Are Customer Personas a Valid Marketing Methodology?
There is some debate as to what a persona is and whether it is valid methodology to implement for marketing strategy. With the rise of social media, personas have gained some attention among marketers as a way to connect personally with a faceless community.
What is a Customer Persona?
According to Wikipedia, a persona is defined as "Fictional characters
created to represent the different user types within a targeted demographic, attitude and/or behaviour set that might use a site, brand or product in a similar way. Personas are a tool or method of market segmentation."
Well, yes and no. A segment will help you to define patterns of behavior. It still does not give you a real person to talk to. I like to define personas as Jeffrey & Brian Eisenberg state in their book, 'Waiting for Your Cat to Bark'.
"Personas are the representative stand-ins for the modes in which it is possible for individuals to interact with you and your business."
This definition brings to mind actors and their characters. We can identify with characters and their struggles and triumphs. If asked to talk to a pre-teen boy whose parents were murdered, how would you approach him? Kind of at a loss? But if you were told that pre-teen boy was Harry Potter, would you have a better idea on how to approach him?
Why is this an important distinction? Because individuals in a demographic segment can change from mode to mode, even within the same pattern, depending on their goals at the time.
For example, when you purchase a children's book at Amazon for your nephew, the next time you return all your recommendations are for children's books and toys. You are no longer in that mode, but because Amazon has put you in a predictive persona, you will keep getting those recommendations.
Understanding modes of motivation gets you closer to the heart of your customer and helps you to develop empathy for them. In other words, walk a mile in their shoes. In terms of customer service and innovation, this your golden goose.
Should You Use Personas in Your Marketing?
I choose a marketing career for one simple reason, I was fascinated by people and what motivated them to do the things they do. Why is it that 2 people within the same environment and genetics can be so totally different in how they view and approach things? (Have kids- tell me you do not see that!)
3 Reasons to Use Personas for Marketing Strategy
1- Create empathy. It's the golden rule... updated. Rather than treating people the way you would like to be treated, treat them the way they want to be treated. This brings us back to walking a mile in their shoes.
2-Design a persuasive structure. Don't misunderstand me, I am not talking manipulation. I am talking about creating a system that helps people to find what they are looking for, in a way that is pleasing to them. (this is also called user experience or informational architecture, but more than that it is also copywriting). In the end, you have a much happier customer because the message matches the experience.
3- Eliminate the noise and clutter. Sit in on any marketing meeting and you will encounter multiple perspectives on what the end customer is thinking and wants. Who is to say who is right? By creating persona characters, it is no longer about what the VP says or the CEO, it is about sticking to what the customer wants. Content and design decisions are no longer based on what you assume, but are based on empathy.
Not sure if this is more than a philosophical discussion that is not practical to implement? I admit, it is a big concept to get one's head around.
In another post, I explore what the critics say about customer personas and how you can overcome the skepticisms in your orgnization.
Are you waiting anxiously for the next big thing in your business, even in your industry?