Personas are a good way to get closer to the individual behind the bits and bytes.
Every digital marketer is out to increase relevancy, click-through rates, and conversions. It is a truth universally acknowledged that the more personalized the message, the better the results. Technology allows us to customize any aspect of the copy with details from that particular customer's behavior, life stage, or contract. Less is usually more in this area. Messaging overpopulated with data attributes can feel like a staccato beat to customers as we rattle out the details of their interactions with the brand without any context to the promotion. If we want our digital marketing to sell, we have to tell a story. Thus, the data customization alone is not enough. Our content customization approach must also include a way to recognize and "know" the person behind the database record.
Personas are a good way to get closer to the individual behind the bits and bytes. We've all used personas in some way, even if it's just to illustrate a point we are making in a presentation. As in, "Meet Joe. He's got a problem that's in need of a solution. He's our customer." You know, that guy.
According to Wikipedia, personas are fictional characters created to represent the different user types within a targeted demographic, attitude, and/or behavior set that might use a site, brand, or product in a similar way. Personas consider the goals, desires, and limitations of buyers. While personas sound easy in concept, I think they can be very tricky to create well. Understanding why somebody wants to buy something is not the same thing as actually defining the product - what it is, how it will work, and how it will be used. The goal of a persona is to get away from the product details and reach into the heart of what inspires your customers. This is the art - not the science - of marketing.
Fortunately and unfortunately, the growing amount of information generated by new channels, such as inbound marketing and social media, has created a new level of detail and complexity around understanding the customer identity. So personas are harder to understand and create today.
There are six general steps to building a great persona program.
As you build your personas, remember these four cautions:
An integrated view of customers provides a base for better profitability analysis and customer scoring, improved customer relationship management effectiveness, and better marketing processes for achieving cost efficiencies. If you do make the commitment to create solid personas for your audiences, then they can be a terrific addition to your marketing technology toolkit. The technology gives you access to the data and helps you use it. Creating goodness from that data requires a consistent guideline for everyone in the company to help you tailor the story to the person. This is how personas help us make a connection with a customer - and to close deals or earn a conversion.
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Stephanie Miller is a relentless customer advocate and a champion for marketers creating memorable online experiences. A digital marketing expert, she helps responsible data-driven marketers connect with the people, resources, and ideas they need to optimize response and revenue. She speaks and writes regularly and leads many industry initiatives as VP, Member Relations and Chief Listening Officer at the Direct Marketing Association (www.the-dma.org). Feedback and column ideas most welcome, to smiller AT the-dma DOT org or @stephanieSAM.
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