Beyond the Persona: Understanding Your Customers’ Mindset

Ever wonder what your customers are *really* thinking? Below are five steps to help you understand your customer's mindset beyond the marketing persona.

How many times has this happened to you? A client calls you, excited about some “groundbreaking” idea or approach. As they discuss the idea with you, you realize that their idea, while unique, is something you have helped countless other customers with before.

Most of your clients are “beginners” in your area of expertise. They might understand fundamentally how you prepare their taxes, market their business on social media, or provide project management services. But they need your guidance to truly see how they will benefit from what you have to offer.

Perhaps you already have customer personas? But maybe there’s a gap between those generalizations and the customers you actually talk to? Here are five steps to help you better understand your customer’s mindset.

1. Build a Better Customer Persona

While every customer is a unique individual with their own unique views, customers usually fit into a few specific personas. Building customer personas helps you understand specific segments of your market.

Using market research or customer interviews, build a persona of your ideal customes based on their jobs, roles, demographics, goals, challenges, marketing message, values, and fears. There might be more than one persona. For example, you might design websites for freelance creatives working on a tight budget as well as for small agencies working with bigger budgets.

Take the persona a step further by creating a story for them, like the Hero’s Journey we discussed in a previous blog post. In this case, you can guide each persona through a story of how they will navigate your marketing and sales funnel. Figure out why they need your services (their pain point) based on their persona, then guide them to the best solution for their needs, highlighting the benefit that addresses that pain point.

2. Get Crisp on Client Pain Points So You Can Articulate the Right Benefit

Your customers come to you for a reason. Your job when marketing to them is understanding this reason.This reason usually starts with a specific pain point.

For example, if you are an accountant, then the pain point for many customers is paying their taxes. While we know that few people like doing their taxes, we have to know what they like least about the process. Some examples:

  • Is it they feel ill-equipped to manage their money?
    • Pain point: Fear of finances
    • Benefit you should position: Convenience and trustworthiness
  • Is it that they’re overwhelmed by the actual paperwork and confused how to proceed ?
    • Pain point: Confused and overwhelmed
    • Benefit you should position: Transparency and simplicity
  • Perhaps they’re too busy delivering work to clients to take care of all.
    • Pain point: Time
    • Benefit you should offer: Speed and convenience

“Delighting customers doesn’t build loyalty; reducing their effort—the work they must do to get their problem solved—does.” – HBR

Whatever the case, you need to determine a customer’s pain point if you are going to be able to understand how to best help them. You can then use this information to help your customers solve their problem with your services.  As the Harvard Business Review stated, “Delighting customers doesn’t build loyalty; reducing their effort—the work they must do to get their problem solved—does. [Additionally], acting deliberately on this insight can help improve customer service, reduce customer service costs, and decrease customer churn.”

3. Use Language that Will Resonate with Your Prospective Clients

How often do you start talking about services you offer, like SEO for example, only to get a blank stare from a prospect? If you say search engine optimization, then you get a little glimmer of recognition. However, when you say get on the first page of Google, their eyes light up brighter than the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Plaza.

That is because the words you use matter to customers. They are beginners and do not know your jargon. If you want to get into the mindset of a beginner, you need to use their words in your marketing and sales efforts.

How do you become a beginner? You read what beginners say about your business. Use reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, Google Local Results, and niche sites to discover what your customers need.

For example, when I type in the words SEO on Amazon, the first result is SEO 2017 by Adam Clarke.


While the book looks like it has great, what I’m focused on the 312 customer reviews for this book. In this case, I looked at a review from a user on Amazon called VelvetLady.

The first thing I notice is that Amazon lists her as a verified purchase. This is important, because some people leave reviews on books and you are not sure if they actually read the book. Here I know she at least purchased the book.

Furthermore, she goes through the things she likes and dislikes about the book. For example, she discusses how it would be helpful to have more information about how Analytics can help your search results.

If you start seeing a lot of similar comments, then you can start bringing them up in conversations with your customers and start understanding the language that will resonate with your target customers. Then, you can make sure that this informs the copywriting on your website and also in blog posts and social media.

4. Invest the Time to Nurture Relationships

The next step to being a beginner again is remembering that it can often be very scary when you first start.

Don’t expect customers to always act in their best interests. While they might need your services, they might not be ready for them at that moment. Therefore, you need to build a relationship with them and to nurture those relationships until they’re ready to move forward. The best way to do that is to show them you care and understand their needs.

If you want to deliver great customer service, then it all starts with a plan to do this every day whenever you interact with your customers. That is why Freshbooks created the 4E Philosophy (Execute Extraordinary Experiences Everyday) to guide our customer service.

According to a study by Wunderman, 79% of consumers need to see that brands care about them prior to purchasing their goods and services.

5. Provide Exemplary Customer Service

Every company says they believe in great customer service. However, few companies demonstrate this to their customers.

If you want to deliver great customer service, then it all starts with a plan to do this every day whenever you interact with your customers. That is why Freshbooks created the 4E Philosophy (Execute Extraordinary Experiences Everyday) to guide our customer service.

Essentially, we want to ensure that every time a customer reaches out to us, they have an extraordinary experience. This means our support team is located in our headquarters and we have real people answering the phone.

Another feature we realized is helpful is that everyone in the company performs customer service in their first month. This way, our entire team understands the beginners’ mindset. By being there to answer customer’s questions, they can understand the thought process customers have about our services.

Final Thoughts

Going back to the “beginner mindset” of your clients is not an easy task. However, if you look at the persona of the clients you work with and identify their pain points you can begin to understand the best way to help them.

This can help you use the right words and build great relationships, so you can grow your business by understanding the best way to interact with your customers.

Let us know how you plan on adapting a beginner’s mindset to interact with your customers in the comments below!

about the author

Founder, Smart at the Start Andy Nathan is the founder of Smart at the Start, a digital marketing strategy company that helps small businesses grow through bite-sized internet marketing services. He has successfully worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs in over 80 different industries over the past six years.