PERSONAS: Understanding It and Its Value to Your Marketing Strategy

Lesson #27–PERSONAS

This is internet income course lesson twenty-seven, which tries to simplify the issues in starting and running a profitable online business by breaking down important principles in simple English. Course author, George Little, continues to reveal tips, real-world advice, and in-depth, step-by-step instructions on setting up your Internet-based business. Read the previous lesson 26 here.

WHAT YOU WILL LEARN
In this lesson, you will learn about "personas" and why they are valuable to your marketing strategy.

Clicks And Likes Vs. Empathy And Intuition

Imagine there are two fishermen, each in their own boat, each fishing the same lake on a given day, but using different strategies. One of the fishermen, while knowing the basics of which bait to use and the proper depth given the particular location, plans to start at one end of the lake and work his way to the other end, throwing out his line a couple of times at each location and, if he gets no bites, move on until he finds the fish. The other has spent a great deal of time studying the topography of the lake bed, the feeding patterns of the desirable species of fish, the preferred food, the vegetation surrounding the bank and its effect on available natural food (falling insects from tree limbs, etc.), the locations of water flowing in and out, and many other factors that might affect the fishing in this particular lake. This fisherman tries to think like the fish and anticipate where they will be. He picks a spot in light of all these factors and sticks with it for most of the day. Sometimes, this fisherman will create a name for the fish he is after for his first catch ("I'm gonna get ole Shelby Shellcracker today, I've got him figured out!") NOTE: I offer no opinion as to which strategy might be best on a particular day. One can argue the advantages of both approaches.

While a marketers goal is not to capture and consume like the fishermen's goal (see section on empathy below), the strategies used to accomplish their goals are somewhat analogous. Like these two fishermen, Internet Marketers can take different approaches. One school of thought is to be like the first fisherman, randomly trying many things and sticking with what gets you the clicks and the likes. This is often referred to as the "keyword approach". The only concern with this approach is what keywords will get you the most exposure for your money. Another school of thought is to be like the second fisherman, carefully studying your potential market, trying to think like them, understanding their environments and their traits, trying to anticipate what will attract them by using empathetic understanding.

The traditional approach (a/k/a the keyword approach) is the one analogous to the first fisherman, the one who seeks the most exposure. The newer approach, now quite popular among many marketers, is analogous to the second fisherman. The newer approach is the one that uses "personas".

"Personas" Defined

"Personas", formerly referred to as "pen portraits", are fictional characters created to represent the different user types that might use a site, brand, or product in a similar way. A persona is a representation of the goals and behavior of a hypothesized group of customers, potential customers, or online service users. Stated differently, a persona is a fictional character that has been developed to characterize the key traits of a particular group of your target audience. Another view is that personas are fictional, generalized representations of your ideal customers.

Personas are created in one or more page descriptions, often including a representative photo or drawing, that include personality traits, beliefs, attitudes, aspirations, education and skills, challenges and problems, along with some information about their environment...with a few fictional personal details added to make the persona seem more like a real person. They are created from observations of online activity, information accumulated in available public or commercial databases, and are often supplemented with customers' answers to your own survey questions. The strongest personas are based on both market research and insights you gather from your actual customer base through observation of their online activity, surveys, and interviews. They are then enhanced with some fictional characteristics to make them seem like real people.

Why Use Personas?

The advantage of using personas is that they allow you to utilize your own knowledge of human behavior to gain insights into the personalities and habits of your customers in areas where there may not be any data. For example, in the last lesson we introduced you to Fred Freshman and Carol Co-ed, customers of solar chargers for cell phones. We told you only that Fred and Carol are college students, busy all day running back and forth around campus to their various classes and busy at night partying, often forgetting to charge their smart phones when crashing for the night. Just from that little bit of information, how much more can you guess about Fred and Carol? I would guess that both are young, single, and have no children. I would guess they don't have much income and what income Fred has is spent on school, technology, and socializing. I would guess that what little available money Carol has is spent on school, technology and fashion. I would speculate that they spend very little time thinking about retirement, but do spend significant time thinking about the current job market. There are many more things that we could guess about each of them. The ability to speculate these things about our imaginary Fred and Carol–these things that may well apply to real people–becomes a more engaging process than reading dry database reports.

Personas have been criticized as being unscientific and that is a valid criticism. Unless and until you test the assumptions you make about personas scientifically, they are indeed unscientific. But, this criticism misses the point. The usefulness of personas comes into play when you do not have scientifically collected data on certain traits and it is not practicable to obtain it. Personas from a scientific standpoint are just guesses, but, when you have to guess, personas provide a useful framework and a means of communication with your team that help you make good guesses. Personas are used to extend the available data beyond its inherent limitations. When the opportunity arises and is practicable, the assumptions created from your personas should be tested against real data. When that opportunity is not available, personas help you to make knowledgeable guesses and do it in a more interesting and engaging way.

Each persona you create theoretically represents a market segment. The reason for developing personas is so that we can plan our marketing strategies with these different groups in mind. We use the personas to help optimize the user journey at each stage of our marketing. By asking the questions "Will this work for Fred?" and "Will this work for Carol?" at every stage of our digital marketing, we can create a more focused, more human oriented, strategy. Personas are a way of understanding the person behind the visits to our website or social media page. They help us to understand their behavior.

Negative Personas

You can also create "negative personas" that can be useful. Most businesses have a certain type that they would prefer not engage with their social media site or website or even buy their products or services. For example, if you have an online service company, you soon learn to recognize a certain profile. There are people who will purchase your service and then abuse your customer support, requiring hours and hours of specific help on each stage of the process–only to promptly cancel once they are setup, even though they were provided all the information they needed. They will then post to your social media site or the comments section of your website with unfounded criticisms. It saves you time and trouble to avoid engaging with this type of customer in the first place. By creating "negative personas" to help you recognize these troublemakers early, you can design your marketing strategy to steer these potential customers to some other product or service that would better meet their needs, making you more helpful to them and saving yourself much time and trouble in the process.

Empathy

Good marketers are problem solvers for their customers. The best way to accomplish being a good problem solver is to gain the ability to see through the eyes of your customers, understanding their problems from their perspective, yet knowing better than your customers how to best solve their problems. As we learned in the last section, if your product or service will not truly meet the customer's needs, it may be best to steer the customer to another solution. If your product or service is not fully satisfying the needs of your customers, you need to work to improve your product or service. If your product or service will fully satisfy the needs and solve the problems of potential customers, your marketing strategy should be designed to help them understand just how and why it will do so. To get a potential customer to understand this, you first have to get their attention. The best way to get their attention is to let them know you fully understand their problems and needs. Personas help you to accomplish this goal.

CONCLUSION
Just as there are different approaches to finding and attracting fish, there are different approaches to finding and attracting customers. There is the traditional "keyword approach" (where you experiment to find the keywords that will give you the most exposure) and the newer method that users "personas" and "buyer's journeys" to guide you in creating your marketing strategy.

A persona is a fictional character that has been developed to characterize the key traits of a particular segment of your target audience or to develop a generalized view of your ideal customer. Personas are created in one or more page descriptions, often including a representative photo or drawing, that gives a shorthand description of your customer...with a few fictional personal details thrown in to make the persona seem more like a real person. Personas should be based on real data as much as possible, including your own observations and surveys. Personas then become useful by helping you to speculate beyond the limits of available data.

The advantage of using personas is that they allow you to utilize your own knowledge of human behavior to gain insights into the personalities and habits of your customers in areas where there may not be any data. Using personas is a more engaging process than reading dry database reports. Personas are a way of understanding the person behind the visits to your website or social media page. Negative personas help you to avoid customers whose needs you cannot properly meet. Personas allow us to create empathy with our customers, understanding their problems and finding ways to both solve their problems and communicate how we will do that.

WHAT'S COMING NEXT
In our next lesson, we will learn how to create personas. You can read the next lesson here: Creating Personas.

Author
By George Little, Panhandle On-Line, Inc. For more information on the Internet Income Course and other works and courses by George Little, see http://www.profitpropulsion.com

No comments:

Post a Comment