In a world of 6 Billion people, who do you want to find and how will they find you?
This is not a trick question. Instead, it is part of a multi-layered challenge which organizations ask themselves daily - spending billions of dollars trying to unlock the right answer to help them find customers. Companies who answer this question successfully build new brands, move markets, change behavior - think Spotify, Alibaba, Booking.com, Tesla. We quickly forget the companies who fail - or read about them in case studies with the title "What went wrong...".
Of course, we are not just talking about "finding" future customers - this includes
- targeting potential markets;
- identifying needs, pains and wants;
- creating new opportunities;
- focusing your top potential buyers;
- building a unique, personalized story for prospects;
- giving them a compelling reason to buy;
- delighting new customers with your products and services;
- and motivating them to be your best champions.
In working with global organizations over the years, we have found that customer engagement strategies typically fail for one or more of the following reasons:
- Failure to align and evolve your products and solutions with your customer needs
- Not following a structured, dynamic and inclusive process to develop, communicate and evolve your target customer profiles (aka customer or buyer personas)
- Lack of alignment and collaboration across the organization about how your products, services and solutions can solve customer issues, meet their needs and help them realize new opportunities
- Lack of accurate, real-time data about target personas - and most importantly, how you can leverage that data to develop meaningful engagements with prospects and customers
The above issues can be summarized as follows: not understanding enough about your prospects and customers and not working with dynamic, real-time and customer-focused processes.
If you recognize one or more of the issues above within your own organization, then it might be time to rethink one or more of your customer engagement processes - and the first step to doing so is to create and share dynamic, Flywheel Customer Personas.
What is a Flywheel Customer Persona?
A flywheel customer persona is a visualization of your ideal customer(s) based on sets of criteria, goals and behaviors aligned with a process and playbook which is dynamically developed, communicated and referenced across the entire customer journey - from strategy and market development to marketing and sales to customer engagement and field service (and any other client-facing function). HubSpot calls this the flywheel approach.
If you are already using personas, you might ask how is a flywheel-centric persona process different than what I am doing today? It's all about people, process and technology - the process of developing customer or buyer personas has historically been an exercise taken within a team or across several functional teams. But the fail is that persona creation is often silo'd within a small group and is not widely shared with client-facing colleagues (e.g. market research and innovation teams not quickly sharing new or updated personas with customer or field service teams. If personas aren't dynamic, not frequently updated and fail to quickly adapt to market trends or changes, then your organization is likely missing out on valuable opportunities to attract new visitors, respond to prospects' needs or upsell / cross-sell products and services to existing customers.
And the fail isn't a fault from lack of interest or engagement - your teams would love to have real-time, actionable information about your target customer profiles and a playbook which helps them through various engagement scenarios. The fail is almost always because they lack a structured, supported processes and a collaboration tool to easily share persona-centric content across client-facing teams, to dynamically update profiles to leverage real-time data and to take high-impact actions when challenges occur and opportunities arise.
So, how can you kick-start your flywheel persona process?
- Re-examine your current processes to identify common touch-points and engagement scenarios so your teams can share and update information about your target customer profiles.
- Review and map your software tools and platforms to your process. We like HubSpot's engagement platform for Marketing, Sales and Service, which can be used independently for all of your customer engagement processes or can integrate into your current CRM (e.g. Salesforce), call center and collaboration platforms
- Create, update, and extend your current personas to capture, consolidate and share information for the entire customer journey. To get started, download our free persona poster and share with your teams to get everyone on the same page .
- Use a unified playbook to help client-facing employees recognize and respond in various scenarios and - equally important - to track, measure and share results.
Where do personas add value for your organization?
- Customer-facing employees - including sales, customer and field service teams - need to know the behaviors and attributes of your top personas (i.e. client profiles) to help them identify high-value opportunities and enhance customer relationships.
- Innovation, marketing, product development teams need real-time, accurate data about potential clients' buying behaviors, needs and desires to develop high-value product pipelines, create powerful campaigns and launch products and services.
- Executive and business development use persona-centric strategies to understand business trends, analyze performance and explore new opportunities for the organization.