How an anthropologist can help build your buyer personas

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND: One of the presenters at a recent New Zealand Content Marketing Conference, Professor Hamish Gow from Massey University, really captured my imagination with his advice to grab a camera and go be an amateur anthropologist if you want to understand your customer…

I find the idea that we can study humankind’ to gain business insights a very powerful concept – data doesn’t tell us about what’s really important to people; it’s too sanitised, too impersonal… it’s just the baseline we begin with.

Professor Gow’s presentation “Listen, Ask, Help, Follow Up” pointed out that ‘Searching Google’ no longer yields the results people are looking for and instead people are embarking on discovery behaviour – which is more complex.

Customers want their experience to be enjoyable (the experience is emotionally engaging), Easy, (its easy to a access that value) and Useful (the experience offers value).

As a result, content marketers need to take a customer perspective – a customer goes out to buy a drill, but he doesn’t really want a drill, he wants to make a hole, but he doesn’t really want to just make a hole, he wants a feature wall of photographs in his home, like the one he saw at the Louvre in Paris.

A customer doesn’t just want to hang a television, for example, he wants to capture the experience of being live at the game…

Professor Gow went on to present Simon Sinek’s The Golden Circle of Demand Generation Using Content (see graphic), and told us how the objective of the content marketer is to move from understanding ‘What’ to ‘How’ and ultimately ‘Why’ – which engages the decision making and emotional part of the brain.

In my own presentation at the conference I pointed out how Red Bull, held up as a shinning example of good content marketing, has as its objective to ‘excite’ consumers with their content.

Professor Gow also raised the example of how Nokia remains the predominant producer of non-smart phones worldwide because they produced a phone that illiterate people can use – but which is of course eminently useable for those who are literate too.

Nokia did that by moving beyond big data to getting out there and observing, photographing and interviewing their customers.

Hiring your own anthropologist, or engaging the university, is ideal of course. But if you don’t have the resources for your own anthropologist, there’s the Empathy Map: a simple customer profiler (Source: Xplane, the visual thinking company) – see attached graphic.

The empathy maps helps the content marketer map out:

  • What’s on your customer’s mind?
  • What does he or she see?
  • What does he or she say?
  • What does he or she hear?

Apple’s Steve Jobs hated focus groups because he maintained that customers don’t know what they want, but it strikes me the empathy map and the anthropologist approach, advocated by Professor Gow, gets to the heart of what a customer wants without putting him or under pressure with ‘too hard questions’.

It uses a series of questions to uncover true motive – much like a good journalist or police detective might. The end result is the ability to map the customer’s journey and your own route to true understanding; the holy grail of content marketing.

In that way you discover the important questions (see Alexander Osterwalder’s Customer Value Proposition Canvas V.0.8):

  • What is the JOB TO BE DONE?
  • By WHOM is the job being done?
  • At what COMPETENCE level?
  • What LOCATION and time is the job occurring?
  • What KNOWLEDGE transfer is required?
  • What TOOLS are needed?
  • What DECISION needs to be made?
  • What ACTION needs to occur?
  • Is CONFIRMATION required?
  • What about FOLLOW UP?

I always maintain that answering your customer’s questions and solving their problems is at the heart of great content marketing, and this seems to me to be an inherently useful way to get there.

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