Given the prevalence of marketing and advertising in the everyday lives of consumers, personalization is more important than ever. Consumers have become so numb to "one for all" messaging platforms that when a brand stands out by offering custom content, consumers take note.

A recent study from The Content Council found that 90% of shoppers find custom content useful, and 61% admit they are more likely to make a purchase if a brand's marketing content is personalized. However, this concept is not necessarily a new one... Brands all over the world are using strategies to increase omnichannel personalization efforts, particularly with email marketing.

Understanding personalization

A common approach to personalize communications is to create profiles that group customers based on their demographic characteristics. That strategy is a step in the right direction, but marketers can take it even further by developing customer personas.

Personas differ from profiles in that they incorporate more customer attributes to discriminate and segregate the customers into "tribal markets." In addition to basic demographics, customer personas also include factors like emotions, lifecycles, behavioral motivators, and purchase patterns.

To build accurate consumer personas, marketers first need to look at real data about current customers and pinpoint characteristics that differentiate and segregate the base into unique and mutually exclusive audience segments. Those need to go beyond age, gender, and geography.

The statistical analysis used to create customer personas looks at patterns that help define customer segment personalities, including how often they purchase, the products they purchase, and the channels they purchase from. (Those are but a few of the variables used to define these tribal market groups.)

Marketers then should consider third-party market research. What are analysts predicting for the future of your industry? Are there changing customer values you should keep in mind?

Accompanied with a strong understanding of your business goals, both current and prospective data can help you create a solid persona for your customers.

By delving deeper into your customer base, marketers can create customer personas that help improve omnichannel marketing content in the following ways.

1. Gives customers more "human" characteristics

One of the ways personas help marketers is by humanizing customers. Too often, marketers look at customers as just a number—an anonymous Internet user that purchased certain items from the company at a specific date and time. Most companies go a bit further and associate each customer with a gender and email address but rarely are they characterizing consumers beyond those basic demographics.

But consumers are people, too. When you consider that your customers have emotions, needs, and values, you can relate to them easier. You might even better understand why they're abandoning shopping carts or purchasing from your brand only sporadically. That understanding can help inform marketing content so that it is personalized and relevant to your audience segment's needs and wants.

2. Verifies segment opportunities and quantify investments

Developing customer personas can also help you determine where the greatest opportunities lie.

A key segment of your audience may be "early adopters" or "more fashion inclined," and are more interested in a new product or new fashion trend given their predetermined purchase motivators. Those customers will need to be reached with a very different messaging strategy than those in other defined segment personas.

You'll see a greater ROI from your marketing spend if you invest in the audiences that have the most potential to take action rather than target all customers equally. And with custom personas, it's easier for marketers to pinpoint those high-potential segment groups.

3. Builds a relevant customer messaging platform

Most importantly, personas help marketers tailor messaging to meet customer needs. Customers want personalization beyond recommendations based on past purchases or other rather basic derived insights. They want to be understood.

Using customer personas, marketers can target customers with content that speaks to their needs, emotions, and motivators. You may have to vary the tone of your messages, the text-to-image ratio within emails or include content that addresses a very specific need for a display ad campaign.

For example, a brand may know that its primary audience is middle-aged men concerned about shopping convenience. So, this particular brand could send personalized messages to those customers that highlight nearby brick and mortar locations or include links that allow customers to make online purchases with just a few clicks.

* * *

For more personalized marketing content, brands need to look past basic customer profiles and build more complex personas. Personas that dive deeper into a customer's emotions and motivators can help "dimensionalize" the customer, tailor messaging platforms, and optimize media spend, leading to greater ROI and customer engagement.

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Three Ways That Personas Take Your Marketing to the Next Level

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Gary Ostrager is vice-president of Analytics and Insights of Yes Lifecycle Marketing, an Infogroup company and multichannel marketing solutions provider.

LinkedIn: Gary Ostrager