Marketers and others are struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic. They know customer needs and demands are high. And they know their brand should have a voice to help and comfort customers. But with the situation changing rapidly and emotions running high, it can be a struggle to know what to say. One solution is to leverage your existing personas, distinguish each persona’s unique concerns in this troubled time, and then identify the actions and information that can meet those demands.

Useful personas represent a group of customers with similar needs, wants, expectations, and motivations. That’s what makes them so powerful in this time of great need for your brand and its customers. Even now–especially now!–marketers must consider all of their customers and not just approach their customer experience and communication challenges as if every customer is alike.

Your company faces a broader range of more urgent customer needs than ever before. Actions and words that satisfy the average customer’s needs can leave important questions unanswered for many. A bank, for example, can recognize one set of concerns for its affluent customers and a different set for customers who faced financial struggles even before the pandemic began. A B2B organization will find the needs of its key decision-makers significantly different than those of front-line contacts who use the product or service on their jobs.

A simple question

For each persona, ask a simple question:  What are their situations and concerns right now? To extend the examples above, a bank’s affluent customers may be concerned about the impact the pandemic is having on their retirement savings and maximizing the flexibility of their cash. Conversely, the people represented by the bank’s underbanked persona may be concerned about making ends meet and covering bills. On the B2B front, the liquidity and financial management concerns of your key decision-making personas will be very different from the anxieties of front-line employees, such as finding ways to stay essential (and employed) or trying to execute with as much agility as the circumstances demand.

Once you understand the diversity of needs your customers have, you can begin to consider the actions and information your organization can provide to satisfy those needs.  A bank that understands the diversity of its customers’ current worries may appreciate how affluent customers need market reports and investment advice. At the same time, the concerns of those of fewer means can be alleviated by eliminating late payment fees. Even in situations where different personas face similar interests, this approach can help guide different actions and content. People at all income levels may now be facing unexpected income disruption, and a bank might eliminate early withdrawal fees from CDs to help one persona while offering accelerated, low-interest loans for another.

I’ve had many conversations with B2B clients in the past two weeks, and many are targeting different decisions and information to different sorts of client contacts. For decision-makers, the focus is on helping them to minimize disruption, maintain business operations, and retain maximum liquidity. In these challenging times, B2B organizations are creating rules to identify key accounts that will get delivery priority or contract concessions. Others are focusing on content that demonstrates how the brand is delivering unique value and ROI in this crisis.

That sort of action and content helps for key decision-makers, but front-line contacts have different needs. The employees of B2B firms’ clients might be idled and have time for training that develops new skills. Or, the users of a brand’s product or service may need new turnkey solutions to address pressing challenges. For example, one SAAS firm shifted from offering clients content that conveys “tips and tricks” to creating templates that customers can quickly and easily deploy. Another B2B client created a job board to help newly unemployed client contacts land the next position, in the hopes the people they assist will “take the brand with them” into their new role.

The point of doing this persona exercise isn’t to target different content to different people. Instead, the goal is to identify the full range of needs your customers have and the information and support that you can provide to meet the most expectations. Doing this is a way to effectively shift from communication that merely expresses concern to actions and messaging that deliver solutions to customers in need.

This article is reprinted with the permission of Gartner.

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