You’ll often hear advice on developing an online persona to help market yourself, but it’s also a powerful tool if you’re running a small business.
Small businesses must be attentive to which customers they’re speaking to. Larger corporations have many kinds of customers they can market to, but small businesses have their own specialties—making it easier to know who to focus on.
The online persona represents the ideal customer—the focal point of your marketing strategies. While many businesses already know this, only a handful of them succeed in implementing it.
Creating an online persona requires you to understand and empathize with your customers. Revolving your strategies around this persona can be the key to your small business’s success.
An online persona doesn’t speak like a manual.
Imagine searching for beauty salons in the area. You go online and scan website after website, Facebook advertisement after Facebook advertisement, all offering the services you need within your budget. Eventually, you settle on a salon further away from home, even though it has similar prices to the salon down the street.
How do you make your decision?
The two websites you read contained the same information, but whereas one recited their services like a medical brochure, the other spoke to you as though they wanted the same services that you want. When you research a service, you don’t want to read business jargon. You want an explanation, and the most effective explanations are ones anyone can understand. Technical details fly over the heads of customers because they look for the end result, not the process.
Tailor your online persona to speak in layman’s terms. Not even CEOs always want to read jargon when the best explanations are the simplest.
An online persona reflects your customers’ behaviors.
Your online persona is a customer who already wants your product or service and has the means to purchase it. Think about what each target audience needs mean for their behaviors. A pair of twenty-somethings in downtown New York and an elderly couple in rural Texas will not shop at the same chain of clothing stores. Even though both of those businesses sell clothing, their target audience depends on where their customers are, how old they are, how they think, and so on. Start with the end. What do you want out of your customers, and what do your customers want out of you?
This requires imagination based on how people operate and what your business provides. Larger companies have more trouble focusing an online persona, as they can have multiple types of customers, but small businesses can narrow it down for simplicity: a Mexican restaurant, a beauty salon, a consultation service, and so on. Their clientele all have the same needs, so building an online persona is easier. It’s also more critical, because small businesses tend to depend on customer word of mouth. For small businesses, reviews spread fast. Don’t give a false impression because you didn’t understand your customer.
An online persona reflects why a customer wants to purchase your product, and why you’re providing it.
The customers you want to attract should share your business’s worldview. Companies like Apple are successful precisely because they focus on the why, not the what. They know why their customers want their products—in this case, spiffy computers—they speak to their customers as though their clientele is more than just a potential profit.
A personal touch towards customers is one advantage small businesses have over corporations. It’s easier to understand your customers’ wants because your customer base is relatively more limited. That makes it easier to empathize with why your customers need your product. You can’t think only in terms of business. That means ignoring the customer for your own goals, even though it’s the customer who determines whether the business succeeds.
An online persona must be genuine.
Finally, true understanding of your customers can’t be faked. Most customers are sharp enough to see through an act, so if you don’t have the right passion and empathy for what you’re doing, it’ll be made apparent soon enough.
About the Author
Aimee Edmonds is a copywriter for Promotion LA, a digital marketing agency that specializes in online brand development, website design and development, content, social media marketing, PR, and SEO.