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Do you think a prospect relates and responds better to your marketing message because you've based it on a customer persona?

If you are like many marketers, you have created fictional characters—personas—with names, demographic attributes, attitudes, and behaviors to help frame and target your messages.

But is your prospect's persona what drives the way she responds to your messages? Is she buying something merely because of who she is? Are shared or similar personal and professional characteristics what cause customers to rethink their current approach and consider your "new way" to solve their problems? Unfortunately, that is far from the reality of why customers buy. Focusing your messaging on personas may, therefore, actually lead your messaging astray.

Status Quo Profiles: A New Messaging Starting Point

The biggest factors that determine whether prospects will respond to your messages are whether they believe their status quo is at risk and whether they are convinced they need to do something different. The fact is... those factors have little to do with demographics and attitudes.

The most overlooked design point for customer messaging is a "status quo profile." You needn't focus your messaging on your prospect's title, segment, or persona. Instead, you've got to make prospects realize that their current approach is so limiting that it puts their objectives or desired outcomes at risk.

To craft effective messaging, first answer the following four questions.

1. How are prospects addressing the challenges your product or service can solve today?

Even before they come across your company and solution, your prospects think they are already doing something to solve their problems and meet their business needs. So, to change their perception, you need a precise understanding of what your potential customers are currently doing to solve their problems.

Your messaging will have to take aim at dislodging an incumbent, so knowing your opponent is essential.

2. Why do prospects think their current product or service is great?

Remember, prospects live in their story—not yours. Prospects were doing something a certain way before they chose the way they are doing it today, and they assume they already have a better solution than the one they had before. Therefore, chances are you are sending messages to people who do not think they have a problem. Or, at least, they still remember the benefits they based their last decision on, and assume they are still getting that same value.

3. What issues, challenges, threats, risks, or missed opportunities have surfaced since prospects purchased their current solution or implemented their current approach?

Remember, not everyone is a prospect for your solution. Your prospects are those who have a certain "installed" approach that can cause limitations because of a changing business environment.

You need to focus on the ripest opportunities for change, so document the things that are changing in your prospect's industry, including changes in environment, competitive space, the global marketplace, or anything that the current approach may not have taken into account, or is ill-equipped to handle.

4. What oversights in your prospects' current approach will keep them from avoiding potential problems or capitalizing on new opportunities?

When you present challenges to prospects, they will first react by seeing whether their current approach or solution can be "stretched" to overcome the challenges you identify. Therefore, you will have to identify and amplify clear omissions in their current approach that will prohibit them from resolving those obstacles. Those gaps need to lead to your unique strengths or capabilities.

Creating gaps that are too wide to cross via a prospect's current solution—their status quo—is essential for crafting messages that will compel prospects to change.

* * *

By answering those four questions and using them as the basis for the messages you craft for your content marketing campaigns, you will significantly improve your ability to move prospects to consider change—and to choose you.

Compare results from this approach with the results you achieve via a persona-based approach, and you will see a significant difference in the relevance and impact of your customer conversations.

Continue reading "How Personas Can Lead Your Messaging Astray (and Four Tips for Keeping It on Track)" ... Read the full article

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image of Tim Riesterer

Tim Riesterer is chief strategy and marketing officer of Corporate Visions Inc. He is the co-author of Customer Message Management and Conversations that Win The Complex Sale,

LinkedIn: Tim Riesterer