How to Define Customer Personas: Existing, Lapsed, Referrals, Desired

By: Sharon MacLean

You’ve taken the time to consider your personas—a representation of your ideal client — for online marketing. “Now what?” you ask. 

Let’s first take a step back. You thought deeply about what keeps your clients up at night. Maybe it’s the anxiety stemming from competitors poaching their clients…or the lack of funds to meet month-end payroll…how about sales messages that fall on deaf ears. 

The analysis also revealed:

  • general personality traits of your clients and prospects;
  • personal values;
  • whether they have an affinity for doing business with you;
  • their capacity for doing business with you. 

The next step is to figure out how you can help each Persona. We’re not talking about generic answers, either. It’s more than increasing customer service or helping them to become more efficient. You’re looking for more specific ideas to help your Personas solve their specific challenges. 

“People go online for 2 reasons, says Stephen Saber, CEO of TPNI Engage. “To be entertained or to be educated.” TPNI Engage offers state-of-the-art marketing systems that help small business and enterprise clients to leverage social media, book publishing, special event management, video and mobile marketing to attract and engage customers. 

Full disclosure: I am a satisfied client who uses their systems for automated email marketing, podcasts, landing pages and newsletters. Yet, you have lots of choices to explore in automated marketing platforms such as HubSpot, Marketo, and iContact.         

“Your clients need to solve a problem,” says Saber. “They need to grow their business and drive traffic, leads and sales,” so they’re looking for answers online. They want to self-educate. 

4 types of Personas

It is tempting to throw everyone you know into the same database and send identical messages to the entire group. 

Instead, try using a simple grid to place your clients and prospects somewhere in a 4-quadrant grid. Each quadrant shows conversations unique to their Persona profile. It’s the same as having a face-to-face conversation; each dialogue is different depending on who you’re talking to. 

Quadrant 1: Existing Customers

These are your best clients. Individuals who land in Quadrant 1 have a high capacity and high affinity for doing business with you. Can you increase the number of products and services you’re offering to them? How about the frequency for making a purchase?

Since you also know a lot about your clients, you probably don’t need to spend too much on additional study. That is not to say they should be ignored, but the research may be redundant. 

Type of message: The communication—in 10 words or less—is simple and straight forward that solves their current challenge.       

Quadrant 2: Lapsed Customers

These former clients are sitting in your database and, lately, you’ve not engaged them. Personas in Quadrant 2 have high capacity and the potential for the highest ROI. 

Type of message: Remind them of what you do best. Their communication differs from Existing Customers because you haven’t talked to them lately. It’s like an old friend you haven’t seen in years: You want to jog their memories about the good feelings you shared. 

Quadrant 3. Referred Friends.

Personas in Quadrant 3 may have great affinity, but undetermined capacity. They are great prospects because of their strong connection with friends of your business. 

Type of message: Refer to common ground with your mutual friend and realize their circumstances might be vastly different. Ask questions about their current challenges. 

Quadrant 4: Desired Customers

These are people you’d like to know but you’re not yet doing business with them. It’s a fresh conversation. 

You don’t know about the affinity or capacity for Quadrant 4 people. It is important to qualify them, if only to ensure that scarce resources are not spent in attempting to build relationships or to pitch them. Low cost strategies are warranted, and you do need to monitor the investment. 

Type of message: It’s a brand-new discovery conversation. Learn as much as you can about their business and paint points before offering solutions. Also learn – early – about their capacity and affinity for doing business with you. 

Finally, determine the frequency of your messages and the best channels that reflect the Personas in each of your 4 quadrants. 

If you need help with a deeper understanding of your prospective client(s), contact me for my Persona template or email me here:

About the Author— Sharon MacLean

Entrepreneurship, Magazine Publishing, and Social Marketing are the threads that weave throughout my career. They reflect my professional life driven largely by purpose and relationships — most recently through WorldGate Media and Boards of Directors for TechInvest Alberta, Alberta Council of Technologies, and RoadShowz/StreetSeenz.

Yet, it was through starting up and running Edmontonians magazine for 21 years where a reputation for community engagement flourished. In some ways, I see the magazine that covered leaders of commerce and the community as a predecessor to social media!

My world changed dramatically in 2010 given the disruption of traditional media which led to the sale of the magazine…and my launch into new media.

The disruption opened doors for an investor start-up in online wellness with an international team. Experience with journalism media and community publishing incubated an understanding of content creation, distribution, and network platforms.

Every skill acquired during the foundational years has been leveraged to serve my passion for professional communications in the digital age.

Social enterprise fired up all my neurons and stretched my resilience. I now help professionals and business owners flourish using traditional and modern forms of communications marketing. Learn more.