A situation analysis can reveal whether a company’s relationship with customers is a strength to be exploited or a weakness that needs to be addressed. In many cases it’s a bit of both. For instance, a company might have loyal customers in one demographic but fail to hold the attention of customers in another demographic.
The question, then, is how do companies evaluate the quality of their customer relationships, and what approaches do they use to develop and maintain strong customer relationships? We will explore the answers to these questions in greater depth throughout this course. For now, we’ll touch on an approach that companies use to incorporate their customers in strategic planning and some of the tools they use to connect with them.
The basis for a strong relationship is getting to know and understand someone well enough to form a connection. The same is true for company relationships with customers. The trouble is that companies rarely have a chance to personally connect with individual customers—much less with all of their target customers.
Marketers use something called “buyer personas” to get a more accurate picture of the customers they’re trying to connect with and also to help them think of customers as real people. Buyer personas are fictional, generalized representations of a company’s ideal, or typical, customer. They help the marketer understand current and potential customers better. As a marketer, knowing whom you’re trying to reach and attract makes it easier to tailor your content, messages, product development, and services to the specific needs, behaviors, and concerns of different groups. For example, instead of sending the same email message to all potential customers, marketers will create a unique message for different buyer personas that aligns better with their personal interests and values.
Typically, a buyer persona will have a name and a story, as in Figure 1, above. The story will include information about how the persona spends her time and details about her interests, her concerns or fears, and her goals. Often, the write-up will explain what the persona wants from the company and its products to help marketers to use the information consistently. Each of these details helps the marketer focus on developing relationships with real people, and that results in a more personalized marketing plan.
The strongest buyer personas are based on market research—both the information that is broadly available and information the company gathers through surveys, interviews, and observations of customer behavior.