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FutureNow Article
Friday, Sep. 12, 2008

The Case for Persona-Based Lead Generation

By Bryan Eisenberg
September 12th, 2008

A lost wallet lies on a Manhattan street, stuffed with cash. A white middle-income male, New Yorker, between age 30 and 44, picks it up. Will he look for the rightful owner, or pocket the cash?

With that level of “targeting,” it’s anyone’s guess. There just isn’t enough information available.

But if George Costanza, the white middle-income male New Yorker between age 30 and 44 from “Seinfeld” picks up the wallet, everyone knows exactly what he’ll do.

He’ll keep the money.

By allowing you to imagine their concerns, reactions, and questions, personas allow you to better plan marketing interactions and messaging. Personas are critical to lead generation Web sites, specifically those that want to engage their suspects and prospects in a sales dialogue online and offline.

Personas vs. Segmentation/Demographics

When building personas for your lead gen or demand generation Web site, psychographics are typically more profitable than demographics.

Psychographics give insight into how an individual perceives the world, their belief structures, and some of their core personality traits. Psychographics, in the form of personality theory and motivational research, have a long documented effectiveness at predicting decision-making styles and behaviors — including buying behaviors.

Demographics, on the other hand, are only loosely correlated to behavior and often horrible in predicting marketing response.

Personas tell us how to plan and have a conversation. Demographics mostly tell us where to have that conversation. Both are important.

Using Personas to Take Action and Build Persuasion Scenarios

Web sites and online interactions especially benefit from this by allowing copywriters to plan the interactivity of click paths, the link structure for embedded hyperlinks, and the messaging required for increased persuasive momentum and conversions.

“Actionable personas” have easily predictable and imaginable conversations and reactions, like good fictional characters. They have to generate empathy and engage the imagination.

Meet Melissa Putnam, 23, Sales Assistant, $32,000 Annual Income

Melissa, a newbie at her job, was just asked by the sales manager to research and suggest some potential sales training vendors. Melissa is a people person; she likes to build strong relationships and relies on good first impressions to get relationships off to a strong start. She wants to make a splash and impress the boss.

The Brooks Group, a sales training company, offers all sorts of customized training, many of which would be a perfect match for Melissa’s needs.

Let’s peek at how we planned the interaction on the site for Melissa’s style and needs.

Melissa is a “humanistic,” meaning she’s interested most in relationships. So as she arrives at the Brooks Group Web site, she’s immediately presented with two links to the About Us page, both at the top and left-hand navigation.

When she clicks through, she’s presented with a page that addresses her motivations about midway through, and notices the header “Meet the team.” You also see a picture of the founder, and a link in the active window that reads ‘real coaches.’ This is all Melissa speak.

After she clicks that link, she arrives at the “Working with Brooks Group” page. There’s a lot of content here that is virtual red meat for her. Here she reads a little about coaching and clicks the link near the bottom of the page that reads, “Contact one of our sales coaches, and they’ll talk you through a typical training deployment.”

Melissa is on her way to becoming a lead.

If you click around the site acting as Melissa, you’ll find other paths for her to follow, all leading toward a conversion event, giving her several opportunities to call or fill out the lead form. You’ll find links and elements designed and planned exclusively for her humanistic style persona.

If you’re astute, you’ll notice that Melissa isn’t the only persona accounted for on the site.

Meet Charlie “Nubs” Harrison, 45, Sales Manager, $90,000 Annual Income

Charlie, a former top salesperson, was just promoted to sales manager. He’s starting to doubt he made the right decision. His quote: “Managing these people is like herding cats.”

Charlie is a take-action, spontaneous type. He doesn’t like to waste time and he’s in pain. His sales people are driving him crazy.

Since Charlie has little patience, the first and most visible link in the active window was planned for him. He might also be interested in first learning about the company, Unlike Melissa, he’s looking more for credibility and experience than a relationship.

On the “about us” page, a link is planted just for him that reads, “the ability to manage sales rather than micromanage sales people.” Score for a Charlie type visitor!

As he follows that link, he arrives at the “Herd Your Sales Cats” page that is rich with Charlie language and content intended to speak to his pain. Near the bottom is a link that reads, “Getting started with the Brooks Group is easy.”

Here are things you can do for your personas to better plan your online lead gen interactions.

  • Speak to temperaments such as humanistic. When you have content for several on the same page, put elements links and copy for the impatient competitive and spontaneous types higher up on the page, humanistics in the middle, and provide all the deeper details last for your methodical personas. Methodical types are not afraid of reading, so let them at it.
  • Account for buying cycles. Ask what your personas need at each stage of the buying process. If they’re early in the buying cycle, they don’t know what they need or how to buy your product. If in the middle, they know approximately what they need. And finally, those in the late stage know exactly what they want. Provide copy, links, and elements for all three stages. In a recent column, I showed how Marketo was trying to convert outside the context of an early stage buyer.
  • Understand sales complexity. You need to know how your personas relate to four measurements of complexity and provide content that addresses the questions and issues they face. One persona may have a greater felt need (Charlie), while another needs consensus (Melissa).

You might be thinking, wow, this is a lot of work.

Yup. But we can help you get these great results.

Being purposeful and prepared to deal with your prospects is always sweat-inducing work. But with a good plan, the sweat breeds greater conversion.

Bottom line for the Brooks Group: it doubled its leads by planning using persuasion scenarios, components that lead a visitor segment to participate in a conversion action.

* Cross posted from ClickZ.

Add Your Comments

Comments (13)

  1. An insightful post Bryan.

    Personas are a great way to understand your customers, or potential customers more fully.

    You can dig deep into the psyche of each Persona to understand more about them; how they go about their lives, their values, fears, needs, goals, desires, the language they use…….

    In doing so you build a picture of them that will allow you to communicate with them in ways they understand, empathise if you will.

    Mike Ashworth
    Marketing Coach and Consultant
    Brighton and Hove, Sussex, UK

  2. Thanks for the reminder, Bryan

    I used to use Personas (or “Use Cases”) for software design, but haven’t thought about them for marketing. Even better, I would guess, is if you have a few real customers that you’ve interacted with enough to know them. Then you can imagine, “What would Mary think of this”

    Cheers, Jon

  3. Very interesting read. Mike hit the nail on the head….empathy will lead to rapport in turn allowing trust to be built with the end user. Once you have trust, you get your lead.

    Persuasion scenarios seem like great way forward as the average internet user is far more sophisticated in today’s age. Especially when it comes to PPC performance. It is disheartening paying big bucks for top keywords then getting the visits but not the conversions.

    Time to test! Great read!


  4. I know this is a bit off-topic, but I just have to tell you: YouTube has a video of a barking cat.

    I look forward to reading your comments about this.

  5. There is nothing more important than having an intimate knowledge of your prospect when you’re creating copy for a website and this method will help to make that process more fun.

    Nice post.

    Kindest regards,
    Andrew Cavanagh

  6. Haha, I like the barking cat.

    On subject – I think that 37 Signals has some great resources on their SVN blog about the same thing. They seem to put things on there about their own business strategy – which seems weird, but it’s kind of a good idea.

  7. [...] איזנברג התייחס לנושא דרך הדוגמא [...]

  8. Ok, this stuff makes my brain hurt. Business development is a tough thing in this day in age. It takes a lot of brain processing to figure out who your actual target is before you can develop them into a lead.

    P.S. I would keep the cash… Just kidding

  9. I highly agree. We spend our lives learning that where you’re from doesn’t matter, and Nature vs Nurture, but then we try to base our marketing campaigns solely on demographics.

  10. @ barking cat, what an amazing deviation from the topic at hand. Look now there’s people replying about the barking cat instead of the article. pffssh

    There’s a lesson in this. An experiment on our site by putting the barking cat in the middle (to learn more, watch the kitty, then signup). lol

  11. [...] copywriting? Maybe seeing some examples would help. The persuasion expert, Bryan Eisenberg, shares 2 examples of personas that he might typically use for his clients. Bonus points for the Seinfeld [...]

  12. Thanks for the reminder, Bryan

  13. great average prospect when you’re creating the topic at hand. Look now there’s people replying about intimate knowledge of way forward as the your copy for internet user is far more sophisticated in today’s

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Bryan Eisenberg, founder of FutureNow, is a professional marketing speaker and the co-author of New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling books Call to Action and Waiting For Your Cat to Bark and Always Be Testing. You can friend him on Facebook or Twitter.

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