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Monday, Feb. 13, 2012 at 8:56 pm

Which Type Am I? Thoughts on Personas & Personality Type

By Howard Kaplan
February 13th, 2012

Isn’t it interesting to site back and watch the old become new again?

While speaking with marketers after my session on Personas at Conversion Conference, it seemed to me a trend was (re)gaining traction.  Over the past few months, the digital community at large has taken up the Personas mantle, and there have been many great articles written to help Marketers.  As we wrote in Waiting for Your Cat To Bark, understanding your customers and enabling them to get what they came for is of utmost importance. This rings true in every interaction they have with your company, product or team.  Personas remain one of the best tools out there to help Marketers transform what they know (or think they know, at times) about the customer base from the abstract, to the concrete.

A foundational element of the Persuasion Architecture Personas we’ve helped clients create for years is the use of Personality Type to help build followers.  To this end, the singular question we routinely get asked more than any other by Marketers seeking to learn how to increase the performance of their marketing with the use of Personas is…

What Type Am I?

The answer: it’s irrelevant.

Contrary to what you may assume, Persuasion Architecture Personas are not about identifying the “type” of each individual who visits your website so you can control exactly what you show them (ie – the goal is not to enable dynamically loaded content). Personas are about focusing your attention on the proper planning of scenarios or click-by-click pathways specifically designed for each persona.  Doing so removes the need to identify a visitor’s type in advance and assures you that the website is showing all personas the information they need to move forward.  As long as your site has persona-driven content, self-selection handles the rest.  Persona driven content is content that is “just right” for each type of visitor or visitors “behaving in a specific mode.”

For those new to PA Personas, a brief summary:

  • Persuasion Architecture personas are rooted in behavior because they describe a pace for gathering information/making decisions (quick vs. slow), and information bias (logical vs. emotional).
  • Your sales process needs to account for and align with the four different and identifiable paths a Persona will take to make a purchase or try your product.
  • It’s possible to cater to all four types of personas on one website, and even within one page of that site.

Personas don’t represent groups of people as much as they represent groups of behaviors. I know this is hard to digest, but it actually makes things easier. If you let go of the false assumption that each of us has a type, and fits into one of these groups, things start to make a lot more sense. That’s because even though each of us has a preferred way of acting, and a preferred information focus, certain situations can make us act differently. This is one reason we here at FutureNow prefer to think of the personas as describing a mode of behavior rather than describing a particular kind of person.

Grok the concept that Persona cohorts are best developed by utilizing the characteristics of a specific “buying mode” rather than the Personality Type of the visitor you will your head will start swimming with a sea of facts you know about your customers.  The key to successful Persona creation is in organizing the facts you know, so they can be validated through the persuasive content you plan based on these facts.  Enter…

The Persona Canvas

The Persona Canvas is a tool we use that maps the questions you hear from your customers, their motivations, and the topology of your personas within the context of four “decision mode” quadrants.

Here are some of the things you’ll want to think about as you take a stab at doing a Persona Canvas for your business:

1) Products, brands and companies frequently have a “type” or “mode” associated with them too, and that can be part of what causes a person’s preferred mode to skew toward another mode of behavior and decision-making when purchasing a particular item. Technical products with lots of details, like computer hardware, for example, tend to fall into the Methodical quadrant. This can cause even the spontaneous types to act more methodically when purchasing them. But that’s not to say you won’t have competitive or emotional buyers purchasing computer hardware.

2) The circumstances in which a person is making a purchase can also influence their mode. Think of someone who makes those kinds of purchases for their department at work. They purchased a secondary hard drive for a colleague’s computer last month, and now another colleague has come to them with a similar request.  They know just what they want, and where to go to get it. They are unlikely to need all the facts and details this time, because they already did that the last time they made a purchase. This situation is very different from the man looking for more storage for his home computer because he and his wife are about to have their first baby, and want to make sure they have enough storage for all the videos they plan to take in the next year or two.

3) Believe it or not, we may even shift modes several times while attempting to complete one purchase. Our stage in the buying process can influence our mode too. We may be much more methodical at earlier stages of the buying process, collecting lots of details, and comparing the stats for one product to those for another.  By the time we’ve narrowed down our options, it’s possible we’ve reverted to our naturally preferred mode of decision-making; we just want to read some testimonials to see what other people thought of the products, before we make our final decision.

The variety of reasons why people might have need of your product or service, the image your company presents, the nature of your product, and other factors that can skew persona behavior all will be evidenced in your Canvas.  That’s where you’ll be able to see how those factors play out in your personas.

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Comments (58)

  1. A very good article!!!!! Thanks for sharing!!!!!!

  2. I think ‘The Persona Canvas’ is a very powerful tool for every commercial seeking to enhance his customers list.

  3. very insightful. will share with my sales team. thanks for sharing.

  4. Comprehensive article! I understand very well what you’re trying to point out. “Persona Canvas” the best! =)

  5. Thanks for writing this post about Personal Canvas, looks like a great tool to understand better the mentality of customers.

  6. Thank you for sharing your insight, very helpful in sales, I can use all the help out there!

  7. precisely written and what I loved the most was the decision making tip…
    great tool for knowing customers mentality

  8. Persona driven content is absolutely the way to reach more visitors instead of just focusing on specific “types”. Self selection will be leading and based on that “self-selection” you get a clearer view of your visitors persona.

  9. Interesting post, I hadn’t come across these ideas before.

  10. This article helps me to understand the customers. Thanks for sharing a very nice article of personal canvas.

  11. “As long as your site has persona-driven content, self-selection handles the rest. ” i like this part… thanks for this idea…

  12. Lovely written article with some great insights.

  13. I do wonder, however, whether having site features that cater to all four types might make the site crowded. Perhaps there are certain features that work for all types and those are the most valuable to include.

  14. thanks you for your sharing, very useful for references

  15. What a fabulous article and a truly powerful personas canvas. Excuse me for being oblivious but I have never seen anything of that sort before. I always wondered how people behave when they make certain decisions. Thanks ever so much for the post and for sharing the canvas with us!

  16. Great article… personas play a huge role in marketing, and this is going to come in handy for me. Thank you.

  17. Interesting thing you said, that ‘products, brands and companies frequently have a “type” or “mode” associated with them’. And I think this may be a great niche opportunity. For example Apple computers may be hardware for all these non-methodical people.

  18. [...] iPadDie 3 Säulen des Responsive WebdesignConversionsoptimierung und ROI – E-Commerce Trend 2012Thoughts on Personas & Personality TypeFour Ways to Maximize Your eCommerce Store for MobileIs F-Commerce “Fail” [...]

  19. It seems much easier to implement personas on an informational site, than say a product driven ecommerce site.

    Other than running specific PPC landing pages, you’d have to create an interactive “wizard” to guide a shopper to the best product based on their persona….

    Some may find this frustrating. Your thoughts?

  20. I’ve always thought these personality tests are a little narrow. My outcome usually depends on the state of mind im in when taking the test. I act much differently at work, social events, friends I know or just acquaintances. So my outcome depends on the environment im in at the time of taking it.

  21. The persona canvas is quite an interesting concept, taking marketing to a new level!

  22. I totally agree. Persona is a great marketing tool to help in categorizing the consumers of the market. Great Article and well written!

  23. I understand your points & respect your views, but I respectfully submit that we do far too much categorizing, pigeonholing, & stereotyping. While the Persona Canvas may be interesting & even useful to some, I feel that it’s just another tool to separate & exclude, rather than bring together & include. Please consider this alternative perspective … thanks.

  24. @Gilbert-

    Thank you so much for the comment! This is exactly the point we are trying to make with the post. Anyone can be any ‘type.’ It depends on their mood, their surroundings and what they are shopping for. That is no reason why all those perspectives should not be catered to. Since you do not know what situation people are in when they come to your site, or what ‘type’ they are, you should be optimizing your landing pages for all of them.

  25. @Jeff

    It does not take wizardry to use personas. What if you only sell one product? No products should be considered persona specific. The usefulness of personas lies in the fact that you can make your site designed with landing pages that can help people find the information they need to make the next step towards a purchase. You can imagine it would take different language and advertising to convert someone shopping for sunglasses to impress babes, vs one who needs the best protection from the sun on the market for their snowboarding adventures. One would be looking for proof that babes love guys in those sunglasses, lets say a photo of a party on the beach, the other might be looking for specs and quality ratings. The more ‘types’ of people you can speak to on your landing page, the more you will be able to move along the buying process.

  26. @Mariel – thanks for your reply. In your example of selling only one product, what you’re saying is ONE landing page would have different sections addressing each persona?

  27. The persona canvas is really an interesting concept to take marketing level higher.

  28. I recently took a Adapted Myers-Briggs test and I guess I’m the ESTJ type, a leader. I can say taking personality tests are very interesting and makes you really think about yourself.

  29. Very nice article. Forwarded to my team mates.

  30. @ Jeff. Exactly, you’ve got it. You can create different landing pages for different PPC ads, referral sites, keywords, etc, that will help you maintain scent, but each different landing page should speak to ALL your personas.

    Check out Mango Languages homepage for an example of a homepage/landing page that speaks to the needs of the 4 persona types.

  31. The tool is impressive. This is very helpful for business analysis and generating progress reports. Good to know that there are tools that can allow us to determine a the consumer’s perspective.

  32. The persona canvas is a very enlightening concept. I can definitely apply this to my dealership.

  33. @Mariel –
    Thanks, this makes more sense to me. I have a tendency to overcomplicate things.

    I can see just using one page and sectioning it off for different personas with content blocks.


    In the Mango example. Are you referring to the 3 blogs on the left, starting with “Effective learning for practical conversation” , which are really features…
    or the Personal, Govermnet, Libraries (Personas) on the top which actually go to different landing pages?

  34. a really good post. very helpful to those who wants to venture in the marketing business. has new insights to customers and their personas

  35. Good article and this “persona canvas” is a pretty good tool, however i don’t understand the hard drives example. I think people analyze their need for hard disk space before buying one not just pick up one from the shop.

  36. Very great article. There are some inspiring messages that are shared here, in particular the idea that we have different personalities and how it realates to other aspects of life never seems to end fascinating me. I see this can also be a great tool for personal growth for people that are ready.

  37. Very important to consider but frequently overlooked part of sales! Thanks for the great post.

  38. Very informative post and has great insights on the different personas of consumers.

  39. I think ‘The Persona Canvas’ is a wonderful tool. Thanks for the ideas from this article

  40. I am starting to understand better the idea of making sure my site has content for different personas.

    I know I am looking at things in a very rudimentary way, but I have entertainment for those who want to be entertained, I have information for those who are seeking places to eat, recipes and a place to order food. I even have news for those who just want information that needs no action after viewing it.

    I’ll continue to tweak my website and see how the idea of allowing different personals to self-select content works for me.


  41. Thanks for sharing your insights. Great ideas which I can share with my colleagues too.

  42. “focusing your attention on the proper planning of scenarios” I am struck with this words. Thanks a lot for it is a big help for my sites.. Great Article!!

  43. Thanks for having this blog about Personal Canvas, looks like a great tool to understand better the mentality of customers.

  44. Thank you Howard. Very detailed stuff. I am going to have to read “Waiting For Your Cat to Bark”. I love the title.

  45. Yikes, reading this transported me back to the 90′s when I was working for a large city and we were surveying our “customers” aka residents. You’re right, what was old is new again but I’m so glad I no longer live in that world. My stomach is in knots just looking at it :)

  46. I run a travel magazine and I often look at the personalities in deciding what to publish for my readers… However, I’ve never thought to look at it as in depth as this. Nice write up!

  47. Great persuasion and conversion tool! Many thanks for your share.

  48. Idea is the main thing and idea can become a product so IDEA is the base.
    Persona Canvas its a unique idea that provides a better solution.

  49. THanks a lot for having this blog, Personal Canvas. Its really great article you have there.

  50. Persona canvas you describe is really a good tool which helps in increasing your consumer list and also play a important role in marketing.

  51. Persona Canvas seems like something very cool to consider for my new business for more efficiently marketing to the various “personas” of consumers. Great article.

  52. Interesting post about PA. Personally I find it most gratifying (and easiest) to work with people who make decisions quickly based on logic/facts. Now send me a slow decision maker who bases their decisions on emotion and we have a problem!

  53. A great read, Howard. I was looking exactly for this kind of info on persona/avatar and it really helped me.

  54. Fab article, I will be sure to recommend this to my sales team- it is so important in the marketing world that people know how to interpret the ‘personas’ of customers. Thanks!

  55. Great post here. Some interesting ideas I have not really considered before on personas.

  56. this PA personas stuff is all new to me, didnt know what impact it really had, that was quite informative, thanks

  57. I recently read an interesting article in the Atlantic that discussed how a person’s bias prevents them from judging own characteristics without 3rd party input. There you have it folks, start welcoming constructive criticism if you truly care to figure out who you are as a person.

  58. [...] View the original article here [...]

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