October 17, 2018

Good-bye Personas; Hello Data-Driven Personalization

Standard marketing textbook fare about finding target customers goes something like this: “Analyze your current customers. Develop personas to represent major customer segments. Target those personas.”

All of which sounds great unless you are launching a new product that doesn’thave any customers, in which case there is nothing to analyze. Then what?

At that point, a lot of people just invent personas anyway. They develop product, brand, and customer acquisition campaigns for putative personas. Sometimes they get lucky. Other times they spend a lot of money and get nothing. Still other times they retrench and end up overhauling their entire product.

A better approach: let your personas reveal themselves. Design several broad audiences and test customer acquisition campaigns against each of them. Consider factors beyond demographics and interests, like the customer’s emotional connection to the product. Change one variable at a time to zero in on audience characteristics that drive acquisition.

The results:
  1. Data-driven customer personas, built from scratch, that often are different from and incremental to initial hypotheses
  2. Market fit between brand and customer

Couldn't Happen to a Nicer Persona

Goodbye personas, hello human data-driven personalization. If you’re relying on your CRM to slice, dice, and manage your customer interactions, stop, says Ernan Roman, an advocate for customer voice. In this post, Roman describes how innovative companies are ditching personas and finding ways to leverage human data to create more authentic relationships.

Who Knew?

If you want a great example of why it’s important to avoid getting wrapped around the axle of your core persona, consider young adult novels. Pre Harry Potter, most marketers—okay, most people—assumed that young adult books were for children. Today, more than half of YA book sales are to adults, and the YA segment has been a continued bright spot in book publishing, thanks to open-mindedness about the customer target.

Persona Power

Btw, personas are not always a terrible idea. They are just not so hot for marketing brand new products. Used wisely, personas can be drivers of great product design—this post discusses how to overcome common persona pitfalls in UX design.

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