By Nick Hahn, Rosetta Consulting
Most B2B marketers have some form of customer persona or a simplistic profile. But in our experience, these lack a deep enough level of meaningful data, making them difficult to use for important business decisions.
Customer personas that are informed by real data are far more effective and actionable because they can be:
- Mapped to a customers’ actual journey (as opposed to gut-based opinions of what the journey might be);
- Aligned to customer databases based off of behaviors your existing customers exhibit that align with the persona;
- Leveraged for more targeted media or communications; and
- Used “downstream” by the UX or Creative team to inform visual and experience design personas or briefs.
Here are a few ways to make customer personas actionable and data driven.
Identify All Of The Data Points That Could Be Leveraged
To understand what data points might be most useful in a persona, we need to map out what data points can be captured across the customer’s journey. Can we track how people came to the site? Do we have ways of identifying who they are and what actions they took on prior site visits? What information is available in our existing customer database about how our top customers prefer to interact with us after their first purchase?
Once we understand what data is available, we can start to identify the dimensions that might separate and define our different target customer groups. For example, perhaps we have product usage data that could be leveraged as one dimension to gauge the level of user (e.g. inexperienced vs. advanced) a customer is. It also helps us identify any gaps in our data strategy to ensure we find ways to start collecting the right information.
Pull More Meaningful Data Attributes Into The Survey Process
Many personas have just four or five key data points — things such as company size or the role of a single decision maker. In some segments, we have as many as 30 attributes we gather data on, and then use the ones that end up being most distinctly unique between customer groups.
Company size is not going to tell nearly enough about what a target customer is looking for or why they might buy. Once you know what data is available and as you start to identify which dimensions you want to segment customers by, we recommend pulling in more behavioral-based data that indicates how a person researches and buys. It is also critical to include attitudinal data like the customers’ top priority in considering a new product purchase, the drivers of choice and their attitude towards your brand versus others in the sector.
For one software client, data attributes we looked at included things like:
- How and why customers used the product. Was it just a tool of the trade or did they view it as instrumental to their job performance?
- Their role in the purchasing decision. Did they need to consult with others? If so, who and when?
- Their level of engagement in the industry. Are they an influencer? How vocal are they in the industry?
- How they felt about subscription-based software. Would they be willing to try it?
Once the dimensions are finalized, we typically survey a representative sample of customers to determine which attributes are distinct. With this approach, we can still determine company size and other basic details, but will likely be segmenting personas based off of the attributes that really clearly indicate a different type of need and drivers of demand.
Building And Activating Personas
There may be several distinct personas. At least some of the dimensions should help determine the value of a particular customer group and their persona. For example, a power user who is vocal about products and is influential in buying decisions might have greater overall value. You should also be able to determine the percentage of total customers within this group based on the survey benchmark.
Once you have defined which groups are most important and represent the greatest revenue, it is time to look at the actual data inputs that initially were used to help segment different audiences. Having actual data means you will know the specific behaviors and attitudes they have. We recommend making the data digestible for teams that will be leveraging the persona by using infographics and visualizations to illustrate the key attributes.
To encourage teams to adopt personas, let them see the power of the data themselves by getting representatives from the corporate communications, digital and other teams together in a two-hour session to look at one sample persona and mock up a sample journey or campaign leveraging real data.
Creating segments is an ongoing process. To reap the true benefits, you must continuously amend them with new information as customer behaviors change and the market shifts.
As Managing Partner for Rosetta Consulting, Nick Hahn helps clients focus on growth and expansion. For nearly 30 years, Nick has served as a strategist, advisor and business leader for Fortune 500 companies across a number of industries and countries. He joined Rosetta from Vivaldi Partners, a global growth strategy and innovation consulting firm, where he was a Senior Partner and Managing Director for 11 years.