Personas: A Recipe for Relevant Personalization
I would bet that most marketers would agree that the amount of data we have on customers is at its peak—it’s not lacking. But what is lacking, is a cohesive vision of who our consumers are, how they behave, what they value, what they stand for, and what they expect from your brand. These are the details and context that provide your company with the insight to deliver a customer experience that offers value to them on their terms. Think of it this way. It’s the difference between baking a chocolate chip cookie using the recipe on the back of the box that is generally acceptable vs. knowing what the characteristics of the perfect chocolate chip cookie are for your audience. Do they like chewy with crispy edges? Half baked? Are they a foodie who prefers dark chocolate and expensive butter? Those details are what persona development brings to the kitchen table if you will—the personal detail that takes you from generalized to more meaningful and relevant.
Here’s a case in point, a personal experience. I recently received direct mail from a selection of DTC brands with messaging that was positioned towards helping new millennial moms navigate all things parenthood. The envelope said, “Hey new mom!” So yes, I am a millennial woman, but I am not a mother nor am I expecting. I may have all of the ingredients that you might assume that a millennial mom may have, but these marketing efforts were and are completely irrelevant to me. How did they miss the mark? More often than not, companies are so focused on growth and acquisition that they do not take the time to use their data to get to know their customers beyond what is presented at face value. In this case those brands probable knew that I’m a female in my mid 30’s, live in an “up and coming” urban zip code, and likely have purchased a product from another DTC brand that they share a mailing list with. In only relying on this information, those companies missed the important nuances (recall the cookie example) that provide context and insight into the factors that influence my behavior as a consumer, my persona. Even further, developing personas enables companies to invest resources towards targeting the right people. In this case, removing me from the pile.
Think of customer personas as the recipe that helps you to synthesize your data (the ingredients and baking preferences) in a meaningful way and tells you who your customers are at a personal level, what influences their behavior, and why they make certain decisions (what type of chocolate chip cookie they are).
The first step to getting there is, knowing what types of data you need in order to build a persona and auditing the data that you already have at your company. I like to call it, knowing what’s in your refrigerator. Here is your list of suggested ingredients (which can also be found here), six research modalities that personas are derived from:
- Demographic: The basic structure of a population based on geography, income, level of education and other standard descriptive attributes
- Psychographic: Your customers’ values, opinions, interests, aspirations, attitudes and lifestyles
- Ethnographic: Participatory observation where insights are gleaned by watching subjects in their daily routines and capturing what isn’t explicitly reported
- Technographic: How your customers use and approach technology
- Transactional: Insights through a historical customer relationship, including first- and third-party purchase histories and postsale service records
- Behavioral: Data captured passively through engagement with websites, mobile devices and other media, content and channels that reveal how audiences engage over the course of a relationship
You do not have to use them all, but do assess what you need in order to develop a deeper understanding of your customers. Following this process will help you select the “relevant recipe” that appeals to your customers. Do you know what type of cookie your customers are?