The Making of a (Business) Love Story: Part 1 — Crafting Personas

It’s a presenter’s nightmare.

You spent hours preparing a speech that you hope will make a huge impact for your business. And as you give the talk, you feel like you’re in the zone, covering all your points flawlessly.

But when it comes time for Q&A . . .

Crickets. No questions. Several people glancing at their watches or staring at their smartphones, clearly ready to move on.

SO, WHY NO ENGAGEMENT?

Usually when an audience loses interest, it’s because you get too focused — on you. And that can be a common trap for all of us as entrepreneurs: We fall so in love with our own ideas (or product or company) that we forget how vital it is for us to genuinely love our audience — whether we’re speaking to a large crowd for a keynote, giving a product demonstration to a customer, or presenting a business idea to investors.

The bottom line: We fail to engage our audience when we want so badly for them to love us. But they’ll listen to us, if they first feel our love toward them.

THE POWER OF LOVE

The key to open people’s hearts (and ultimately change their minds) is love.

You can make the most logical argument as to why your product (or service, presentation, written content ) should be compelling for an audience, but if you fail to connect with those people on a deep emotional level, you won’t likely move them to take action.

O.G. Mandino in The Greatest Salesman in the World put it best when he wrote: “Muscle can split a shield and even destroy life but only the unseen power of love can open the hearts of men, and until I master this art, I will remain no more than a peddler in the market place. I will make love my greatest weapon and none on whom I call can defend against its force.”

THINK (AND FEEL) LIKE AN ACTOR

But as an entrepreneur and communicator, how do you apply this power? What does love look like as it relates to communicating to an audience of conference attendees or customers?

The starting point is to immerse yourself into their world, to feel the angst they experience, and envision their aspirations.

It’s much like the process an actor goes through to get into character, so they can make their portrayal as realistic and riveting as possible. When you can think your audience’s thoughts and feel their emotions, the right words and expressions cannot help but bubble up from deep within you — and make an indelible impression on the people you’re trying to reach.

So, how can you tap into that Lovin’ Feeling before you give your next presentation, write your next piece of content, or provide your next one-on-one product demo?

Develop your audience persona.

THE PERSONA FRAMEWORK

The persona is a composite profile of your target audience designed to help you focus your story in a way that addresses the hot-button concerns and aspirations of your market, as if you were speaking to one person. It’s a powerful exercise. Some marketers and communicators go as far as to name their persona — Jessica, James, Samantha — with a picture to help them visualize a face with the profile.

My personas aren’t that elaborate. But I do dig deep into the psyche of my audience by brainstorming and researching answers to these 7 questions:

1. WHAT MARKET SEGMENT AM I TARGETING?

In a B2B environment, think in terms of industry sector, like technology, healthcare, transportation, field service.

2. WHAT ARE THE JOB TITLES OF THE PEOPLE I’M TRYING TO REACH?

CEO, CFO, CIO, VP of Sales, IT Director? Your answer here will determine your answers for questions 3 through 7.

3. WHAT ARE THIS PERSON’S CORE JOB RESPONSIBILITIES?

Depending on the job title, these might be “make purchase decisions on [product/ service],” “ensure equipment uptime,” “manage teams,” etc.)

4. WHAT ARE THIS PERSON’S MOST PRESSING PAIN POINTS?

I think of it like this: If I don’t intervene by sharing this content [about whatever topic I’m going address], what fears, worries, frustrations must my audience continue to endure? (Making an expensive mistake, dealing with complaints, looking stupid, etc.)

5. WHAT ARE THIS PERSON’S ASPIRATIONS?

For example: “Look smart,” “get promoted,” “bolster job security,” etc.

6. HOW CAN OUR CONTENT (OR PRODUCT OR SERVICE) BOTH ALLEVIATE OUR AUDIENCE’S GREATEST PAINS AND EMPOWER THEM TO FULFILL THEIR HIGHEST ASPIRATIONS?

The principle is this: Tap into your audience’s pain first, so they feel the need for your message. And then point them toward their aspirations, while positioning your content [or product or service] as the bridge to help them get there.

7. WHAT CONTRIBUTION WOULD I BE MAKING TO THE PLANET BY SHARING THIS STORY WITH OUR AUDIENCE?

This is perhaps the most important question for me because the answer gives me greater clarity of purpose for why I’m telling the story in the first place.

Notice that these questions are designed for reaching a business-to-business audience, since that’s where I do the bulk of my work. If you’re gearing your story toward a consumer audience, simply modify the first few questions to reflect which market segment you’re going after and what you imagine their responsibilities, fears, and aspirations to be.

EXAMPLE PERSONA

After I’ve brainstormed answers to the 7 questions, I put together a persona in the following format. (This is what a persona might look like if I were writing copy to connect with fleet managers — people who make purchase decisions on vehicles, heavy equipment, and technology.)

MARKET SEGMENT/ CUSTOMER TITLE:

Transportation/ fleet manager

RESPONSIBILITIES:

Acquire, maintain, and manage multiple vehicles across an organization with the goal of achieving the lowest possible equipment acquisition and operational costs, while securing the highest possible resale values.

PAIN POINTS:

Fleet managers are under increasing pressure to do more with less and must find creative ways to reduce costs. Yet, they are usually reluctant to try something new (even with the promise of lower cost and better performance) because of fear of making a mistake that could cost them their jobs. A specification error on a couple vehicles is one thing; a mistake across 100+ vehicles could be catastrophic for a fleet manager’s career.

ASPIRATIONS:

Reduce costs. Make wise purchase and asset management decisions that make them look smart to senior management. Get promoted — and a raise.

COMMUNICATION STRATEGY:

Communicate how [product] expands options for fleet managers to [key product feature] — at substantially lower cost and risk than [status quo solution]. [Product] also reduces downtime because it can be quickly and easily removed and replaced, getting workers back to the job sooner.

THE BOTTOM LINE

The starting point to get any audience to fall in love with your business story is to first prove your love toward them by investing your time and energy to think their thoughts and feel their pain. Then — and only then — will you be able to tell a story that captures their hearts, changes their minds, and motivates them to act.

Author: Sean M. Lyden is CEO of Lyden Communications LLC, a content strategy consulting firm that helps B2B publishers and brands grow their audiences (and sales). Follow Sean on Twitter @seanmlyden.

This article originally published on Strategy+Storytelling. To receive the latest tips to help you expand your influence — and your business — subscribe here.

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