The Practical, Data-Driven Persona Approach You Can Use Right Now

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The persona is a much-vaunted, much-maligned tool in digital marketing, helping marketers to define their audience. But most persona programs fall short for four major reasons:

  • They’re fictional
  • They don’t reflect the overall composition of the audience
  • They aren’t data driven
  • They don’t practically translate into marketing campaigns

If your personas are not based on real people, based on data and usable in campaigns, then you probably are getting little out of them. Here’s how to shift from “Julie likes cheese”-style personas to something based on what I call the “Zone of Convinceability.”

Instead of focusing in, focus out. Look at the total universe of potential buyers. Who are they? Maybe it’s everyone in China, or marketing executives. Now you have a total buying universe of x and y.

Next, divide your audience into two. Those who might buy and those who would ever buy. Those who could be persuaded to buy, however remotely the chance, fall into the Zone of Convinceability. Don’t waste any of your time outside this.

Then, select a characteristic to track that is relevant to your offering. Maybe they need to be located in the Midwest. Maybe they have to be on musical.ly. This could be called a foundational quality.

Then divide your audience in the Zone of Convinceability by aspects of this attribute. The key is that all of the audience fits into one category, no one is excluded. These are your persona segments. So, for enterprise marketing software, your audience might be “all the titles who use marketing software” excluded by anyone who would not.

Then, select the top 3 common attributes of your best current customers. Think about their digital habits, their information needs and the kind of language cues you need to reach them.

Now think about level of urgency of need or level of desire.

Then, think about preferred methods of receiving and consuming information, including what you know about when they are most active online.

One of the newer ways of identifying persona attributes is by the things they need to do, an emerging discipline known as jobs to be done (JTBD): describe the top 3 JTBD for each persona and, if applicable, overlay a corresponding demographic segment (although in most cases this won’t be necessary).

What you have now is a segmentation of prospectively-convince-able customers with attributes (or information you need to gather) that will allow an extremely-focused approach in reaching them. In my next column, I’ll outline what this persona actually looks like – and how to measure the segments and show how they perform. The next steps are implementation:

  • Create content targeting each persona
  • Create lists against each persona
  • Deploy campaigns

Now you have a persona map by which you can target, deploy and report, that can be tested and updated and applied to your existing databases, and by which your audience can most effectively be targeted.

Originally published September 12, 2016 on The ACA Edge.

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Jennifer Evans

Jennifer Evans

President at B2B News Network
President, @B2BNewsnetwork (launched Nov 2014). Content, community and analytics obsessed. Inventor @squeezecmm. Past chair, @itac_online @whiteribbon