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“Customer personas” are a handy tool that marketers create when seeking to understand who their buyers are. By creating profiles of a customer type, companies can segment messages, design styles, and tailor their strategy to the various customer personalities.

Now, in case you haven’t noticed, we’re living in an era of Big Data. We have so much data that we’re absolutely inundated with numbers, charts, and tools such as data visualization that are supposed to help us grasp the mounds of statistics we have about our customers.

So creating customer personas should be a snap, right? Just sort through the stacks of numbers, find patterns, and bam. Customer personas. Marketing plan: Complete.

Well, that’s one way to create customer personas …

We’re only going to partially burst your bubble here. Yes, quantitative data is an awesome tool to help you create customer personas, but it only gives you part of the story. See, the point of creating customer personas is that you’re trying to really truly understand customer behavior. When people fill out a survey, or when you collect data based on what they’ve clicked on, this does indeed give you patterns, but it doesn’t actually tell you “why” or “how” or, most importantly, “what’s missing.” So if you create your customer personas based solely on these fabulous statistics, you may be missing out on a chunk of the pie that you could otherwise capture with some real-world intel from actual customers.

Enter … you guessed it: Qualitative data

So here at InterQ, we’re all about that “intel from actual customers” part of the story. We conduct qualitative research, which involves in-depth interviews with real customers and prospects. We ask and ask and ask. And talk and talk and talk. We probe and seek to understand these “personas” that turn out to be reflections of actual people. We ask stuff like, “Why do you buy from this company?” “What attracts you to a brand?” “What messages do you pay attention to?” “Tell us about a buying experience that was memorable.”

And this is just scratching the surface. We understand that people don’t always know why they behave the way that they do, so then we have some real fun and do creative exercises, using projective techniques such as collages and role-playing exercises. We may even throw in some ethnographic research. All of this helps us really name and identify customer preferences, wishes, turn-offs, and turn-ons. We learn about customer motivations and figure out how to segment customer types based on the different personalities we encounter through qualitative research.

It’s pretty rad, really, and often completely surprising what we learn. Sometimes we turn all of the statistics upside down and end up building customer personas that are completely different from what a company had built from their data alone.

But we still love data

Our customer persona-building approach doesn’t at all neglect the data part. See, we love numbers too, so we use quantitative data to supplement the picture we’re building. The numbers and all of those lovely statistics give us large-scale patterns that we can tie into our qualitative research. Married together, we end up with segmented customer persona profiles that reflect real and true customers that you will want to target, uniquely – based on their profiles – with your messaging and branding.

Once you can segment out your different customer personas, you’ll be able to create website copy, product branding, and even social media messaging based on the different persona types. People will respond in-kind because you’ll be speaking to them and not just some homogenous group, or, worse, a really inaccurate stereotype of who they are.

Let’s figure out those customer personas, shall we? Give us a holler, and we’ll assemble a plan for you. We are a top San Francisco market research company, and we love working on customer personas >