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A man walks into a local health store..
Customer: Hi, I’m looking for a diet supplement that helps suppress my appetite
Sales Guy: Howdy! Welcome to Vitamin Wizard! Your one stop shop for vitamins, protein and health tips!
Customer: Yeah, so I was looking for..
Sales Guy (interrupts): Hey! Would you like to sign up for our daily newsletter! Jam packed with junk you probably won’t read absolutely free!
Customer: Uhh.. Just the dietary supplement today.
Sales Guy: We’re 100% family owned and operated and won’t be beaten by our competitors. This month we have a sale on mass gainers and multivitamins and… (continues with 6 other messages that eerily sound like website banners)
Customer: (walking away) Nevermind..
In addition to what not to do when a prospect walks through your front door, unfortunately, the above scenario would be shockingly common if you brought most online user experiences offline.
The moral of the story is online experiences often fail because websites haven’t taken the time to identify and become familiar with their target audiences, or more specifically, their personas. In fact, one of the most overlooked root causes of a poorly converting website is that it has failed to define and find affinity with its personas.
One of the first questions I ask before commencing a CRO audit is: Do you know your targeted personas and have you defined what makes them tick as real people?
Nope. And here’s just one fundamental reason: Marketers have long touted that the fastest way to get a prospect to brand adoption and advocacy is via an emotional connection as opposed to a rational, features & benefits kind of one. This is part of the brain that takes care of this is known as the limbic system. Knowing a segment’s age, location, industry or size of business however simply doesn’t allow you to determine what makes prospects tick at an individual level.
..the limbic system processes information 200 times faster than the cognitive brain! – Katharina Kuehn, Smart Company
Just like the health store sales guy’s approach didn’t come to close to determining the customer’s motivations, situation and pain points, segmentation ignores the simple fact that b2b and b2c customers essentially are people.
Persona definition is the tool that allows to you to actually start treating them human beings.
Knowing a few more details of our above prospect may have revealed that he is a busy white collar professional who in addition to being very time poor would also benefit from a natural de-stress valerian root supplement that works well with a particular variety of appetite suppressant.
First (due to way too many years at University), a theoretical definition:
Personas are a tool designed to create empathy with a group of real users. Personas are fictional characters (based on research!) designed to represent a group of people with similar characters, values and behaviours. The purpose of personas is to mix demographic information with archetypal behaviors in a believable and data supported harmony. Personas are most useful when they are paired with scenarios to provide context and lead to insights thus guide design decisions – Brandito
At its core, defining personas allows you to identify what they really care about when trying to solve a real world problem, what context that problem lives in and factors that affect (or compromise) their decision making.
Before you can start creating ‘Conversion Conversations’ with your persona on your website via Content Marketing and other fancy strategies such as Social Media and SEO, you need on paper, a clear definition of who your personas are.
Now there’s not right answer on how comprehensive your persona definition needs to be. I’ve seen people create persona definitions as short as a paragraph and as long as 8-10 pages. The key is to start and only include the pieces of information you think is important initially and evolve it from there.
In regards to how many persona’s you need to create will vary wildly depending on your industry and type of business. This could be just one or as many as 6 or more.
The key point here is to identify and group your audiences into similar, characteristically homogenous groups that you can realistically develop strategies to service. Most brands I speak to are about to identify between 2-4 persona’s.
ACTION ITEM: Write down and identify as many persona’s as you deem relevant to your brand and answer all the above questions for each. This could be as few as one or as many as 6.
If there is one principle you need to keep in mind before and during persona identification it is: Remember YOU are not your target audience.
What you think is a value driver isn’t important, neither is what your peers and friends think is important. The very fact you are selling to your persona’s excludes you, in a conclusive way anyway, from being an impartial source.
I mentioned a few times above the idea of matching your persona’s mental model. The only way to truly identify their mental model, speak your persona’s language and subsequently develop fantastic outputs such as Content Marketing, Social Media and SEO strategies is do the research.
This includes primary research such as asking customer service staff at the coal face and secondary research including twitter, Quora and LinkedIn Answers to mention just a few sources.