Personifying the People Who Will Buy From You

You use personas in your marketing every day. You may not realize you’re doing it, but you are. There’s an image you hold in your head of the person you are marketing to. You think of this image when you plan your strategy, review designs, and write your advertising copy.

Of course, this image shifts. Each time you hear a story from the sales team; each time you read a competitor’s stuff; each time you attend a conference, your image is influenced and changes.

Here are the symptoms:

  • The fabulous creative ideas your agency prepared for you two weeks ago now seem to miss the mark.
  • Your target audience sounds more hip when talking to younger members of the marketing team, and more conservative when talking to more mature members.
  • No matter how many times the “final draft” of a project comes through, the red ink never diminishes.
  • You cannot find a compelling headline in a list of 100 concepts.
  • When reviewing creative, you find yourself frequently resorting to the least informed argument, “Well, I wouldn’t click on that.”

As a conversion scientist, I’ve come to rely heavily on what I call “touch-point personas,” which are profiles of the most important visitors to a Web site, the “touch point.” Best Buy uses touch-point personas for its stores. A touch-point persona gets its power from the fact that you profile a visitor at the time they are visiting you. A visitor will behave differently depending on what is bringing them to your site.

For example, a 30-year-old suburban woman who is considering remodel of a bathroom is going to visit a plumbing Web site looking for details. She’ll want to know how long the plumber has been in business, how much remodeling experience he has, and if he’s insured, among other things.

This same 30-year-old suburban woman only needs two pieces of information if a leak is ruining her wood floors: how soon can you be here and what is your phone number. The same person produces two very different touch-point personas.

Touch-point personas help you target your messages and offers, changing the way you present information. They keep you from being the victim of the shifting image in your mind, and get your entire team on the same page.

While it is quite straightforward to compose touch-point personas for a Web site, display advertising complicates things. The touch point for a display ad is not your Web site. Display ads live as touch points on other, often very different, Web sites. How do you use personas to target visitors to tens or hundreds of Web sites?

Here is where behavioral marketing can help.

When we start putting together a behaviorally targeted display ad campaign, we may begin with a market segment profile. This profile describes the demographics of a segment of the target audience along with their primary needs and desires.

An ad network or behavioral data vendor then begins to fill out the profile based on their experience in the market. They may query a database of behaviors to determine the actions that would predict when the profiled visitor might buy. The profiles that emerge are more like a touch-point persona than the segment profile.

An agency can use this information to develop a portfolio of offers, ads, and landing pages that would appeal to these potential clients. We ask for a variety of offers and ads because, at this point, we can’t be sure which will work. Every communication is a test.

Finally, the ad network will recommend the set of Web sites on which we might find our desired visitors. We end up with several broad profiles of our target customers, a set of ads to entice them, and a variety of Web sites on which to display our messages. Which combination will work? We’re about to find out.

Once the ads are run, our touch-point personas will emerge in full glory. We will know which messages appealed to which demographics on which sites. Like a game of Clue, we can now identify the touch-point personas of those visitors who will buy from us: “The stay-at-home mom on the major news sites with the yellow ad that features a discount code.”

This, of course, begs the question, “Why?” Why did this combination of sites, messages, and ads attract this particular kind of visitor? It is the quest to understand our visitors’ stories that tells us what to test next. With each campaign, our picture gets clearer.

Behavioral marketing allows us to statistically create our portfolio of touch-point personas. These personas allow us, our agencies, and marketing teams to consistently create messages and experiences that encourage our best visitors to take action, growing our brands and adding revenue to our bottom lines.

For more on persona development read “Always Be Testing, by ClickZ author Bryan Eisenberg. For more on touch-point marketing read “Social Media Marketing: An Hour a Day,” by ClickZ author Dave Evans.

Brian Massey will show you how to develop touch-point personas at the Innotech eMarketing Summit, October 29, 2009 in Austin, TX, and at PubCon Las Vegas, November 9-13, 2009

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