Personas aren’t personalization but they can be your first step toward it

07 April 2017

Consumers increasingly demand more from companies.

Customers expect products, services, and information that cater to their individual needs and desires. It’s no surprise that delivering personalized experiences is a top priority for marketers.

Personalization is the most powerful method of engaging customers.

If you can customize your particular business or service to their individual needs, you will win loyalty—and business too.

Brands need to recognize their target audience, the context of their visit, and how likely they are to adopt their product or services. Providing solutions targeted specifically to a potential buyer’s needs, interests and context, means they can immediately find what they’re looking for.

Achieving true personalization is a multi-step journey, touching aspects of infrastructure, tools, data, privacy, service design and content.

If jumping straight to personalization seems a step too far in the short term, better understanding your buyer personas will offer an immediate benefit and also serve as the first step to achieving personalization in the medium term. Where to start?

What is a marketing persona?
A persona represents a segment of audience members who exhibit similar behaviors in purchasing decisions. By identifying their distinct preferences or needs, you can reveal what is personally meaningful to each targeted audience. Personas inform market and customer strategies to guide the business toward greater customer-centricity. They reveal emotional tendencies and triggers, as well as desired social and online environments. They can become a key decision-making tool to evolve your content strategy and help predict the success of content assets.

How are personas built?
The process of creating customer personas starts with a variety of insight gathered from key platforms, from the smallest of details in your site analytics, to tracking actual conversations by real-life customers.

Marketers need to cast a wide net to uncover information that will help inform the development of compelling personas. When researching and building personas, you’ll need to consider the individual’s demographics (age, gender, and location), how best to speak to them, what they value, and the style and tone of marketing message that will engage or influence them.

Where do you get all the information you need to develop your personas?

Involve core teams. Identify groups that both directly interact with customers and/or manage customer data. Get them to share their perspective on your target audience’s needs. This may include salespeople, customer service representatives, the C-level suite, and of course marketing.

Build better personas with data. If your use of personas is not underpinned by data evidence, then it’s just guesswork. Utilizing analytic tools and qualitative research allow you to gather, interpret, and understand customer behaviors. Because of the proliferation of data sources, companies today have more information than ever to gain fresh insights into customer preferences and motivations.

Review conversations on social media platforms. Marketers can glean insight through social channels, which allow different aspects of your audience’s personality to shine through. When customers share their concerns that presents a valuable opportunity. The data experts at Metia use listening tools to uncover customer frustrations, pain points, feedback, and questions they are asking. This social intelligence is then filtered to reveal the most relevant details to inform your messaging.

Ask your audience questions. Conduct surveys and one-on-one interviews. This process can reveal deep insight into your customers. During the analysis process, patterns will begin to emerge. Research will discover audience goals, values, and pain points that will resonate. This, in turn, will yield the most valuable insight: how to accurately personalize the user experience.

Who cares?
The creation of personas helps marketing, sales, product, and services. Personas have become essential to achieve success and transform the customer experience. The internet is filled with content and brands fighting to cut through the noise with compelling, unique content that tells the audience something new, interesting or entertaining.

How many personas do you need?
In most scenarios, it is recommended to make three to seven personas to represent your audience. This number is big enough to cover the majority of your customer segments and to differentiate their needs and motivations. The rule of thumb is that when you naturally start to identify patterns and predict interviewee answers, you have found enough people to internalize these archetypes.

How can personas be used to personalize marketing?
Using personas, marketers can craft messaging that both appeals to their target audience and tailor content to fit the goals of buyers. With your buyer personas defined, you will have a better understanding of who, how, and where your campaigns will achieve the greatest success. Investing in personas enable marketers to design first-class, personalized user experiences at all touch points—websites, landing pages, email, mobile, and social media channels.

The persona life-cycle
Persona building is a process that requires continual updating to stay current with emerging trends, changing economic times, and new products and services.

If real time personalization is your final destination, then creating effective data driven personas provide the first informed steps to get you there.

If you plan to incorporate personalization into your marketing, Metia has a series of case studies that demonstrate the benefits of persona development and provide the first steps of your personalization strategy.