Marketing has become a data-driven enterprise, but marketing experts know that the solution isn’t just more data – it’s more accessible, usable data. That’s where big data processing systems come in. With a fully functional marketing automation system, busy executives no longer have to plow through marketing studies, survey information, brand reports, and other research to put together a coherent picture of their customers. The software does it for them, compiling huge amounts of information and putting it into an accessible format that leads to real insights.
One of the most important applications for that data synthesis is with customer profile information. Because marketing automation tools create cogent pictures out of masses of raw information, this big data application makes sense when painting a picture of representative customer personas.
What Are Customer Personas?
Unlike profiles, which are highly specific images of individual customers, personas are a composite portrait. They include data from all site visitors, newsletter subscribers, email readers, and buyers distilled into a single representative snapshot. You might have multiple customer personas, each representing a different segment of your audience, or you might have one or two. Whether you have one or many, each customer persona is the product of huge amounts of data – a composite sketch based on volumes of demographic, firmographic, behavioral, and contextual information your marketing automation system gathers over time.
Realism in the Art of Customer Personas
The concept of customer personas isn’t new, but the old method of defining them was more imagination-driven than fact-based. Businesses created a fictional ideal customer, then worked through trial and error to approach what that theoretical customer wanted. As the science of marketing evolved, data entered the picture and grounded the customer persona in reality, but the amount of effort needed to work through marketing research manually could take weeks of an experienced marketing team’s valuable time. Automation allows a marketing specialist to paint a detailed, complete customer persona in far less time using real-time data flowing in from thousands of visitors.
Hard Data, Soft Edges
Painting in details of known customers is fairly simple, but automation lets marketers fill in information about potential customers who are not yet known – the visitors who are encountering you for the first time, for example, and those who have not yet committed to giving you information about themselves. Important data such as location, company name, and company size can go into your marketing automation system’s calculations even before the system has identified these visitors directly. Because it uses this anonymous data to create a customer persona, the final image is a more nuanced one. The portrait has “soft edges,” levels of knowledge that can be layered or removed to gain different insights into your customer base.
Necessity, Not Luxury
Real-time data that informs the construction of customer personas isn’t an extra. It’s a necessity when faced with an information-age marketplace that relies on customer knowledge to stand out from the crowd and gain the attention of an increasingly knowledgeable audience. Your buyers now get more than half the information they need to make buying decisions on their own before they ever come in contact with a company’s sales team. With a well-developed customer persona, you have a voice in those buying decisions and learn how best to approach each segment of your audience.
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