Are you looking for a messaging silver bullet that you can deliver a clear message to the perfect prospect who will resonate, increase engagement, and boost your bottom line? I hate to tell you this, but it does not exist. That is because every single one of your customers is unique, with individual personalities and preferences. And despite most marketers’ best efforts to categorize consumer preferences based on common demographics, most consumers approach the internet like they do in all other areas of life—with intrinsic personality traits and motivations that influence how they’ll interact online.

Profiles vs. Personas

Wouldn’t it be easier if you can organize your target audiences based on their online personalities, so you know how to adjust your marketing message based on a defined persona? Instead of relying on categories like “elderly consumers” or “female consumers,” isn’t it time to take a step back and really understand your consumers’ personalities? That is the difference between a customer profile and a buyer persona. A customer profile is a wide angel lens that includes decision maker title, industry, and company size. While this type of information is a good start, it does not focus on what’s important to your buyers. A customer profile is best used as a foundational base from which to begin persona development and refinement. A persona takes a segment of your company’s aggregate customer profile and fleshes it out with detailed information that represents real prospects in specific circumstances.

Are You Really Adding Value?

Trying to serve too wide an audience means you really serve no one well enough to add value. It’s important for you to deeply understand what your prospects are interested in, the obstacles they’re facing, and the outcomes they need. This is how you will gain the competitive edge over other messages hitting your prospects inbox or that show up in search results. Personas integrate behavioral and psychographic insights with basic demographic data and allow you to deliver communications that consistently deliver recognizable value.

How Good of a Job are You Doing?

Research shows that there is a huge difference in perceived engagement between companies and their customers. According to the CMO Council, 56% of companies believe they are customer-centric, but only 12 percent of their customers agree. When asked whether companies are getting better at understanding and responding to their customers needs, nearly 45 percent of customers answered “No” or “Not Sure”. Given the change in the customer buying process and their clear desire to avoid contact with a sales person until the later stages of the buying journey, gaining a customer-centric perspective is a must in order to increase engagement.

Think Niche Market

When developing your companies’ personas you need to think “niche” not “mass numbers”. As any marketer can tell you, segmentation is key to the success to increasing engagement. And there is nothing more segmented than niche marketing. By their very nature, niches prevent you from trying to push the boundaries of a persona into a diluted state. A good persona should be focused on creating customer-centric connections. Your content and messaging will have increased relevance because they’re about people like them – not everyone Else. If you want to expand your reach, choose another niche, and create another persona for it.

Multi Channel Approach

One thing you will find is that your personas do not buy in channels. What I mean by that is that they do not only spend time on one communication platform. There’s very little cannibalization that occurs. They are not all just on email, Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. In reality they may spend different amounts of time on each. They may also change which platform they use as they go through their buying journey. Email remains the foundational channel for commercial communication, but buyers are also using Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to conduct research, get peer reviews and interact with companies.

As marketers, we often think about our target audience in terms of demographic groups. And while clear demographic trends are evident in personas, personas are so much more than just that. No matter how you interpret demographic data, consumers are diverse in how they use the internet and how they want to engage with companies online as they go through their buying process. That’s why understanding your consumers’ personas doesn’t lead to just one channel or medium to engage with them. The key to success is developing detailed personas that engage your prospect on the channels they choose (such as email, Facebook, Twitter, and other online tools). Today’s smart companies understand that they need to identify their target niche audience, study their motivations and tie the channels together. Instead of looking for a silver bullet that will apply to all consumers, you must develop strategies to engage with your customers to meet—and exceed—their expectations.