Personae: Know the WHY, not just the HOW

Successful brands identify and deeply understand (potential) customer personae and build their digital plans around them. In addition to target demographics (age, income, purchase behavior), it is important to know personae mindset, preferences, needs and relationship with and expectations of your brand and digital presence. These may seem like “soft” characteristics, but understanding what is going on in your personae’s heads and hearts will make the difference between a digital program that fails and one that kicks your key performance indicators (KPI) up to the next level.

Google Analytics (GA) is a great tool for understanding how visitors interact with your website. GA quantifies visitor geography, how they found your website, their path of engagement, and if you are losing them sooner than you would like, and where you are losing them. But, GA cannot tell you why. This “how vs. why” is actually a challenge for most digital data sources (email marketing, content marketing, search engine marketing, etc.).

Here are a few simple strategies to bridge the gap between all that data and everything else you need to know about your personae:

  • You know the mantra to listen to your social followers. We recommend you also do some asking. Use your social media channels to take the time to understand why a person says what they do in this medium. Go beyond solving their issue and understand why they have that issue. If you start to see trends among your social followers, you will be able to segment personae.
  • A simple practice too many brands overlook: ask simple, open-ended questions of (potential) customers via social media like, “What is your most frustrating challenge when booking travel?” or “If you could fix one thing about your jeans, what would it be?”
  • If you are conducting a content marketing program, do more than push or replicate the most downloaded asset. Evaluate the data your content marketing program generates to better understand what personae are downloading which asset(s) and why. This will require a combination of analytics as well as A/B testing to identify more deeply what each persona needs. Over time, you will see patterns in the content different groups are responding to. These patterns can be translated into personae segments. An easy tactic is to ask folks who download your asset a few questions about their motivations: e.g., their biggest challenges, role in the decision making process, etc.
  • Lean on tried-and-true qualitative or quantitative research.
    • Web-based or in-person focus groups are an opportunity to have a two-way conversation to validate your theories and to learn what is on your customers’ minds that is not even on your radar (e.g. needs you did not anticipate or expectations of your brand you never saw coming).
    • Quantitative surveys prove most useful when they are designed with a few theories in mind (e.g. what new customers want / need, loyal customers know…). Starting with the theories you identify from GA will ensure you are asking questions that will render results for meaningful insights and practical segmentation.
  • Devise a forum on your website for feedback or for two-way conversations (e.g. live chats or an open source help desk where customers help customers). Aggregate the conversations, evaluate them for common requests, needs and problems. Many marketers measure these conversations by volume/rate of problem resolution, which is important; however by not segmenting customers’ queries and issues, we are not leveraging the information we have for smarter personae segmentation.

Every day, we ask ourselves, “But why?!” The fun part for us is figuring out the answer to that question.