“‘Persona’ is a modern term for a longtime concept, formerly known as ‘profile,’” says Ruth P. Stevens, a Target Marketing blogger and New York-based marketing consultant specializing in customer acquisition and retention. “It was, and is, an attempt to characterize a segment in human terms, describing a sample member of the segment with some rich detail, so that marketers, especially copywriters, can get a sense of who they are talking to.
“Here’s an example of an SMB persona description,” she continues. “‘Meet Joe. He’s owner and CEO of a growing, mid-sized stock brokerage company. Joe is a gregarious guy, married, with two children. His wife works, so there’s always more to get done in the day than they can handle. Joe wears a suit to the office, but is actually more comfortable in casual clothes. He drives a roomy four-door. In the downturn, his company took quite a hit, so he’s looking for ways to get back on track and run the business more efficiently.’
“Based on a colorful description like this,” Stevens concludes, “the message could be created to speak compellingly to ‘Joe’ in a tone that he can appreciate, and stressing the benefits that might appeal to him most.”
Here are a few standard ways marketers can segment customers:
• Demographics (Age, Gender and Income): For instance, consider the age breakdowns of Baby Boomers, Gen X and Millennials.
• Firmographics (Industry Type, Business Size and Company Ownership Type): While this may seem like a simple segment, Foster cautions that personas should reveal far more. “For us, it’s more human strategy and knitting together different data points,” he says. “We connect a blend of their order history, patterns, their business goals, price points, sales model, etc. to better understand what they need. A 10-person business can either be one that sells a custom T-shirt product for $25, or sell a software platform for $25,000. The response needed from their mailing campaigns is wildly different, as well as their approach, goals, budget and frequency. So we try to solve for them based on their goals and needs, rather than for a ‘10-person business.’”
• Psychographics (Interests, Attitudes, Aspirations, Personality, Lifestyles and Values): For example, knowing that a mother of three children under the age of 10 drives a minivan and uses coupons while shopping once a week can help a marketer target her with relevant offers.
Marketers should also take advantage of behavioral data they track, such as monitoring whitepaper downloads, form-fills and more on a website. This behavior can help them judge the value of leads or where the visitor is along the customer journey.
Related story: The Many Faces of Your Customers