June 4, 2021 6 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
The biggest mistake most first-time marketers make is attempting a “one-size fits all” approach to their marketing efforts. They launch one campaign, sent with the same message, to all people. That may work for something that has mass appeal, across all demographics (e.g., promoting ice cream). But, for most of us, we are trying to laser into a very specific target customer. Or, more likely, target customers (plural), each with a different focus. That is when you need to build different target customer personas, segment your lists and customize your marketing messaging to each of those different sub-segments. Allow me to explain in these two examples, one for a B2C business and the other for a B2B business.
A B2C persona-building case study
Let’s say you are a manufacturer of mattresses and you offer three different tiers of quality, the basic product from $499, the medium grade from $1,299 and the higher grade from $1,999 for a queen size mattress. One marketing option is to market all of your mattresses to all potential buyers and hope for success. A better option is to build a unique persona for each tier.
Perhaps the basic product appeals to lower-income demographics or students needing a cheap mattress for their dorm room, and the middle-grade product appeals to someone in their 30s that is furnishing their first home on a tight budget. The higher-end product most appeals to people in their 50s that place a high premium on comfort and getting a good night’s sleep to help resolve their lower back pain. These are three distinct personas, and you need to segment your customer lists and customize your messaging to each one, separately.
A B2B persona-building case study
The same holds true in the B2B world. Let’s say you are a call center software business that provides workflow tools for call center reps to use, including a reporting and analytics package to optimize performance. The first persona is the call center rep, teaching them how your product is going to make their lives easier. The second persona is the call center manager, teaching them how you are going to simplify the management of their team and cross-filter best practices between the call center reps. The third persona could be someone like a COO or CFO, impressing them with the fact that your clients typically see a 20% increase in revenues and a 10% reduction in payroll costs by using your software. Again, each of these personas would be segmented into three separate groups and marketed to with messaging specific to their needs.
The above example is relatively simply, resulting in three personas. I saw one business selling 10 products into 10 industries to 10 roles within the company across 10 different languages as an international seller. Holy moly, that is a lot! 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 equals 10,000 unique personas that needs distinct messaging. What a chore that would be for the marketing department, having to build 10,000 variations of every campaign that goes out. So, maybe in this case, my first question for the company would be: Do you really need to be doing all of this, or can you better focus your efforts around your best sellers?
The other thing to think about with B2B: Where are they in the marketing funnel and sales cycle? Are they upper funnel — just starting to research their needs? Are they middle funnel — starting to assess various vendors? Are they lower funnel — comparing features and prices immediately prior to purchase?
In this example, those are three separate personas that get unique messaging. The upper funnel may be speaking to your brand reputation and awards, the middle funnel may be speaking to your best of breed features and functionalities versus the competition, and the lower funnel may be speaking to save 10% if you book by the end of the month. Therefore, the call center software company with three personas discussed above really has nine different personas when you layer on these upper, middle and lower funnel status assumptions.
How to segment your lists
There are a few ways to tag your prospects and segment your lists. The first way is to simply ask your customers to self-identify themselves through customer surveys or online forms. The second way is to estimate which segment they are in based on their user behavior (e.g., the person looking at the $1,999 mattress on your website gets tagged as the higher-end buyer looking for comfort). The third way is to actually purchase prospect lists with the parameters you think are most desired for that persona (e.g., a list of CFOs to pitch cost savings advantages from your product).
Once the lists are created, they need to be stored in your CRM in separate “silos” sothat they each can be sent unique messaging. The lists need to be updated over time for accuracy, and they also need to be grown over time for new customer additions to your database. So having someone on your marketing team that understands CRM and database management would be helpful here.
How to customize your campaigns
Now comes the fun part — customizing campaigns to each of your personas. In the example with the $1,999 mattress, the copy needs to speak to quality and comfort and the creatives need to have images of people in their 50s. It is just the opposite for your $499 mattress — that would pound home your price advantages, showing the image of a college kid in his dorm room. In the end, we are talking about unique copy, unique images and unique offers by persona. The more personas you have, the more creative work your team needs to do. Where you can, keep it simple.
The emphasis point of this piece: Stop doing “one-size fits all” marketing. The more you segment your lists and customize the messaging by persona, the higher your conversion rates will increase. Yes, this will require more work and labor costs for creatives, but the resulting increase in conversion rates will more than offset these costs. Let’s say you are a $5MM business with a 1% conversion rate and one creative designer costing $50K. If adding two more designers for an additional $100K can increase your conversion rate to 2%, you are now a $10MM business. You just got a 50x return on that additional staff investment. As you can see, persona development, list segmentation, and campaign customization is really important for maximizing your return on investment. Good luck taking your marketing efforts to the next level. If you need help, just let me know.