I was flipping through the SXSW Interactive 2012 schedule for Monday and I came across a session with a name that caught my eye, “Avoiding Bulls**t Personas: A Case Study”, I figured I would check it out. I went to the presentation that was given by Jill Christ, of Lyda.com and Stephanie Carter of BoltPeters. (more…)
Persona Non Grata: Part 1, The Online Marketing Secret Weapon
This is Part 1 of a multi-part series that expands on the recent webinar I provided: Persona Non Grata: The Online Marketing Secret Weapon. In this series, we will review Personas and how to use them for online marketing.
Using Personas can provide you with a significantly better online marketing campaign, because your targeting, messaging, content and user experience will all better match the needs and expectations of your target audience. This provides improved conversion, meaning a better ROI for each and every campaign you run.
Personas are fairly well known in development and usability circles as critical tools without which a project might be far less successful. That’s because Personas, which are fictional representations of typical users, help design teams create easier-to-use, more satisfying user experiences.
In online marketing circles, Personas are not yet commonly used, a trend I fully expect we will see reversed in the next few years. For the moment however, Personas truly are the online marketing secret weapon, because using them puts you at a distinct advantage vs. your competitors, who most likely are not using them.
Personas and Increasing Use of Customer Insight Data
But the Persona secret may be out already. According to a recent eMarketer article regarding a survey of intended use of Customer Data by CMOs, Chief Marketing Officers plan on greatly expanding Customer Analytics and CRM technology in the next 3-5 years. A whopping 81% of surveyed CMOs indicated those were the top technologies they planned on increasing!
By the way, isn’t it interesting that one of the best sources of conversion for online marketing–Email Marketing–came in dead last? Hmmmm! Perhaps there’s another opportunity for a smart online marketer to get ahead of the competition.
Leading Marketing Priorities and Personas
Another interesting data point from the article points to the fact that according to surveyed marketers, the number one marketing priority is “Improving Segmentation and Targeting.” The best way to improve segmentation and targeting is by carefully developing Personas that help marketers better position communications, products and services for targeted audiences.
Direct Marketing Requires Personas:
As Lester Wunderman, considered by many to be the Godfather of direct marketing wrote in his book “Being Direct,” it’s all about knowing who your target audience is, so you can communicate with them better, and thus improve sales:
“One must understand what motivates people to make decisions and what tools can best be used to focus attention and generate reactions. We must know how to create and deliver messages that are relevant, meaningful and stimulating.”
In my opinion, the best way to know what motivates people to make decisions and to create and deliver meaningful messages to them is by using Personas to map your communications to your target audience’s needs. Using Personas to base your communication and interaction decisions ensures you are closely aligning your communications to the needs and expectations your prospects have. Thus the odds are much better that you will be able to reach and interact with meaningful communications that stimulate action with your prospects.
Personas are both behavioral and targeted data
When we think about the data available to us today as marketers, we can generalize the types of customer data into four groups:
1. Generalized Metrics – Generalized metrics include typical online marketing data received from website metrics, email opens, click-throughs and related analytics. This data, although plentiful, is not very targeted and is not behavioral in focus. Yes, you know that 4% of your visitors clicked on a button or link, but you don’t know why, and you don’t know whom they were.
2. Personalized Metrics – As with generalized metrics, personalized metrics are analytics coming from websites, emails, social pages etc. However, in this case there is more information available about the visitor, perhaps due to the visitor being logged in, or because the visitor has been specifically targeted via marketing automation or related personalization tools. The problem with more personalized metrics is although there is unique individual targeting data, the “why” of the visitor’s behavior is still not known.
3. Demographic and Psychographic Metrics – Many marketers cluster their target audiences into segments based on geographic, demographic or psychographic data. This is data that revolves around the “why” of visitor behavior. Information such as location, household income, and prior purchase behavior may be available. However, typically this data is an aggregate view into a large groupings or clusters of visitors, thus is not targeted toward specific needs and activities of individuals.
4. Personas – Because they are fictional representations of visitors who share common critical tasks, Personas provide both the motivational “why” of behavior, along with the targeted analytics of the tasks that individual is trying to accomplish. This gives the best view into behavioral AND targeted data, enabling marketers to make decisions with much greater certainty and efficiency. Because this is actionable data, Personas are an important tool to use when creating and deploying targeted communications.
Personas Not Yet Used in Online Marketing
According to a survey of the attendees of our Personas webinar, most online marketers are not yet using Personas on a regular basis. According to the survey, none of the respondents use Personas often. About 45% of those surveyed said they are familiar with Personas, and use them a little bit. Surveyed respondents who were familiar with Personas, but haven’t used them equaled 17%. But a whopping 38% of respondents were not familiar at all with Personas.
This data clearly demonstrates that there is an opportunity to get ahead of the competition by using Personas to better target prospects.
What is a Persona and how are they created?
In our next part of Personas, the Online Marketing Secret Weapon, we will explore what a Persona is (and isn’t) and how a Persona can be used to improve the effectiveness of any marketing campaign.
We hope you enjoy Apogee Results’ latest infographic: Anatomy of a Search Persona. Got questions about personas? Check out our free white paper or our recent webinar. As always, feel free to leave questions/comments!
We hope everyone had an excellent Thanksgiving, ate lots of turkey, watched some great football (well, if you root for certain teams or like football) and found some excellent Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals.
The holiday treats don’t stop there, though–as our thanks to you, we’re giving you our white paper on personas. For free. Okay, so all of our white papers are free, but free is always the best price, right?
At any rate, we hope you enjoy our latest white paper Personas: The Online Marketing Secret Weapon.
White paper description: Personas are fictional representations of typical users, well known in the development community but not as well known in online marketing circles. That’s a mistake, because Personas can be your secret weapon in optimizing your online marketing campaigns and improving your ROI. This white paper will provide you with the details you need to implement Personas in your marketing campaigns. You will learn what a Persona is (and isn’t), how to create a Persona, and how to implement that Persona in optimization of landing pages and websites. Armed with this information, you will be able to use Personas to optimize your online marketing efforts, increase conversions and improve your ROI.
Download the white paper now, and feel free to leave comments regarding your experience with personas. Do you know what they are? Do you use them at all? Do you need help figuring out who your target personas are and how to effectively implement them? Leave your comments below!
If you missed our webinar on Wednesday, you missed a great one. “Persona Non Grata: The Online Marketing Secret Weapon” was chock full of need to know info regarding personas, including a statement that should be obvious to most marketers, but that I think all of us forgot from time to time: “More effective communications leads to increased sales.”
“What does communicating effectively have to do with personas?” you ask. It has EVERYTHING to do with personas.
See, personas allow us to better understand our target audience, the tasks they are trying to complete, their pain points, and how they interact with our company’s website and content. Knowing those things allows us to better design our site, create better content that’s much more direct in its purpose, and to essentially create an emotional connection between ourselves and the person on our website. And as all marketers know, creating that emotional connection is super important to getting that person to pick up the phone or fill out a contact form, thus getting them into our sales funnel.
Craig went over a lot more in the webinar, too, and I highly suggest you view it when you get a chance. And as always, feel free to leave your thoughts/questions regarding personas, or contact us if your company needs help developing their personas.
Personas are a critical, but often overlooked part of an online marketing methodology. Here’s an overview of 7 steps you can use to include Persona development and deployment as part of your online marketing campaigns.
Personas in Online Marketing, the critical (but often overlooked) element:
Personas (also referred to as Personae) may not necessarily be the first thing you think about when developing an online marketing campaign. You might be more worried about the message, or the conversion method, or even details like tracking and attribution. But the reality is, without properly creating and utilizing Personas prior to developing your campaign, you are in fact guessing as to whether your campaign will have the desired impact on your target audience. A better way to improve your online marketing results is to use Personas.
What’s a Persona?
According to Wikipedia, a Persona is defined as follows:
“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.”
Here at Apogee Results, we like to define Personas as follows:
“A Persona is a fictional representation of a common group of users who all share the same critical tasks.”
Much like the base of the pyramid, a Persona is the foundation of a good online marketing campaign. Personas have been used for many years by application development teams and usability practitioners, who use the Persona to define critical tasks the user must complete to be successful. However, Personas are still somewhat of a new practice for most online marketing teams.
Personas are Not Target Audiences:
Many marketers do know who their target audience is, but a target audience is not the same thing as a Persona. Typically with a target audience certain geographic, demographic and related marketing data is used to cluster groups of prospects. Data like age, gender, zip-code, household income and even prior purchase history are most often used to create clusters of target audiences.
But notice in the above list what’s missing. What about behavior? Why are prospects looking for information about your products or services? What problems are they trying to solve? How familiar are they with your products, your terminology, the concept of how you can help them solve their needs?
Personas are the tool you can use to answer those behavioral based questions. Coupled with related information from your target audience, you will now have a much clearer picture of whom you are targeting, what issues or needs they have, how your product and service can solve that need, and how to more effectively communicate that with your Personas.
Thus, Personas are the missing behavioral element that enables smart online marketers to be far more effective and efficient at finding, communicating with and selling concepts to their prospects. And that means improvements in conversion, and ultimately your ROI.
Applied to online marketing, Personas can help:
- Shape messaging – By defining who you are trying to reach, what their key needs or problems are, and how your product or service can help them to solve their needs. This information gives you the outline for how to formulate your marketing messaging.
- Define content – Understanding your Persona and what their critical tasks are makes your job of developing content easier. That’s because you have a clear idea of the Persona’s pain-points, and thus can shape your content to help them understand how your solution meets their needs.
- Optimize a buy or order-flow – Knowing your Personas and their critical tasks, and understanding their expectations for how they expect to interact with you, gives you very helpful information for testing and optimizing your buy-flows or order-flows. You will have a much better sense of what the Persona is expecting, and thus can tweak your funnels to test based on behavior and knowledge, instead of guessing what elements should be tested.
7 Steps to Using Personas in Online Marketing:
Developing a Persona or Personas and using them in your online marketing campaigns can be broken down into 7 broad steps. Here’s how to incorporate Personas in your campaign development methodology:
1. Conduct Persona Research – With usability practitioners, typically this research is conducted through contextual observation and research, meaning going out to where typical customers or prospects are and observing them using applications or websites. In online marketing, this can be done, but is expensive and very time consuming. A better way is to carefully interview your top sales team members and key stakeholders, learning from them what the typical issues or concerns are. Ask the top sales reps what terminology prospects typically use. Are there any patterns in common needs shared by prospects that are communicated with the sales team? How does the sales team address those issues, and communicate how the product or service solves the prospects issues?
2. Conduct Competitive Persona Audits – Another way to gain an understanding of Personas is to audit your competitor websites and online marketing campaigns. How are your competitors communicating with their prospects? What terms do they use? How are they defining the needs, and how their products and services solve those needs? What order are these communications in? This information can be very useful for helping you to better define your Personas. But do be cautious! Your competitors may not be communicating effectively or correctly with their prospects, be a good judge and use the data that seems most appropriate and relevant.
3. Analyze Website & Product Data – Examine your website and product sales conversion data carefully. What content seems to resonate best with your prospects? Where are you achieving your best conversion, and where are you not having good conversion? What content are your prospects avoiding or not interacting with? How long are your website visitors spending on key product or information pages? If you are capturing form data, which forms have the highest percentage of starts, abandonments, completions and errors? This data is helpful background data that will provide patterns you can use to better understand your prospect’s behavior.
4. Conduct Prospect Research – A great way to better understand your prospects’ critical needs is to ask them. If you have phone logs, plug in to hear the conversations your prospects are having with your sales teams. Likewise, going out and interviewing your prospects directly is an amazingly powerful way to capture information about what needs they have, how they picture a product or service helping them, and the terminology they use to define what they are looking for.
5. Define Your Persona – With this research, you can now start to build your Persona or Personas. Your Persona should be a fictional representation of a set of typical prospects based on what critical tasks they share in common. The Persona description should include a story with enough information to define who they are, what problem they have, and what they are looking for to help them. You should also include additional detail, like their domain expertise (how familiar they are with your industry, products, terminology, etc.) and if applicable their channels of interaction (PC? Mobile? Phone? Email? etc.). Based on your research you should aim for several Personas. Just one or two might be enough, but if you find yourself with 7, 8 or more you are most likely being too specific with your tasks. It is very hard to make design decisions when trying to optimize for a set of 7 or 8 unique groups, instead, concentrate on just the top 3 or so.
6. Vet Your Personas – This step is often missed, but is very important. Be sure to confirm with your sales team and key stakeholders whether they believe you have correctly identified your Personas. Don’t assume that your first pass of Personas is correct. Ask your top sales team members to review the Personas with you. Have you correctly identified the critical tasks? Are your Personas truly representative of that group of prospects based on the needs, domain expertise and related details? Once your top sales team and other key stakeholders have given you approvals, you are ready to deploy your Personas in your online marketing campaign
7. Use Your Personas – Your Personas can be used to help optimize your online marketing campaigns. Create messaging and creative that directly reaches your Personas, by addressing their needs, concerns and how your product and service can solve their needs. Use the terminology your Personas are comfortable with throughout your campaign. Optimize your buy-flows or order-flows based on their expectations for the interaction. Test variations based on whether the Personas’ tasks are helped, and define your success via conversion data. Refine your Personas based on this data, and continue to optimize and test.
Conclusion, Personas in Online Marketing:
Utilizing Personas as part of your online marketing campaign does take some effort, as you’ve no doubt noticed! But the results of using Personas to make better informed decisions will be demonstrated in your increased conversions and lower cost per lead and cost per sales metrics. Incorporating Personas and using data to continually test and optimize based on solving your prospects needs is one of the fastest ways to improve your conversion. We’ve seen this time and time again here at Apogee Results, which is why we start all of our engagements with Persona research and development.