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Hasse Jansen, 27 Feb '16

Move Your Buyer Personas Up The Maslow Pyramid

Exceed revenue goals by moving your content up the Maslow pyramid. Send every Persona an irresistible message.  

What if you could send every customer a message they simply can’t resist? The key is to make customers’ most fundamental needs your own goals.

We found a simple, yet powerful way to address customers’ most fundamental needs. By using the right words addressing the right emotional drivers, you can take customers by the hand to make them move up the Maslow pyramid, regardless of the product or service you’re selling.

The first companies have already started with what we believe will become a trend in shaping Buyer Personas. Ride the wave early to reap the full benefits.

Start using Buyer Personas to their full potential

The fast majority of companies are using Buyer Personas nowadays. But, 83% percent reported they are only ‘slightly effective’ at using Personas. No more than 15% of companies consider themselves “very good at Persona marketing”.

Reasons for the disappointing performance are that companies

  • Put in the time and effort to collect data but don’t know how to apply the gathered knowledge.
  • Don’t know how to customize content and target the right customers.
  • Are still learning to use personas.
  • Only use Personas locally and/ or temporarily; in a few teams or departments and/ or from time to time.

Except for the last bullet point, they all point to the same problem: how to construct and apply Personas? You probably have a big bucket of customer data but you may not be sure what to do with it. Chances are you just collected whatever data was easy to grab. So, what exactly have you learned from gathering it?

You’ve got your demographics and some online behavioral data. But what does that say about your customer needs? How are you supposed to address customers’ most fundamental needs?

Hard data on soft underlying motivators

We found out that 95% of Persona templates tell you to fill out Persona goals, i.e. concrete customer objectives. A recent Buyer Persona report by Cintell proves that including even more fundamental customer ‘drivers and motivations’ in Personas is not only common but also hugely beneficial.

For companies exceeding revenue goals it is most common to include ‘drivers and motivators’ in their persona descriptions; 93% of them do. While companies that miss revenue goals use them only 40% of the time.

It is not a matter of ‘collect anything and everything’. Just collecting all the data you can find, can even work against you. ‘Revenue goal exceeding’ – companies include demographics 68% of the time, while those that miss goals do so more often; 90% of them do.

The moral of the story? Collect data to discover customers’ more fundamental needs. Collect data to move content up the Maslow pyramid. It may not even be necessary to gather demographics once you’ve done that.

Put customer needs on the Maslow pyramid

So you’ve collected what you assume is ‘interesting stuff’. Now what? To get a point of reference as to which level need your collected data relates to, here’s a short version of the Maslow pyramid you already know.

1. Self-actualization: Creativity, Spontaneity, Meaning, Purpose.

2. Self-esteem: Achievement, Uniqueness, Prestige, Respect of others.

3. Belonging and Love: Friendship, Intimacy, Connection.

4. Safety and Security: Health, Employment, Property.

5. Physiological needs: Food, Water, Warmth, Rest.

The trick is to market your product as high up the Maslow pyramid as possible. Your product may in essence only satisfy lower level needs, but you should try to get customers to associate your product with higher level needs.

Take Coca Cola. They climbed up the pyramid two levels. It is a beverage that in essence satisfies level 5 needs; Physiological Needs, i.e. Thirst. By introducing Santa Claus in their content, you now associate Coca Cola with happy people gathering around the Christmas tree. This links Coca Cola to a level 3 need, a sense of Belonging and Love, i.e. Friendship, Intimacy, Connection.

Sticking to sugary beverages, Red Bull has taken an even bigger leap up the pyramid. While you routinely sip your can, you'll (subconsciously) be thinking about mountainbikers and snowboarders breaking boundaries and living the life of their dreams. While basically satisfying a Physiological need, you'll feel like you're in the same league as Self-actualizers. Drinking Red Bull gives your life meaning and purpose. Well done.

Start climbing your customers’ pyramid

Try to discover how high up the pyramid you could market your product. Demographics won’t suffice. You’ll need to discover customers’ goals and priorities, their drivers and motivators. So get out there and conduct qualitative research. Allow yourself to find out remarkable things about your customers. And then make your message remarkable.

Here’s what you should do.

1. List which needs your current message appeals to.

Have a look at your current Personas and content. Validate with customers which level need it covers.

2. Find higher order needs your products could satisfy.

Ask customers open questions related to every stage of the pyramid. Unique individuals are bound to give you new insights on how your product satisfies higher order needs.

3. Compare your current message to the newly discovered needs.

If customers’ answers reveal needs that rank higher than the ones you’re currently trying to satisfy: great! You now know your postcard destination higher up the pyramid. The road to moving your content one step higher up the Maslow pyramid is now open. You are on your way to joining the club of revenue goal exceeding companies.