“Business Ignition Series’, Volume 2 Get to know your personas
Most people when they think about marketing, they will set up every possible social media, usually starting with Facebook (or as I call it, ShutyerFaceBook). Then they will quickly progress to Snapchat, Twitter and the like. Nothing is backed by research, they don’t understand their customers and don’t understand the demographics that hang out across different social media platforms or how to resonate with them. Then they will say “the market isn’t there”, or blaming their partner, boss or mal- alignment of the stars for their failure. This is something that makes me more annoyed than when I wake up on Christmas morning to find I am yet again “too old” to be brought a train set.
The truth is, an in-depth customer understanding absolutely must come first, which is why that was the first volume in our Business Ignition Series. So if you haven’t read that yet, have a scan of it. If it hasn’t successfully put you into a coma through boredom and left you clutching a crucifix and holy water, come back and read this too.
We want to set up our business with foundations on solid footing, as opposed to playing Russian Roulette with an automatic weapon. Once you have that customer understand and know how to compel them to take action, then you have the embers of something that can be effective, this is where we’re here to help you turn it into a raging inferno.
You need to have a crystal clear view of who your market is, what their motivations and goals are and how to resonate with them. This along with your customer development work is going to allow you to out-compete your much more established competition who could otherwise just out market you with the bigger number of digits in their bank accounts.
Something really important to remember is that the lens through which we see the world and the lens through which your customers see the world are often entirely different things. This is why I put customer development first, as without the appreciation of this premise, you are never going to build a great business and you are going to waste a lot of money and time in the process.
But also be aware, all of this is a learning curve. All of these adversity you go through is what will craft you into the vision of yourself that is worth becoming. The person you become on this journey is even more important than the end product you get out of it. You have two choices in life, you can become someone else, or you can become yourself. So take advice, learn and adapt but don’t become a carbon copy of them. Be willing to tear yourself in half, to break if you need to and bleed if necessary to become the person you want to become. Otherwise, nothing you gain will have mattered.
“A flower doesn’t worry about the flower next to it, it just blooms”
So that is your job, to turn all this learning, incorporate it into what is uniquely you, give it your own spin, add your own insights and ingrain it with what you believe, what you value and what you stand for. This authenticity, with a hint of being willing to be vulnerable is what will allow you to cut through your competition like butter. Customers are people, and people buy into people (and therefore businesses) based off of emotive reasonings. The best founders have a very strong connection with their customers. All investors and venture capitalists bang on about “product-market” fit and that is undoubedtly important, but what is the golden egg, the venn diagram of greatness is “founder-product-market fit”. If everything you are and everything you believe is ingrained into the very DNA of your company, no other company will be able to compete with you at winning the hearts and minds of your customers, irrespective or the marketing spend they deploy.
But let’s get down to brass tax. There are common pitfalls when it comes to identifying your customer persona, which you must be aware of:
Confirmation bias again rears its ugly head. Become acutely aware of any confirmation bias in your thinking and especially when talking to customers. Otherwise, it will pollute otherwise useful information into useless information. What many founders then do is they go away and assume they’ve had a “great meeting” and zoom-in on building out features that actually were decided on based on confirmation bias, rather than legitimate customer interview findings.
Speaking to people who have a vested interest in helping you. As a result, it is never normally a good idea to speak to family, friends or anyone else who wants you to do well in the world. The people you speak to ideally should be strangers, from your potential target market and be completely objective, with no vested interest in telling you what you want to hear. In fact, the more cynical and blunt the customer you’re speaking to, the better. As if you can build a product that would make even them jump for joy, it won’t be a problem to sell to your early product evangelists and early adopters.
Also be aware of ever strengthening confirmation bias as you build out your Minimum Viable Product. After all, if you’ve taken time to build something, you’re going to even less likely to admit to yourself that the feature isn’t necessary.
This is why we always advocate constant testing and iteration based off of that
testing. After all, we create hypotheses, that the market then proves or disproves.
That is our benchmark, not your assumptions or ego massage. With this kind of
focus and this willingness to accept that you’re wrong and adapt accordingly, will
never steer you wrong.
The user persona sheet is a template that helps you profile your ideal audience segments: the people who need or want your product, who would pay for it and spread the word about it. Try to do some research and offer more information on the audience segment you’ve prioritised in the Lean Canvas. The purpose of the Persona sheet is to help you, your team and your partners to better understand and empathise with your user that sits within your beachhead market.
Here’s what your user persona template should include:
- User type
- Age range
- Personality traits
- Is this persona more introvert or extrovert?
- Are they analytical or creative?
- Are they more active or passive?
- What personal characteristics are important to be taken into account?
Next step is listing your user Goals and motivations
Here’s some follow up questions that you should ask yourself to create the best profile for your personas with in-depth understanding.
- What goals is the user trying to achieve?
- What smaller task do they want to complete?
- What keeps them motivated in completing their task?
- Note that motivations can be both a pull (wanting something) or a push (looking
- to avoid something) for someone.
- Their dreams, fears & frustrations
Beach head market
You are soldier in a war against your business competitors. You have limited resources and you simply can’t overpower the 900lb gorilla that is the established competition. If you try to out punch them, they will win. Instead, you have to box clever.
You have to understand a customer so in detail and solve their problems so brilliantly and elegantly that they wouldn’t even dream of going to a competitor. Then you need to make sure that enough of these customers know that you solve their problems brilliantly and elegantly too, and do this before your dwindling resources dry up. This is why you go for a beach head market, to give you the best chance of achieving this and having a narrow enough focus initially to ensure you can really personalise to customers’ problems
Then, when you are known for your brilliant work and have some good traction and a nice new flow of money coming in, with good unit metrics, then you can move on to the next market segment, hopefully using the customers you have just amazed to help you get there, plus the resources and data you have built up to go and dominate the next slice of the pie. This is how most amazing businesses start. Remember, Amazon started off selling books, now they sell whatever the hell they like. Make sure the beach head is well aligned with your strengths and you have a really strong value proposition and fulfil the criteria of having the customer willing to buy, big pain point, accessible to marketing / sales and (hopefully) lower competition and inability to solve their current problems in an elegant way.
Here is a table that you should fill out, to make sure you understand your customers in minuscule detail:
This is a blueprint you can now deploy to bring great results in your business. I am a scientist first and foremost and I treat business as if it’s a science experiment, where I have to develop hypotheses which are then proven or disproven, just like you would if you were carrying out a clinical trial or chemistry experiment. So many people now fear failure. That is a great mistake.
“There are long range risks and costs to any course of action, but they don’t come close to the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction”
So, treat failure like a friend, because like a friend, it wants the best for you. I have got used to now being smacked in the teeth and still saying thank you for it. After all, pressure bursts pipes, but it also builds diamonds. Want that adversity, want that pain, want to be told you’re wrong. The ability to welcome that like an old friend is going to be a superpower that is the rocket-fuel behind achieving whatever you want to in your life.
I’ve had countless times on my business journey where I’ve been ripped apart by an investor or told that my dream won’t work. I had always considered myself a strong and “stiff upper lipped” person. So, hearing this was tough. I liked to think I was the kind of person who could break my leg and still go to work after an aspirin and a bacon sandwich, but this was a wake-up call.
But it was the wake-up call I needed. After all, real change only happens when the pain of changing is less than the pain of staying the same. If we experience no pain in our life, we’ll never get anywhere.
I like to think of life on a 1-10 scale. 1 is unimaginable pain and hardship, 10 is delirious joy. Most people live their lives at 4 or 5. They don’t expose themselves to real pain, they numb their pain with lives like alcohol, smoking or social media use. As a result of that, they are stuck. I have been through horrendous things in my life and spent years on end at 1 and 2, but because of that, I now experience 9 and 10 on a regular basis.
That is a trade I would make any day. So much of our pain comes from resisting our present situation. If you can see it through a lens of being appreciative and grateful, it changes everything. Perspective will make or break your life. Adversity is the way.
So, don’t numb the pain, be aware of your behaviour patterns and habit loops which have likely be running your life for years. We have been conditioned to respond to triggers in a predictable way. For example, when we are bored, we tend to click on Facebook or YouTube. This is a reflex that we often don’t realise. You started off watching something vaguely educational and then before you know it, ended up watching a rap video about an avocado. Suddenly you can’t account for the last 5 hours and wonder why you’re not getting anywhere in life.
Most people aren’t successful in life not because of a lack of talent or skills, but an inability to get past their mental roadblocks and control their emotional state. The trouble with negative emotions, doing the back-breaking work of building a business is less appealing than Freddy Krueger giving you cataract surgery. No, we go for something gormless like watching Netflix. If you look at people that are successful in any area, I guarantee that they will have good habits in that area. If they’re in shape, they work out regularly, they eat well and they have conditioned those activities until they became habit. The same with any other area of success.
So rather than this just being a platform that gives you information, we want to give you not only that, but the mental tools and character required to execute your dream. Remember, often your talents can take you places that your character can’t keep you. So you’d better make sure that you build yourself into someone made out of granite, as only then will you be able to see your vision come to life.
“Committed to your success.”
Dr Jack Darby