Personas 201: Three Ways to Leverage Personas in 2011

By Brendan Regan, FutureNow

Sample PersonasPlenty of great posts have been written 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.

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.

Sample Creative Brief

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.

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

Personal FunnelFor 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.

About the Author

Brendan Regan is a Senior Digital Marketing Analyst. Prior to joining FutureNow, he worked in B2C online travel and B2B marketing. He likes to grok web design, user experience, and persuasive copywriting.

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