Customer research needn't be all about tick boxes and spreadsheets: get creative. By Allie Siarto (Co-founder, Loudpixel)
Any experienced business owner or marketer knows that you have to know your customers inside and out if you want to be successful at building and marketing products or services to them. Unfortunately, too many of us come up with product and marketing ideas that appeal to ourselves, rather than product and marketing ideas that appeal to our ideal customers.
It’s time to step back and dig in to find out who your customers really are (and just as important — who they aren’t). Here are five steps to get you going:
Start with Research
Again, you shouldn’t be creating your ideal customer persona based solely on your own feelings and opinions. You have to do some research to understand who they really are. Simply send out a survey or interview people who you think are in your target market. At my company, Loudpixel, we like to look at conversations taking place on social media platforms to understand what people care about around any given topic or category. We then use this information to build out our personas.
Give Your Findings a Personality
After you’ve gathered your research, sit down and pull out the major trends and notable findings about your key audience (or audiences). Use these findings to create characters to represent your core audiences. Give each person a name and write a biography about him or her. Ideally, you’ll also want to find a photo to represent each character. We like to use stock photography sites like iStock and BigStock to find these photos.
Create a Private Pinterest Board to Build Your Characters
Pinterest will let you create up to three secret boards so that your pins won’t be shared with those who follow you. I recommend setting up a separate board for each persona or character you create. Start by pinning the photo that represents your character, along with a brief bio in the “description” section. Next, find photos to represent all of the activities, products, foods, colors and other things that would draw in or inspire your character.
Revisit the Pinterest Board Often for Inspiration
Once you’ve pinned 20 or more items to your board, take a step back and take a look at it. Are there any colors or design elements that you see across the board that represent or appeal to this character? Are there any other themes that will shape how you communicate with them?
Put your Persona Photos Somewhere Where You’ll See Them Often
Print the main character photos out and put them by your workspace. Use them as the background for your computer. Do whatever you have to do to remind yourself each and every day that you are marketing to real, individual people rather than a mass crowd.
From now on, every time you go to do, write or create anything, take a look at each persona and make a point to create for him or her. By getting to know your audience on a more personal level and constantly reminding yourself that you’re marketing to individuals, you’ll be able to keep yourself and your company on track for success.
This post previously appeared on Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
Are there any other sites you use for research and inspiration?
About the blogger: Allie Siarto is the co-founder of Loudpixel, a social media market research company. Rather than relying on expensive, time-consuming surveys or focus groups, Loudpixel's technology and team help companies better understand their customers and market by analyzing social media conversations that are already taking place each day.