drift off eventually. The key is to maintain the subscription for as long as you can. The longer they subscribe, the more profitable it is for you. The tone of your communication, the access you offer to your CEO or leadership team and the secrets you let your subscribers in on can all deepen the relationship and extend the subscription.

Build a community: There’s incredible power in word of mouth, referrals, and reviews for subscription services. Find ways to connect your subscribers, whether it’s a Facebook group, a car window decal or exclusive events where they can meet in person.

What do you think? Could your business jump on the subscription bandwagon? Before you dismiss it out of hand, do a little legwork. I think you’ll be surprised about who is active in the space.



Are you in good voice?

January 16, 2019

voiceWhen I think about the trends that are facing marketers and business owners in 2019, the one that I believe is going to be most significant is the influence of voice on search and content. Not only do I think it’s critical, but I think it is growing faster and stronger than anyone could have imagined.

Let’s define the term, so we’re all on the same wavelength. When we talk about voice what we mean is all voice-activated or operated devices, apps, and the Internet of Things accessories that you may have in your home, vehicle or office. What’s so fascinating about this trend is that even though it’s just beginning to truly emerge, it’s already so woven into our daily habits that we’re taking it for granted.

Think about how often you give voice commands. While you’re making breakfast are you asking Alexa to play your favorite podcast? Are you telling Nest to lower the temperature in the basement or asking Siri to give you an update on how the Cubs did last night? These devices aren’t just in our homes. How often do you talk to your car, asking it to call someone or give you a traffic update?

According to, the number of U.S. households with smart speakers grew by 49 percent from June to November 2017. Today, smart speakers are predominately the Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple HomePod, and a few other emerging brands. Because they were the first to launch, Amazon Echo dominated and had 88% of the market share in 2016, but Google Home is gaining ground quickly since its introduction in October of 2017. It’s already trimmed Amazon’s control of the market to 52%.

Controlling our home, car or office is interesting but how does all of this technology intersect with marketing? The most obvious place is search. According to Branded3 and data collected from IBM, 25 percent of searches on Windows 10 taskbar are by voice. A report from Search Engine People cited that 20 percent of mobile searches on Google are made via voice command now. 55 percent of teens and 41 percent of adults already execute voice searches multiple times per day, and the forecast is that by 2020, 50 percent of all searches will be via voice.

This is where Google can quickly become the defacto market leader. When you ask Alexa to search for something online, she is only able to search the topic using Wikipedia, which is not as comprehensive as using Google, which comes native as part of Google Home.

This provides Google with a huge advantage to penetrate more and more areas of our home. A recent Google survey estimated that 72 percent of people who own a voice-activated speaker say that their devices are often used as part of their daily routine. And it’s just an emerging trend.

So from a practical point of view, what does this mean for us as marketers? Let me answer that by leaving you with this question.

Today we fight for a page one ranking in Google because we know the user will review a few of the listings before they click on one. But with voice, you ask a question, and the device serves up a single answer. How might that change our strategies around PPC, search and organic SEO? How do you become the one answer?

And that new wrinkle is just the tip of the iceberg. As this technology weaves itself into our culture, it’s going to have lasting impact on how we go through our daily lives and how, as marketers, we intersect with people in new ways.


The cost of apathy

January 9, 2019

apathyI live out in a newer suburb. I say “out” because bits of civilization have not reached us yet. There’s no movie theatre or Target (hopefully both are coming soon), and there’s no Panera. For my family, this almost put our location out of the running when we were ready to move.

On occasion, I’ll make the run into a closer suburb for everyone’s favorite Panera breakfast items. Round trip, including order time, is 45 minutes. So imagine my irritation when I got home a couple of weeks ago to discover that all the egg and cheese sandwiches were missing a key ingredient – the eggs.

Here’s the truth for all of us. No matter how hard we try – we’re going to disappoint a customer. It’s inevitable. The good news is that depending on how we respond to the mistake, we can either deepen the relationship or lose the client.

Re-earning a customer’s loyalty doesn’t happen by accident. You need to anticipate where you might underperform and then you need to create standardized responses. But, that’s not enough. You need to train your people on the responses but even more than that – they must have a customer-centric point of view. When confronted with the problem, whatever it may be, they need to care enough to want to resolve it. If that’s not the case, no protocol is going to save the situation.

On that Sunday, I picked up the phone and asked for the manager. After waiting for about 13 minutes, Adam, the manager on duty, came on the line and I explained the situation.

Fix opportunity #1: Apologize. Actually, use the words “I’m sorry.” Adam never apologized or even acknowledged that they made a mistake, inconvenienced us or ruined breakfast. In fact, Adam made it pretty clear that they were busy and he didn’t have a lot of time for this conversation.

Fix opportunity #2: Ask how you can re-earn the customer’s trust. Adam said they’d be happy to make new sandwiches if I wanted to come back to the store. When I explained the distance, he said that was his only option. If you don’t know — Panera delivers. But my suburb was too far away. Not too far away for me to drive back, but too far away for him to send someone out.

Fix opportunity #3: Have processes and procedures in place for the most common issues. I’m sure this was not their first faulty order. Being able to credit the customer seems like a simple choice. But after I said I did not want to drive all the way back, there was silence. I was expecting him to offer up some alternatives, but he didn’t. Finally, I started problem-solving for him and came up with options.

Me: Can you just put a refund on my credit card?

Adam: No. Our machines aren’t set up to do that.

Me: Can you mail me a gift card for the amount?

Adam: No. I can’t do that.

Me: Well Adam, what can you do?

Adam: If you want to write my name on the receipt, we’ll give you free sandwiches the next time you come in.

I did not. Instead, I wrote his name on several review sites.

Fix opportunity #4: Remember the power of the consumer. 84% of consumers trust online reviews as much as their friends. If an establishment has less than 4 stars, the average consumer eliminates them as an option.

At the end of the day, we had plenty of food in the house, and no one went hungry. Was it a big deal? Not particularly. But Adam’s disregard made it a big deal. This isn’t just a problem for Panera. Mistakes are inevitable. You can afford those. But, you can’t afford to have employees who don’t care.


Convenience is today’s currency

January 2, 2019

convenienceStep away from your marketing role for a moment and consider yourself as an average consumer. Think about how you make buying decisions today. For many people, price is still a significant consideration. But it’s certainly not the only one. Whether it’s true or not, we all feel time-starved. We’re trying to pack in a 40-50 hour work week on top of the time we want to spend with our family and friends, work out time, me time and oh yeah – sleep if we can fit it in. The fact that most of us get too little sleep tells us that the value of time in our lives is significant. If we could get more of it, we’d gladly take it. And that’s where convenience steps in.

There was no such thing as convenience as a product or service before the late 19th or early 20th century, when labor-saving marvels were introduced to the marketplace. My grandma never baked from an instant cake mix and when I was a kid, my parents had to use a travel agent to buy plane tickets. That all seems ludicrous to us today.

Amazon is the perfect example of this. Go to the store? Why would you do that when you simply say “Alexa, order laundry detergent” and depending on where you live in the US, it’s delivered right to your door today, or if you’re not in a major market, you might have to wait until tomorrow.

We talk about the importance of buying local, but the truth is, we will often choose convenience over anything else.

If convenience is the currency that buyers covet the most, then we need to be mindful, now putting our marketing hats back on, of how we do or don’t appeal to that need.

We worked with a client recently that sold products online. It took twelve clicks to purchase their best product. Sales were lagging because we’re wired by Amazon’s 1-click purchase convenience. We couldn’t get them down to a single click, but we were able to reduce the twelve to three and saw an immediate jump in sales.

What kind of friction does your marketing or sales process create for your buyers? Do they have to sign contracts in person? Do they have to wait for delivery? Are your customer service people only available during bankers hours?

For many businesses, the first point of friction is difficulty in getting the information the buyer needs early in their consideration process. Anytime the buyer thinks “is this worth it,” they’ve hit friction.

If your website’s bounce rate (check your Google Analytics) is high, that tells you that people are coming to your site looking for something they can’t find. Our attention span just keeps getting shorter so make sure your navigation is clear, and the ten questions you are asked most often are answered on your site.

Buyers want to do their early stage shopping without talking to a salesperson. Make sure you don’t lose them by not providing the information they need to move from consideration to purchase.

There are some other key friction points that you should focus on correcting:

  • Poorly trained or unenthused staff members
  • Rigid customer service policies
  • Inaccessible customer service reps
  • Negative or no reviews
  • Slow delivery of products/services

We are being trained by the Amazons and Ubers of the world. We barely think about needing something, and voila, they’ve delivered it. We don’t have to pull out a credit card or even type in our address. They’re almost always fully stocked and ready to serve us in an instant.

That’s who your competition is. That’s who is setting the bar that your customers are expecting you to scale. Think friction-free or think going out of business sale.


How to avoid the social media storm

December 26, 2018

social media stormsPreviously, we dug into the details of two very different but very visible social media storms and how the brands (Crock-Pot and Old Navy) dealt with the unexpected spotlight.

Don’t think for a minute that your local business is immune to the same sort of trouble. The good and the bad of social media is that it is an equalizer. If the story is good, bad or salacious enough – it can quickly get national or international attention.

The web is filled with examples of how small, local companies are hit with an unfavorable review, Facebook post or photo and suddenly the world knows about the dishonest mechanic, lousy pumpkin pie or whatever the complaint is about.

Whether you work for a Fortune 500 company or own a small retail shop, you need to be ready to handle the unexpected, the unwanted, and sometimes the unwarranted wrath of social media.

Here are some best practices for protecting yourself and handling any social media crisis so that you come out on top.

Listen: There is not a business on the planet that can afford to ignore what is being said about them online today. At the very least, set up a Google Alert for your business name and the names of anyone in an ownership or leadership position. If you want to elevate above Google Alerts, there are a plethora of tools available. Be sure you are also monitoring ratings and review sites.

Have a plan in place: You won’t have time to put together a comprehensive plan once the crisis is in motion. You need to know how you’re going to react long before you have to react. If you own the organization or are their CMO – this is not just a plan for you. Your entire team needs to understand the plan and be trained to react quickly and appropriately.

Be human: Before you rebut, correct, sympathize or deflect – take a minute and try to understand the emotion behind the attack. That was Old Navy’s biggest mistake. There was no empathy. No heartfelt apology. Just corporate speak. On the flip side, Crock-Pot’s condolences for Jack were perfect. It didn’t matter that he is a fictional character. What mattered was that people were hurting and Crock-Pot acknowledged that.

Decide – online or off: Just because someone says something to you or about you online, does not mean you have to deal with it in that same environment. In some cases, if you deal with sensitive customer data or privacy concerns, you have no choice – you have to take it offline. But even if you don’t have that restriction, you can acknowledge the complaint, show your humanity around being sorry that they are disappointed (or whatever emotion they’re expressing) and then invite the attacker to reach you by phone, email or in person so you can have a detailed conversation and resolve their issue.

Keep your emotions in check: They’re going to say things that you find insulting, inflammatory and in many cases, inaccurate. It’s human nature to defend your honor and intentions. Don’t. In many cases, it’s a good idea to have someone by your side that is not as emotionally invested. Have them read your responses before you hit send and their job is to make sure you come off as caring, competent and in control.

Whether it’s a little local flare up on Facebook or under the nation’s microscope, every organization needs to be ready to deal with a crisis before it arrives at your front door.

The good news is that the audience’s attention span is short. The bad news is that Google forgets nothing so how you handle that moment in time can last a lifetime.


Old Navy gets it wrong

December 19, 2018

wrongPreviously, we took a look at how Crock-Pot dealt with the untimely death of a beloved TV character due to a faulty Crock-Pot cord and the social media backlash that erupted from that pretend but apparently emotional death.  A situation that could have gone very wrong but Crock-Pot got it right. They didn’t get defensive or remind the people leading the outcry that Jack didn’t really die. In fact, they sympathized with the grieving audience and then used the incident to talk about their actual safety features.

The actor who plays Jack, Milo Ventimiglia, went on tour telling the world that he loves his Crock-Pot and wants to encourage other people to get one too. Can you imagine what it would have cost Crock-Pot to hire the star of the season’s biggest hit to be their spokesperson?

On the flip side, Old Navy did not handle their social media storm nearly as well. An Old Navy store near Jordan Creek Town Center in suburban Des Moines, Iowa created a national incident when an employee racially profiled a customer and accused him of stealing a jacket that he actually got for Christmas and entered the store wearing.

After the man was forced to prove he owned the jacket, a post on Facebook alleged that a central Iowa man was racially profiled while shopping Tuesday at an Old Navy store at Jordan Creek Town Center by the clothing store’s employees.

After the incident, the man posted pictures and videos of the incident on his personal Facebook page and it went viral. The post had more than 150,000 shares and thousands of interactions.  Old Navy’s reaction is a textbook example of how not to manage a social media crisis.

The post went live on Tuesday, January 30th and Old Navy’s solution was to close the store on Wednesday. The store and Old Navy corporate didn’t announce or explain the closure, which set the story on fire. The store re-opened on Thursday, also without any explanation. A spokeswoman for Old Navy emailed an official statement that said Gap and all of its brands maintain a “zero means zero” policy and that an investigation of the incident is underway.

The email went on to say “we are a company made up of diverse people — from all backgrounds and cultures. We encourage diversity in thought, celebrate diversity in each other and demand tolerance and inclusion, always.”

On the same day, Old Navy’s Twitter and Facebook feeds had a statement that explained what happened and that the incident was under review. Two days later, on both social networks, the company announced that the customer was treated in a way that violated their policies and values. They also announced the firing of the three employees involved in the incident.

Underneath those official announcements was a huge outcry on Twitter and the Old Navy Facebook page. Angry consumers took it upon themselves to tell similar stories, complain about the product and in general, kick Old Navy while they were down.

The next stumble on Old Navy’s part was that they went a little overboard in trying to prove that they weren’t racially insensitive. Suddenly, all of the models on their social media feed promotions and ads were African American. You can imagine the public’s reaction to that shift.

The good news for Old Navy is that as quickly as the firestorm started, it seemed to die down. But they could have turned the situation into a win rather than, at best, a draw. They missed some key best practices that could have saved the day.

Stay tuned as next we will explore how brands should respond to going viral when they don’t want to be in the spotlight.


A tale of two reactions

December 12, 2018

reactionSocial media is a powerful tool, but it can also hand a brand some serious problems that need to be dealt with immediately. Your reaction can make all the difference.  When you respond in real time, you can do it well, or you can stumble and fall. When a brand doesn’t deal with the ember or spark or handles it badly, it can quickly grow into a raging inferno.

We watched the good and bad play out over the past year, and I’d like to dig a little deeper into each situation and then talk about some safety nets we all need to have in place in case our company finds itself in an unexpected spotlight.

First off, let’s look at the good.

The very popular show “This Is Us” killed off a beloved character this past season. The culprit? A house fire started by a crockpot’s faulty switch. People rushed to social media to mourn the death of this character and true to human nature, they were looking for someone to blame and the poor crockpot took the brunt of it.

I know it sounds ridiculous, but the build-up to how Jack died had been in the making for over two years. This is a show that pokes at the most sensitive emotions of its viewers, and so their hearts were definitely on their sleeve already, as they watched the tragedy unfold.

As the TV show ended and the fans scrambled to social media to give Crock-Pot a piece of their mind, the company found themselves in a very bizarre and unexpected position. They were being accused of causing the death of a pretend person. People were vowing to throw away their crockpots.

Crock-Pot had three choices. They could respond to the overwhelming wave of communication by reminding everyone that Jack is pretend, they could ignore the whole thing and let it blow over, or they could play along and use the opportunity to build their brand.

Their first tweet was:

We’re heartbroken over last night’s episode, too! But don’t worry, you can still make your favorite meals in your #CrockPot with confidence. We want to assure all consumers we rigorously test our products for safety. PM us and we’d be happy to tell you more about our safety standards.

Think this is absurd? It gets worse. The story of the killer Crock-Pot was also picked up on Colbert, Marketplace, and even Popular Science and Self Magazines!

Crock-Pot took to Facebook as well, with this message:

‘THIS IS US’ SPOILER ALERT. We’re still trying to mend our broken heart after watching ‘This Is Us’ on Tuesday night. America’s favorite dad and husband deserved a better exit and Crock-Pot® shares in your devastation. Don’t further add to this tragedy by throwing your Crock-Pot Slow Cooker away. It’s hard to pass something down from generation to generation if you throw it away (grandma won’t be too happy). Spending time with his family while enjoying comfort food from his Crock-Pot was one of his favorite things to do. Let’s all do our part and honor his legacy in the kitchen with Crock-Pot®. XOXO, Crock-Pot® Forever in Your Heart & Forever in Your Home

It’s bad enough when your company makes an actual mistake or deserves the heat of social media, but this example is a good reminder that we’re all vulnerable, even when it’s not of your creation.

Next, we’re going to take a look at a situation that was of their creation – the Old Navy racial profiling story that went viral and caused the store to close their doors temporarily.

After we have studied both the good and the bad, I’ll outline the best practices we need to keep in mind as we do business in this 24/7 connected world.



A twist on old school tactics

December 5, 2018

old schoolIn this era of all things digital, I thought it would be a nice change of pace to go old school and talk about some very simple marketing tactics that are often undervalued and underutilized. Best of all, neither of these ideas will dent your marketing budget.

Thank you notes: When I was growing up, my mom was a stickler for thank notes. On December 26th there would be a stack of thank you cards and a list of recipients on the kitchen table. The importance of that act has stuck with me my entire life, and I still write a ton of thank you notes.

Most of us don’t get a lot of traditional mail anymore, and when we do, we sort it over the wastebasket because there’s not a lot of value in what we receive. So we notice personal mail, and we remember who sent it to us.

When a client places a new order or makes a referral, don’t just shoot them a quick email. When a prospect makes time to learn about your business, be memorable. Their inbox is already bloated. Take five minutes and do what most people don’t do — write a thank you note.

Tech twist: When I’m on the road I don’t want to carry a bunch of thank you notes in my suitcase, so I use an app called Bond Black. It allows me to send a handwritten thank you note with my actual signature from anywhere in the world without trying to track down stamps or cards.

Make connections: We all have people in our lives that seem to know everyone and can quickly make valuable introductions that create new partnerships, client relationships, and peer connections. You need to be one of those people.

The good news is that you don’t need to know a certain number of people or have a certain level of influence. All you have to do is be intentional. The Zig Ziglar quote, “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help other people get what they want” is spot on. What Zig didn’t say but I think is implied is that your desire to help them get what they want has to be genuine. You can’t fake it just so they’re helpful to you in return.

Here’s a great way to start. Make a list of ten people who genuinely have helped your business. Now, think of someone you know that would benefit them in some way. They might be a potential client or vendor. Or they might serve the same customer base but in a non-competitive way and there could be the possibility of them partnering together on a promotion or joint offering. Make an introduction, explaining why you think they should get to know each other. It’s that simple.

Tech twist: Use Linkedin as your connection hub. Leave recommendations for people who have been influential in helping your business. Go a step beyond that and send a message to two people you want to connect and make an introduction. They’ll be able to meet each other and make a LinkedIn connection, which opens their networks to each other.

While both of these tactics may seem rudimentary, we don’t do either often enough.

Selfishly, they pay huge dividends. But even more important than that – they remind us to be the kind of business leader we should all aspire to be. Giving, gracious and grateful. I know those are the kinds of business people who have helped me learn, grow and build my business for the past 25+ years and I want to return the favor.



How to create a buyer persona

December 2, 2018

No matter what you do for a living, you have customers.  And odds are you want more of them.  But every customer is not equally valuable to your business.  And every potential customer out there does not want to buy what you sell or buy it from you.

One of the most glossed over aspect of marketing and sales in most organizations is the deep dive you should be doing to truly understand your best prospects.  The easiest way to do that is to think about the current customers you have and identify what common traits they share.

Once you have identified your best fit prospects — the people who you are most likely to delight over and over again — you need to take it one more step to help you personalize the audience and have a very tangible picture of who you’re talking to when you create content, thought leadership pieces and marketing messages.

The more real and three-dimensional these avatars or personas are, the more precise and on target your efforts will be and the more “native” it all feel to your audience.

Identify the key role that your persona should be modeled after.  It might be the Dean of Admissions or a business owner of a company that has between $5-$10 million in sales.  In some rare cases, you might need to create two personas, if you serve more than one core audience.  But remember, not more than two.  This isn’t an effort to describe ALL of your customers, just your best ones.

Here are some sample questions to get you started.  The right questions (a subset of these and some you may add) will be dictated by what you sell.  Answer these questions for your 1-2 avatars:

  • Demographics:
  • Gender:
  • Age range:
  • Educational level:
  • Typical degree or area of study:
  • Core values – what do they value the most personally and professionally?
  • Where does he/she work:
  • Job title:
  • Why did they choose this profession?  What do/did they love about it?
  • Who is their boss?
  • Do they have a team/staff?  Describe that structure.
  • What is he/she like at work?  How would his/her co-workers describe him/her?
  • What do they love about working with him/her?
  • What do they dislike about working with him/her?
  • How do they communicate when things are good?  How do they communicate under stress?
  • How are they being evaluated at work?  How does their boss define success for them?
  • What are his/her professional goals?
  • What is his/her biggest professional challenges?
  • What does he/she get excited about?
  • What do they want to do more of?
  • What does his/her typical day tend to look like? How do they feel about that?
  • What skills/qualities are necessary to do his/her job?
  • What tools and technology do they use to do their job?
  • How do they stay current in their own industry?
  • What’s the biggest threat to their job/company?
  • How are they different/unique from their peers?
  • What publications (on and off line) do they read?
  • What associations do they participate in?
  • What are the three most critical events for their industry?
  • Where do they live (house, condo, apartment)?
  • Do they have a significant other/family?
  • How do they spend their off hours?
  • List five personality traits they exhibit
  • How do they see themselves?

Once you’ve answered all of these questions about a target customer – create a narrative about them.  Think of it as telling their story.  Describe them in a way that anyone who works for you would be able to recognize them.

Give them a first name and find a stock photo that represents them.  I know it sounds strange but giving them a name and a face makes them even more three-dimensional and real to you and your sales team.

Once you’ve got all of that built out —  as you create marketing messages — keep this persona in mind.  Let’s say her name is Lucy.  Ask yourself — would this resonate with Lucy?  Would this catch Lucy’s eye?  Where would Lucy go to get this kind of information?

The more detailed and realistic your persona is — the stronger tool it will become for you.  Let your personas guide your language, channels, and key messages.  Now you’re using the right kind of bait to catch the kind of fish you prefer!