I really don’t like the term ‘Big Data’. In my experience there are very few companies that are really using ‘Big Data’ effectively. Yes, they collect it, and sometimes they even look at it, but most of the time they don’t do much about it. It just sits there. Under utilized. A massive investment just so that the CIO and CMO can say that they have ‘Big Data’.
On the other hand collecting ‘Smart Data’ can really boost a company’s marketing effectiveness. The key to unlocking the power of your data is ‘Brutal Simplicity of Thought’. Start with simple processes and simple objectives and you’ll be surprised at how much you can achieve.
Simple Data Collection
Collect customer demographic information: basic info that includes gender, age, income level, employment, location, and education. There are a few ways to get this kind of data, depending on what resources you have access to. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn offer basic demographic data, so they’re a great place to start. A bigger budget, higher traffic, or big email list might allow you to create email surveys, online surveys, focus groups, and even conduct customer interviews. Remember, the more data you accumulate here, the more accurate your personas will be later.
You’ve done the research, now look at the data. What’s it telling you? For example, are you seeing a concentration of women in their early 30s? Men in their 40s? Perhaps they’re mostly situated in large cities—or even specific cities. Are you seeing similar (or even the same) job roles, too? What other commonalities are coming to light? Find as many trends or patterns in this data as possible and make note of them.
Notice what’s happening? Those data points are beginning to resemble something that may kind-of, sort-of look like a real person. With enough good demographic data you should have anywhere from two to five persona profiles that fall into specific gender and age ranges. Organize them into primary, secondary, and tertiary profiles, going from most common characteristics to least.
Now you transform these commonalities into your audience personas. Give each of your personas names. Give them job titles. Give them alma maters. Give them marital statuses. Give them career histories. Give them a place to live. Provide each persona with the kind of identifying information you might glean from someone during a short conversation in line for coffee or at a bus stop.
Whether they’re personal or professional, your audience has goals and aspirations. As such, so should your personas. So, what motivates them? What’s the end game? It could be home ownership. It might be warmer feet in the winter. Look at your product or service and identify which goals your product or service helps your personas achieve.
Similar to uncovering your personas’ goals, you must also know each of their pain points. Maybe it’s a box that’s too heavy to lift. Or maybe it’s an unintuitive online banking experience. What’s holding them back from success? What barriers do they face in reaching their goals that your product or service helps overcome?
Most marketers stop there. Details are in check. Goals and pain points are uncovered. What else is there to know? A lot. Here are a few other questions you can ask to give your personas even more depth: Where do they get their hair cut? Cats or dogs? What kind of car do they drive? What kind of car do they want to drive? How many pairs of shoes do they own? Pizza or tacos? What sports do they play? What do they care about outside of work? iOS or Android? The list is endless.
These questions may seem arbitrary or even downright silly. In some cases they are. But so are human beings. The sum of these questions begins to reveal who your personas really are. It makes them relatable. It makes them real. And it makes them uniquely yours.
A good persona isn’t just list of details or traits that you’re trying to appeal to—it’s a picture that you’re painting of your customer—of who they are and who they want to be. It will affect and inform the way you think about and interact with your audience, helping you create a meaningful bond between them and your brand. It will help not only guide your social media content strategy, but your entire marketing strategy. It will be at the center of every single customer-facing decision you make. And it will play a huge role in driving your business forward.
According to Gary King of Harvard University ‘Big Data is not about the data’. I agree completely, it is about the information and insight you develop, and what you do with it.
Doug Baxter is CEO of Cut to the Content, a company that produces high quality content for brands, and the agencies that serve them.