Between the ages of 11 and 14, I spent every hour I wasn’t in school working toward one, lofty goal: I wanted to be an NBA star. Specifically, a star for the Boston Celtics. (Despite being from Ohio, my formative years had been spent watching Larry Bird and Magic Johnson battling it out for supremacy on TV.) I was the NBA’s ultimate buyer persona.
And it wasn’t just an idle dream. I had a plan.
Taking a cue from one of my childhood heroes, Pistol Pete Maravich, I dedicated myself to shooting 1,000 shots a day. And, given my rather addictive personality, I actually held to it. For three whole years.
Every day, I would wake up, eat my Wheaties (literally), grab the basketball I slept with, and head out to the driveway. And I would shoot. And shoot. And shoot.
I got pretty good. I might not have reached the Gladwellian “10,000 hours” for ninja-level mastery, but I could shoot the lights out.
But here’s the problem.
Kids should definitely dream. And they should work toward that dream. While the American edict “you can be anything you put your mind to” is fine on an operational level, we all know it’s not true.
Alas, I would never—spoiler alert!—become a professional basketballer. I was never even good enough to use the foreshortened term “baller.” The closest I would ever come to Kelly Green was sitting next to a girl with that name in a throwaway 101 course Sophomore year of college. Which would be a terrible joke if it weren’t factually true.
Anyway, here’s why I failed: In my grand scheme, I never took into account that I was too short, too slow, and not nearly as athletic as such an endeavor would demand.
This was basic information I should have known. Or realized. All those hours of shooting and shooting (and shooting) could’ve been used to, IDK, learn FOREX, or baroque-era pipe organ restoration, or herpetology, or something.
But, I spent that time shooting.
All for naught. I didn’t even make it to High School varsity level.
So, Here’s the Deal.
I see a lot of tech/SaaS companies going down this same path. They focus on the product (which is essential, don’t get me wrong) but never quite define the most important thing about their business.
Which is: Who, specifically, are they selling to?
This question is vital. It’s literally the difference between success and failure in the tech world. It’s also where your marketing starts. And without a clear starting point with your marketing, you might as well be screwing around with basic physical laws, a round sphere, an arbitrary metal ring, and hours and hours of wasted childhood effort.
So, here’s how to figure out who your ideal customer (or, as we in the marketing world refer to it, your “Buyer Persona”) is.
Note: You want to concentrate on just ONE PERSONA to start out. You’re not looking for a target audience. That’s too broad. It’s a waste of time. You might as well be jacking up 700 daily driveway threes from that one particular gravel patch with all those sparkly discarded aquarium rocks in the February sleet.
So. Don’t waste your time. Narrow in. Your marketing is going to speak to just this ONE PERSONA.
Now, grab your most Dickensian-looking hat, doff it like your life–and his legacy–depend upon it, and let’s do it to it:
1. What Are Their Demographics?
Where do they live? How much do they make annually? What’s their race? How old are they? Do they like kale? Are they just pretending to like kale to impress their partner? Do they secretly hate kale but love spinach and don’t want to offend the latter by rejecting the former? Basically, pretend you’re a lowly census taker armed only with a heart of pure gold and grand dreams of prosperity in this new, unbridled country, and ask those hard-hitting questions.
2. Educational Background?
How much schooling did they complete? Get specific. “West Pennsatucky A&M” is better than “Generic Div. III Liberal Arts School.”
3. Career Path?
What do they do, and how did they get there? Did they have a brief but laterally-retrogradient career misstep in attempting to combine MLM marketing and animal husbandry?
Know your customer.
4. What Industry Do They Work In?
Soil Management? Trans-Human Biotechnology? Herpetoculture? Write it down.
5. What’s the Size of Their Company?
Revenue. Employees. Maths. Number of on-site custodial closets. You get it.
6. What’s Their Job Title?
V.P of Sales? Shredded Cheese Authority? Ex-Moonshiner? Mall Santa? Wizard? Rasputin Impersonator? Director of Kidnappings? And for how long? This is important info. Get at it.
7. Authority Level?
Are they Head Wizard, or just an apprentice? Do they have the final say on all things Kidnapping or do they report to the Director of General Global Mayhem?
If you’re B2C, this info isn’t as important, but you should do it anyway just so you’re getting as much of the character fleshed out as possible.
If you’re B2B, this info is vital. You need to know who’s making the decisions when you’re asking for the sale.
8. How is Their Job Performance Measured?
Christmas wishes per hour? Spells cast per epoch? RSR (Ransom Success Rate)?
Basically, you want to know what they’re worried about when it comes to hitting their numbers. There’s gold in them thar pain-points.
9. What Does a Typical Day Look Like?
Pretend you’re a spy: How do they spend their allotted hours down here breathing and sweating and peeing upon God’s green earth?
10. What Skills Do They Need to Do Their Job?
Nerfs. Buffs. Crits. Specials. Melee weapon of choice.
You get it.
List ’em all.
11. What Tools Do They Use Each Day to Do Their Job?
This is important info when it comes to positioning your own product or service. Do they use WordPerfect? MS Paint? ICQ? Netscape? MySpace? You get it: All the latest technologies.
12. What Are Their Biggest Challenges?
You are in business to solve problems. What problems does your Buyer Persona have on a daily basis? List, say, 99, and then declare which one is not a problem.
13. What Are They Responsible For and What Does Success Look Like?
What’s their primary goal at work? And what constitutes success?
14. Where Do They Get Their Info?
Facebook? Drudge Report? Huffington Post? Clickhole? Dungeons and Dragons Daily?
15. Where Are They On Social?
Don’t say MySpace. Please, just don’t.
16. Describe a Recent Purchase.
What have they bought recently? Write down the deets.
And that’s it!
Of course, this is just the starting point for your marketing, but it’s vital to get this step down. You’ll do this for more Buyer Personas in the future, but for now, this gives you a fantastic idea of what you’re going to need to say to this type of person in order to get them to pull the trigger with your offerings.
Pushing ahead with your marketing without doing this first is going result in a lot of wasted effort. And time. You might as well be a skinny white kid from the Midwest trying each day to cement a Hall of Fame future. Unless you are Larry Legend, it’s just not going to happen.