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Monday, Feb. 7, 2011 at 10:35 am

Got Personas? Three Ways to Leverage Them in 2011

By Brendan Regan
February 7th, 2011

We’ve written plenty of posts over the years about what marketing personas are, how to create them, and why they’re useful. This post assumes you’ve already done the hard work of creating marketing personas. You’ve got them, and boy, do they look pretty! But they’re essentially gathering dust on your Marketing Shelf, when you should be leveraging them to make your marketing more customer-centric.

Note: This is “Personas 201″ so, if you need “Personas 101″ first, we suggest you start with our free whitepaper (PDF 4.8MB) on personas »

Assuming you’ve got marketing personas, and are ready to learn new ways to leverage them to be more data-driven and customer-centric in 2011, read on! We’re going to overview 3 examples of how our clients leveraged their personas in 2010, with the hopes that you can leverage yours better in 2011. We’ll also be diving into this subject in more detail at our presentation at Conversion Conference West in San Francisco on March 14th and 15th.

#1 Use Personas to Get Better Output from Your Creative/Web Agency

Like many marketers, we have a client who outsources a lot of web design and development work to an external agency. As part of a redesign exercise, our client used their existing marketing personas to drive a “creative brief” type of document which held her agency accountable to a much more customer-centric set of deliverables. Most agencies have worked with personas here and there, so there’s no excuse for them to refuse to play ball on this type of effort.

We used each persona as a platform to make “demands” of the site experience that the agency would have to fulfill as part of a successful redesign. The personas’ questions had to be answered and their objections had to be overcome in order for the redesign to be called a success. We took it a step further and matched each persona’s cognitive style to persuasion tactics and psychological triggers that could be used to get the desired actions from the target audience segment.  Click on the snapshot (right) to see an example.

If you have personas, use them in 2011 to give your designers, copywriters, and developers a much richer context on which to base their efforts. You’ll get higher quality work, and you’ll be able to hold your resources more accountable because you’ve given them more specifics with which to work.

#2 Write Better Copy

You may have marketing personas, but is everyone on your team who writes any kind of web content skilled at “speaking to” your personas with their words? This isn’t easy to do, and it takes practice. One of our clients developed personas in 2010 and then quickly asked, “What do we do with them now?” Our first response was to make sure all their writers (internal, freelance, and those who managed and approved copy) understood the personas and, more importantly, how to write to different personality types represented by the personas. In their case, a half-day training session was all it took to do some copywriting exercises, review the personas, and get them thinking about how to improve their copywriting in 2011.

By the way, it’s a skill to be able to write a campaign (for example, an email and a landing page) to a single persona. The harder skill to acquire is being able to write single campaigns that resonate with multiple personas.

#3 Track “Persona Clickpaths” in Your Analytics & Optimize

For another client with personas, we took some educated guesses about how the various personas would behave on the website on their way to conversion. For example, their landing page and the likely clickpath they would follow to try and get their questions answered, gather the information they needed to feel comfortable, then finally convert.

We set up “goal funnels” in Google Analytics to start tracking all the prospects that matched the behavior we attributed to a particular persona (4 personas = 4 funnel reports). The nice thing here is that we now have segmented conversion rates for how well the site converts the various personas. We immediately saw that the site converts at roughly 6% for the client’s Spontaneous persona (click image at left to view funnel), at 5% for their Humanistic persona, at around 3% for their Competitive persona, and under 2% for their Methodical persona.

We tracked clean data to establish a “baseline,” and now are able to prioritize optimization efforts according to which funnel steps have the biggest dropoff, which funnels get the most traffic, and where there is the most revenue to be gained through site changes and testing. If you’ve ever struggled with prioritizing optimization efforts and resources, this is a splendid way to justify why you’re bumping certain items to the top of your list and investing where you are.

To Learn More

These are only brief summaries, so we hope you can make it to Conversion Conference West to hear more in our Day 2 session titled “Personas and Cognitive Styles.” If reading any of this got you really excited about getting more conversion rate optimization “bang” for your personas “buck,” feel free to contact us for some guidance.

Add Your Comments

Comments (12)

  1. Is it really advisable to try and market to 4 personas through one brand? If these four personalities truly require a specific kind of copy (copy which will drive conversions for these the consumers that match this persona), wouldn’t it make the most sense to develop branding for each persona type?

    I guess what I’m asking: Is it a recommended strategy, especially if you’re in the process of launching a product, to re-evaluate your marketing strategy to include branding options for each persona?

  2. This is great for having my copy writer really think about different types of visitors and in particular about click paths.

  3. Personally, I’m unsure about the value of adding personas or trying to construct approaches around them. People are too complex.
    That said, an elboration of how you constructed personas and added them to Google Analytics would be very interesting and something that I’ve not read about before. That section definitely deserves a post of its own.

  4. @Cudo: Daily Deals – You’re right to question the value of persona built on stereotypes. But what we’re talking about here is personas built around information-collection and decision-making styles. These same 4 basic types have been discussed for centuries: Even Aristotle spoke of them! But modern psychology actually validated them in the 20th century. And yes, people are complex… which is why we’re not saying that these personas represent a person as much as they do a particular mode of communication. People can actually crossover from one communication mode to another depending on the circumstances or their stage in the buying process. [Eg: I'm a natural humanistic (slow paced, and emotionally focused; motivated by how something facilitates my connections to other people and the larger world). But put a set of data in front of me, and I become totally methodical (still slow paced, but much more logical). Complicate all of that with a tight deadline, and I go Competitive (logical, but fast paced).] Plan your website so there is always an option for each one of these styles, and your visitors self select based on whatever their current mode is.

    You ask for more info about how we constructed the personas. Read the PDF that is linked to at the top of the blog post.

  5. It’s nice to see this topic addresses publicly. This is a technique I’ve been using for years and it can be amazingly effective if you match it correctly to your target audience. It was interesting to see it quantified using analytics as well. I never thought to take it quite that far but it appears to be worth the effort to measure the response.

  6. This sounds like a really involved process. I wonder how you can measure the pay-off that you get from planning and executing this approach.

  7. The digital agency I work for uses personas in all experience design projects we work on. It helps get in line with the customer and better understand their thought process. Nice roundup of benefits.

  8. As far as writing for personas goes, I think it would be a good idea to create a system/document
    that details how to write for a specific or multiple personas. I know this may overlap with the persona document but I think it would be better to develop a separate writers guide with concrete examples of what works and what doesn’t for a particular persona. Something like a swipe file.

    – Steve

  9. @FinallyFast.com – you asked a great question! So great in fact, that it inspired us to write an entire post dedicated to a response.

  10. @Anthony Piwarun – a lot of marketing organizations or groups use what they call personas to enhance their efforts. The question, or rather the differentiator, is how those personas are created. Unfortunately, many are merely regurgitated demographic information with names, more reflective of stereotypes than anything that actually imparts information about a desire to buy a product. Only personas that account for the desire to buy in some way (eg. ours are rooted in scientifically validated psychological principles about information-gathering and decision-making styles real people exhibit, including known motivating factors, and then applied to the buying process for a product) can truly bring value to a marketing effort.

  11. @helpdesk outsourcing – We have written something along those lines already. Please read the following GrokDotCom posts:
    - for more info about the information gathering style each persona exhibits (so you can learn how to write to them)
    - for more info about the kinds of questions typical of each persona (so you can learn what info to give them)
    - for more info about the motivations behind each personas decisions (so you can learn how to pitch the info you give them)
    - for more info about where the 4 personas look for information on the page (so you can learn where on a page to answer their questions)

    Read those, take some notes about each topic by persona, and then bundle that info by persona, and you will have our internal “writing to personas” guide we use to train our analysts.

  12. It is a good idea having a copy writer consider different types of visitors and in which click path they may take.

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