Don’t do it.
When I launched Hire Me Aspen, I thought I had a pretty good handle on who my target audience was.
After all, I was targeting someone just like me.
The idea of my website arose out of a genuine concern about the economy and living in a resort town: “What would I do if I lost my work-from-anywhere corporate job and needed to freelance on the side to make extra money while I launched my business?”
Plus, there’s a frequently heard saying circulating around resort towns that goes something like: “When you live in a resort town, you either own three homes or work three jobs.”
So I knew there was a real possibility of my having to work side gigs to make it happen and stay where I loved. And I knew this old adage proved my theory that there would be a definite need for my service.
(Mistake #1: Don’t base your market research on hypothetical sayings).
I was qualifed for a variety of side jobs, but getting a babysitter gig or something casual like that when you’re not 15 years old could prove challenging for a middle-aged corporate executive-turned-resort-entrepreneur.
I certainly had side-job skills, but how would I get the word out that I wanted to earn some extra money? There wasn’t an efficient way for me to market my multitude of services (ie. writing, dog walking, personal assistant, etc.).
So with “me” in mind, I created Hire Me Aspen.
(Mistake #2: Thinking everyone thinks just like you do.)
Do Your Homework
It’s easy to jump right in, believing that there will be a hungry audience for your outstanding services.
You trick yourself into believing, “Hey, I’m a fairly normal person (in the scheme of things). I’ve discovered a need that wasn’t being met. I’m extraordinarily intelligent. I’ve got what it takes. I’m going for it.”
And with those misguided thoughts, you’re off and running.
Well, I’m here to tell you to slow your roll. First things first. You have to do some homework to get it right.
Start With Personas
So, what exactly is a persona? The following description is paraphrased from wikipedia.
In marketing and user-centered design, personas are fictional characters created to represent the different user types within a targeted demographic, attitude and/or behavior set that might use your website, brand or product in a similar way.
Personas are useful in considering the goals, desires, and limitations of your users and help guide decisions about your products and services.
A user persona is a representation of the goals and behavior of a real group of customers. In most cases, personas are synthesized from data collected from interviews with users. They are captured in 1–2 page descriptions that include behavior patterns, goals, skills, attitudes, and environment, with a few fictional personal details to make the persona a realistic character.
For each product, more than one persona is usually created, but one persona should always be the primary focus for marketing and design.
Check out this article which also includes an example of a persona: How to Use the Power of Personas to Connect with Your Target Audiences.
Personas help you have clear and succinct understanding of who your target market is. Personas help you decide which products, services and promotional materials you should be producing. Personas help you develop meaningful and relevant content that drives sales. Personas help you determine what content your audience would likely search for, subscribe to and share (in social media).
It’s also a good idea to market to someone’s potential (or who they want to be) vs. who they are right now. When Marlboro launched their Marlboro Man marketing campaign, they were targeting cowboy wannabes. The average Marlboro customer looked nothing like the man in the ads.
Having a deeper understanding of who that person is can be extremely helpful when formulating your business strategy.
Tell a story.
Are you a good storyteller? If not, please learn. Being able to articulate a user narrative is an important part of the business planning process.
I love listening to Stanford e-Corner podcasts whenever I can because I always learn something new about running my business. Just the other day, I listened to Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter and Square, share his thoughts on the power of user narratives in one of those podcasts.
“Your user narrative should read like a play,” says Jack.
You have to get into the mind of your customer to write your narrative. They don’t have to be written in stone. They just have to be written. Consider them a work in progress which will continue to evolve and change over time as your company evolves and changes over time.
Here is another example of a narrative which demonstrates the detail and structure needed for it to be a thorough exercise. It’s important to note what a narrative is not:
“I went to the store. I got some milk. I checked out and went home.”
In this brief example, there is a character and setting, but there is no conflict. The story seems to not go anywhere.
In other words, when composing your user narratives for your business, be sure to ask yourself about the challenges your customers face and how your products and services solve those challenges.
Bottom Line? Taking the time to write out (vs. think out) your user narratives is critical for reaching a truly targeted audience. Otherwise, you’ll just be throwing darts with a blindfold on where your marketing efforts are concerned.
Live and Learn.
I’d love to hear your perspective!
Have you taken the time to write out your personas or user narratives? Or, are you a “wing it” kind of business owner?
Please share your comments below.
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