From the time I was old enough to look out a car window, my dad was playfully saying "Check out that blonde, son!" which of course "delighted" my mom to no end. In fact, that might have been my first introduction to the concept of shopping. It took me a "few" more years to realize that it wasn't I that was in control of the situation, i.e. it ultimately became clear that it was I that needed to have something to offer. But by then I had been indoctrinated to the theories related to blonde, brunette, and redhead personas. (Okay, I may not have been familiar with the term personas at that time, but stick with me.)
The common understanding that I grew up with was that blondes were fun and playful, and redheads were volatile and exciting. My understanding of brunettes was largely formed by the fact that my mom was a brunette, i.e. serious and caring. (Given that this was all just from the perspective of a youngster, please cut me some slack here, okay?) I'm not sure I really had a preference back then, but I think subconsciously I was committed to figuring out how to appeal to each of those personas so that I'd know how to "package" my "offering" to appeal to their interests. I will confess to a whole lot of failed marketing attempts and product failures.
Then, one day I was introduced to a gorgeous, fun, caring, and exciting brunette that seemed like the perfect prospect (although it was clear that the brunette persona, while somewhat accurate, was extremely incomplete). Fortunately for me, the "content" that I was driving was of real interest to her, i.e. she liked my new car, and, thus, her attraction to that "content" was just enough to allow the time I needed to earn her trust. Obviously, she perceived that my "customer experience" was amazing...okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but at a minimum, the experience was good enough to keep her coming back. I will also confess that it became pretty clear that the "product" I was selling was going to need a lot of improvements if I was going to win her "business!"
Ultimately, after months of doing my best to provide an upgraded "product" and an exciting "customer experience", I convinced her—my wife of 33 years, Jill—to buy what I was selling. Over time I've come to realize that winning her was only a critical first step in the relationship, and that I was going to have to work extremely hard to keep her, including figuring out how to restore trust when I messed up. (We'll talk more about that in another post.)
The lessons here are that:
- It's important to continue to refine your understanding of the personas you want to attract, because often our initial perceptions may be completely wrong and based upon erroneous input.
- Not every potential customer is right for you, and some may, in fact, distract you from attracting the most important ones.
- It's critical to realize that the customer is in control and that her decision is based in large part upon that first (inbound) customer experience including the content that you're providing from which she can learn about you.
- There is no substitute for providing a great product or service. Effective marketing should be based upon the heartfelt conviction that what you're selling is of real value.
- The sale is only the beginning of the relationship, and constant communication, an ongoing examination of the true value of the offering, and fresh new content are all essential to keeping the ones you want.
- Maintenance of the relationship, which is rooted in trust, will at times require patience, understanding, and reconcilation.
Oh... and occasional flowers don't hurt!
Please forgive the metaphor. It was meant only as a fun thought-provoking tool.
To find out more about personas: