The Case for Persona-Based Lead Generation

  |  September 12, 2008   |  Comments

What you can do for your personas to better plan your online lead gen interactions.

A lost wallet lies on a Manhattan street, stuffed with cash. A white middle-income male, New Yorker, between age 30 and 44, picks it up. Will he look for the rightful owner, or pocket the cash?

With that level of "targeting," it's anyone's guess. There just isn't enough information available.

But if George Costanza, the white middle-income male New Yorker between age 30 and 44 from "Seinfeld" picks up the wallet, everyone knows exactly what he'll do.

He'll keep the money.

By allowing you to imagine their concerns, reactions, and questions, personas allow you to better plan marketing interactions and messaging. Personas are critical to lead generation Web sites, specifically those that want to engage their suspects and prospects in a sales dialogue online and offline.

Personas vs. Segmentation/Demographics

When building personas for your lead gen or demand generation Web site, psychographics are typically more profitable than demographics.

Psychographics give insight into how an individual perceives the world, their belief structures, and some of their core personality traits. Psychographics, in the form of personality theory and motivational research, have a long documented effectiveness at predicting decision-making styles and behaviors -- including buying behaviors.

Demographics, on the other hand, are only loosely correlated to behavior and often horrible in predicting marketing response.

Personas tell us how to plan and have a conversation. Demographics mostly tell us where to have that conversation. Both are important.

Using Personas to Take Action and Build Persuasion Scenarios

Web sites and online interactions especially benefit from this by allowing copywriters to plan the interactivity of click paths, the link structure for embedded hyperlinks, and the messaging required for increased persuasive momentum and conversions.

"Actionable personas" have easily predictable and imaginable conversations and reactions, like good fictional characters. They have to generate empathy and engage the imagination.

Meet Melissa Putnam, 23, Sales Assistant, $32,000 Annual Income

Melissa, a newbie at her job, was just asked by the sales manager to research and suggest some potential sales training vendors. Melissa is a people person; she likes to build strong relationships and relies on good first impressions to get relationships off to a strong start. She wants to make a splash and impress the boss.

The Brooks Group, a sales training company, offers all sorts of customized training, many of which would be a perfect match for Melissa's needs.

Let's peek at how we planned the interaction on the site for Melissa's style and needs.

Melissa is a "humanistic," meaning she's interested most in relationships. So as she arrives at the Brooks Group Web site, she's immediately presented with two links to the About Us page, both at the top and left-hand navigation.

When she clicks through, she's presented with a page that addresses her motivations about midway through, and notices the header "Meet the team." You also see a picture of the founder, and a link in the active window that reads 'real coaches.' This is all Melissa speak.

After she clicks that link, she arrives at the "Working with Brooks Group" page. There's a lot of content here that is virtual red meat for her. Here she reads a little about coaching and clicks the link near the bottom of the page that reads, "Contact one of our sales coaches, and they'll talk you through a typical training deployment."

Melissa is on her way to becoming a lead.

If you click around the site acting as Melissa, you'll find other paths for her to follow, all leading toward a conversion event, giving her several opportunities to call or fill out the lead form. You'll find links and elements designed and planned exclusively for her humanistic style persona.

If you're astute, you'll notice that Melissa isn't the only persona accounted for on the site.

Meet Charlie "Nubs" Harrison, 45, Sales Manager, $90,000 Annual Income

Charlie, a former top salesperson, was just promoted to sales manager. He's starting to doubt he made the right decision. His quote: "Managing these people is like herding cats."

Charlie is a take-action, spontaneous type. He doesn't like to waste time and he's in pain. His sales people are driving him crazy.

Since Charlie has little patience, the first and most visible link in the active window was planned for him. He might also be interested in first learning about the company, Unlike Melissa, he's looking more for credibility and experience than a relationship.

On the "about us" page, a link is planted just for him that reads, "the ability to manage sales rather than micromanage sales people." Score for a Charlie type visitor!

As he follows that link, he arrives at the "Herd Your Sales Cats" page that is rich with Charlie language and content intended to speak to his pain. Near the bottom is a link that reads, "Getting started with the Brooks Group is easy."

Here are things you can do for your personas to better plan your online lead gen interactions.

  • Speak to temperaments such as humanistic. When you have content for several on the same page, put elements links and copy for the impatient competitive and spontaneous types higher up on the page, humanistics in the middle, and provide all the deeper details last for your methodical personas. Methodical types are not afraid of reading, so let them at it.

  • Account for buying cycles. Ask what your personas need at each stage of the buying process. If they're early in the buying cycle, they don't know what they need or how to buy your product. If in the middle, they know approximately what they need. And finally, those in the late stage know exactly what they want. Provide copy, links, and elements for all three stages. In a recent column, I showed how Marketo was trying to convert outside the context of an early stage buyer.

  • Understand sales complexity. You need to know how your personas relate to four measurements of complexity and provide content that addresses the questions and issues they face. One persona may have a greater felt need (Charlie), while another needs consensus (Melissa).

You might be thinking, wow, this is a lot of work.


Being purposeful and prepared to deal with your prospects is always sweat-inducing work. But with a good plan, the sweat breeds greater conversion.

Bottom line for the Brooks Group: it doubled its leads by planning using persuasion scenarios, components that lead a visitor segment to participate in a conversion action.

Join us for ClickZ Presents: Online Marketing Summit, September 25 at the Sheraton San Diego.

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Bryan Eisenberg

Bryan Eisenberg is coauthor of the Wall Street Journal, Amazon, BusinessWeek, and New York Times bestselling books "Call to Action," "Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?," and "Always Be Testing." Bryan is a professional marketing speaker and has keynoted conferences globally such as SES,, Direct Marketing Association, MarketingSherpa, Econsultancy, Webcom, SEM Konferansen Norway, the Canadian Marketing Association, and others. In 2010, Bryan was named a winner of the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation's Rising Stars Awards, which recognizes the most talented professionals 40 years of age or younger in the field of direct/interactive marketing. He is also cofounder and chairman emeritus of the Web Analytics Association. Bryan serves as an advisory board member of SES Conference & Expo, the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit, and several venture capital backed companies. He works with his coauthor and brother Jeffrey Eisenberg. You can find them at

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