How to Create Customer Personas for Real Estate Marketing
By Sandra Manzanares
About Inbound Marketing
It feels like magic when a business and customer connect on a mutually beneficial goal. What separates marketing magicians from novices is the ability to make this happen — connecting your products and services with the right customer at the right time. The best way target your real estate marketing to the right leads is to establish customer personas.
What’s a persona?
A persona is a fictional person you invent to represent a group of customers who all share common traits. This allows you to group your customers into buckets (sometimes called “segments”), each represented by a persona. For example, if many of your customers are single women in their thirties, you might create a persona who represents this group, and call her “Sally Single.”
So personas are really just groups of customers — past, current, and potential, and they should be at the heart and center of the marketing and content you produce. Why? These are the people on the other end of your communication, and knowing who you’re speaking to ensures you’re saying the right things to the right people.
Why Developing Customer Personas Is Important
Personas help you keep track of how you frame and target your marketing and communications:
- For targeting: Personas help you identify the people who will benefit most from your services, and who are most apt to buy.
- For pitching: Personas help you identify the goals and problems of each of these “best buyers” so you can figure out where and how to pitch your services. They allow you to produce relevant and attractive content that meets their needs and lifestyle.
- For creating focus: Personas allow you to focus on a core group of likely buyers, rather than trying to please everyone. You will be able to nurture folks who have a higher propensity to convert.
- For lead nurturing: Personas allow you to segment marketing communications so you can strategically devote effort, time, and money to leads based on where they are in the sales cycle.
How to Create Customer Personas
The goal is to create a few core personas that represent the groups you want to target. Below we’ve outlined some ways you can define and narrow your personas:
STEP 1: Source information for your persona creation.
The easiest way to start developing personas is to review the customers with whom you’ve had past successes. Pull out a random sampling of customers, or choose your last 5 to 10 customers. But, make sure to pull a mix of current customers, closed customers, and leads who made it through various stages of the sales process, even if they didn’t close a transaction. It’s also important that these are customers with whom you have a good relationship. You may need to contact them for information (see Step 2 below) so pick folks who would willingly give you honest feedback.
Exercise: Choose between five and ten customers for your sample customer base.
STEP 2: Give each ‘persona’ a personality.
Next, take the sample customers you’ve chosen and funnel them into three to five core customer personas. Why so few? You should really focus on a few personas you can really sell to, rather than trying to please everyone. (If you’re actually servicing more than five general types of customers, you’re probably also having trouble being successful with each of them.) Really hone in on what makes these groups distinct from one another, and that will help determine the segments. The key is to start broad and generalize, a lot.
You’ll want to fill out your personas with greater detail. For each type of customer, define the following:
Name. How would you describe this customer in one, all-encompassing word? Many use an adjective that describes their lead, like “Relocating Randy.”
Face. Sometimes envisioning what a persona looks like helps to humanize the experience. This is where a little Google image search or searching for stock photography can help. Pick a photo that reminds you of the persona you’re defining. (Just keep reminding yourself this exercise is not weird.)
Demographics. Remember that you’re dealing here with only high-level generalizations. There will be time while crafting your content strategy that you’ll have an opportunity to dive into the complex identities of each subcategory of a persona, but for now, just stick to basic characteristics. Where are they from, how much do they generally spend, how large are their families, and how much home-owning experience do they have?
Story. Here, go beyond demographics by focusing on qualities: What does this customer’s day-to-day schedule look like? What are each’s short-term and long-term goals? What do they read? What are their general lifestyle preferences?
This is where you may need to do some outreach. If you don’t know enough about your customers to create a comprehensive persona, give them a call or send an email.
Exercise: Generate three to five customer personas with names, faces, demographics, and story.
STEP 3: Define their needs and goals.
Often, with what we say and what communications and content we produce, we start from a place of expertise and write from our own perspectives. But what makes strong content is understanding and connecting with a customer’s goals and objectives.
Think about the things your customers want and enjoy. Is this persona hoping to make a major lifestyle change by moving into your high-value region, or are they hoping for a small-town feel and lots of space? Are they looking for a home they can grow with or one that will act as a starter? How can they get the best return on their property, or how can they increase the value of their property in the least amount of time? Considering personas’ needs first allows you to put them at the forefront of your marketing.
Exercise: For each persona you’ve created, write four of their top needs or goals.
STEP 4: Identify their problems and challenges.
Real estate customers are great because they’re often very vocal about what they don’t like. They’re probably most willing to communicate their dissatisfaction with their current situations or what their deal-breakers are for their future property. This is great news for you: It gives you a preview of their problems and challenges ahead of time.
Brainstorm what these issues are with questions like these: What about their previous experience do they want to change? What are they hoping to avoid? What are they asking for specifically — are these preferences or non-negotiables? What are some negative things this customer typically says?
Exercise: For each persona, write down their top four problems.
STEP 5: Generate marketing content for your personas.
Let’s regroup: You know what your personas look like and sound like, what they care about, and what they dislike. Now that you have a sense of who you’ll be engaging with, it’s time to brainstorm what you’ll actually offer your personas.
Whether you’re creating articles, ebooks, advertising copy, email newsletters, website copy, calls to action, or social media posts, always consider how it fills a persona’s needs. And for every piece of marketing you generate, you must consider how it both delivers on goals and solves problems. If it doesn’t do both, then it’s not good enough for your targeted persona.
Use the following checklist to determine whether your marketing copy or content is ready for delivery to your persona:
Does it address the persona’s goals and problems?
Remember that your marketing should offer solutions that are actionable and tangible. If you’re hoping folks will indulge in content, click your ad, or even make a purchase quickly, it’s important your marketing communicates that you’re able to deliver on or solve the things that keep them up at night.
Those persona goals that you (or they) articulated early on are the things that drive your personas most. The smartest thing you can do in marketing yourself is to align your marketing with these needs and goals. If it doesn’t say what they’re hoping to find, it certainly won’t incite them to click, engage, or believe.
Then, proactively draft solutions to your personas’ problems and approach your marketing to lead with those. Customers will see that you are attentive to their issues and that you also have the best means to solve them.
From here, develop pitches (also considered value propositions) for each persona. This is how you will articulate solutions to your customer. The best pitches articulate a valuable resolve for both goals and problems, and can be as short as one-line phrases that set you apart as a professional. All content and ad copy that you create should derive from this.
Is it customized for the persona?
Your customers have very full lives outside of searching for or selling properties. How do they already enjoy spending their time and consuming content? If you aren’t quite sure, it’s time to make an educated guess or ask them directly. Then, meet them where they are. This may inspire you to redistribute where you spend your time and money as you notice patterns: Is your customer base interacting with you mainly on Facebook but you’ve put your time into Twitter? Rethink and strategize accordingly.
Also, the voice, tone, and language you use will be dictated by how your personas search and how they respond to content, while the style, format, and distribution times will be dependent upon a persona’s typical schedule and daily habits. Make sure that your language is relatable and your connecting at optimal times and spaces.
Does it provide value that pushes the persona forward?
Statistics show that effective marketing helps you generate leads and build trust with your leads so you can convert them efficiently. As leads travel through sales cycles, deliver content and communications particular to their sales stage and needs. This enriches your relationship with your customers, and ultimately makes the nurturing and sales processes easier. Add statistics and research to back up your perspective.
Is it appealing?
Determining appeal is a bit subjective, sure, but ultimately if it’s not somehow useful or entertaining (ideally it should be both), your marketing will come off as stale. Use your authentic voice, add in some great personal details, do a little creative work to make visuals shine, and add compelling marketing statistics. Oh, and don’t forget to pack the title with enticing and relevant language.
Is the persona current?
As your goals change, the market changes, or as you measure the return on your marketing efforts, you’ll have to return to your personas and update accordingly. Revisit your personas often to make critical updates.
Once you have a handle on your personas, you’ll then be able to start using Google Analytics to consider how leads are finding you. Use this information to go back to your personas and see if they still fit, or if you need to make changes in any area.
Published on July 3, 2014
Written by Sandra Manzanares
Writer, editor, and marketing manager with a passion for helping brands enhance their content marketing strategy. I'm a firm believer that creative storytelling is an essential part of the way we communicate. Constantly striving to fill my head with as much creative and analytical information as possible.