Before your company does marketing of any sort, you have to know who you’re selling to. Defining that target is not enough, though. If your marketing is going to hit the mark, you have to understand who your target audience is, how they make buying decisions and what their pain points are.

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Below are 4 steps to building rock-solid client personas that will help you reach the people you’re marketing to.

Step 1 – Define which companies are your most successful customers.

Get your entire team together in a conference room and ask which projects they think were the most successful. I’m not talking about your management team here, I mean the team members that did the work on the engagement. Write those on a whiteboard, but leave enough space in between client names to write some more information later.

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Step 2 – Understand what made each customer great.

After you have a good list of clients on your whiteboard, ask the team to specify what made those projects so rewarding to them. List those characteristics on the whiteboard below the client’s company name. Depending on your company size, you may have several team members that worked directly with the client. Perhaps some disagree with what’s been said, so be sure to encourage and note and disagreements as well.

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Step 3 – Survey your most successful clients.

After you’ve done your internal research, prepare a list of questions to ask your most successful clients. They goal here is to find out several pieces of key information from a decision maker that will help you craft your marketing message going forward. Surveying clients is best done face-to-face so you can read non-verbals and ask follow-up questions. Strongly encourage them to be completely honest in their answers.

Ask questions like the following:

  • Who were some other companies that you considered getting these services from?
  • What did our company offer that competing companies could not?
  • When did you realize that you needed help with [your specific service here]?
  • Were there any objections internally that others had before hiring us to [your specific service here]?
  • Was there any aspect of working with a vendor that made you nervous?
  • What factors ultimately led to your company working with us?

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Step 4 – Prepare the personas

Using the information you gathered from your interview with your most successful clients, you might find that two or more provided the same answers to your questions. Combine these and write 2-3 paragraphs summarizing what you heard in your interview.

Now, as an introductory paragraph, describe the decision maker that you spoke with. What job function are are they in? Did the client make buying decisions as a committee or was there a single decision maker? What is their company size (employees and revenue)?You may have several of these personas depending on if your company specializes in serving a certain industry or if your company offers a wide array of products/services.

Finally, put a client’s photo with each description and name it.

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After you’ve been using your client personas for several months, you’ll want to revisit them and determine if they still hold true. You may need to refine them over time as your business grows and adapts to the needs of the market you’re serving.

Most importantly, your marketing message -- from your website to your blog, to your paid search ads to your email marketing -- should be designed and written to meet the needs of the personas you have established.

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