Customer Personas are a way for marketers to segment and prioritize an audience according to behaviors and mindsets. We use them to educate and guide communications strategies and to focus messaging and media touchpoints that will engage and support target segments, such as rural lifestylers, through their customer journeys.
As a rural lifestyler whose lifestyle recently changed address, this prompted me to ponder my own Persona.
For the past 27 years, my husband and I lived on old farmsteads in the country. Just recently, we sold our 133-year-old home on three acres in a rural community of 1,300 people. We moved seven miles west into a charming house in a rural subdivision on the far edge of a town, population 9,000.
The decision to move was easy – even as we prepared to say goodbye to a home and property that we loved and restored over the years. It was time to do something with our weekends besides maintain the lawn, gardens, fruit trees and farm buildings. It was also time to have a little more living space and walk-in closets.
The move, on the other hand, was a bit more complicated. What would we do with the tools and equipment we’d accumulated over the past 27 years? Has our identity changed? Are we still rural lifestylers or are we now townies?
Which rural lifestyle Persona will we be?
As we sorted, pitched and packed, it dawned on me that, while our address is no longer officially rural, we’re still rural lifestylers. We’re just shifting in our rural lifestyle Persona, again which began as Born in the Country nearly 27 years ago. My husband and I are both farm kids, and we’ve both worked in or with agriculture throughout our lives.
Enter the Split Personalities.
Somewhere along the line – perhaps as my career in advertising took me into new categories like turf and ornamental, pet care and healthcare – we became Split Personalities. We were (and still are) connected to the land and spent a great amount of time tending to it. But we are also comfortable with adventures in the city – whether Chicago, New York or Indianapolis.
As Split Personalities, we collected toys. A Kubota tractor and UTV, generators, Husqvarna chain saw, self-propelled mower and roto-tiller, gardening tools, guns, fishing boats and gear, power tools, free standing tool chests filled with a myriad of hand tools. But with a smaller piece of property in town, it’s likely we won’t use these too frequently, if at all.
With only a quarter of an acre to maintain, we will have more time to garden, bike, hike and fish. We can also disappear into the city for the weekend or discover new lakes for exploring, without worrying about the work ahead of us when we get home. Though we’re still primarily Split Personalities, we’re becoming Outdoor Enthusiasts, minus the everyday and dress camo.
A Persona is not forever, but the value of marketing Personas is.
As we’ve evolved throughout the rural lifestyler spectrum, it made me reconsider how we as marketers use Personas. We use them to bucket current and prospective customers by their behaviors and mindsets, and then craft personalized messages to appeal to each of those Personas who best align with our brands.
The caveat is that as humans change, so do their Personas. And marketing has to evolve with them.
A variety of factors influence the changing personal profile. Among them are: emerging technologies that influence how we live, learn, play and alter behaviors and attitudes; environmental issues that affect our lifestyles, our awareness of products and how we use them; and the impact of the economy on our total well-being.
And coming back to the original point of this post, will a customer be the same Persona she is next year as she is now or was last year?
My personal transformation suggests not. Of course, there are hazards of relying on a focus group of one. Yet, from friends to business acquaintances, there is a community of us who have shifted in their rural lifestyle or farmer Persona. And common sense tells us that our circumstances and experiences continue to shape and define who we are.
The evolution of Personas, and potential shifting from one Persona to another, means that we as marketers need to remain vigilant in how we define our Personas. More important, we need to ensure we have a steady flow of customer data to not only inform and validate Personas, but also that the insights we use to engage customers on an individual level are up-to-date.
Personas are valuable sales and marketing tools whether we’re targeting rural lifestylers, farmers and ranchers or construction contractors. We welcome the opportunity to discuss how we build, maintain and use Personas to help our clients move their brands forward.
As President/CEO of Rhea + Kaiser, Diane Martin will always believe in the power of the Persona. And she will always be a rural lifestyler. Whether as a Born in the Country, Split Personality, Outdoor Enthusiast or some other Persona will always be prone to evolution.