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Personas: Who Are You?

One of digital marketing’s latest buzzwords is “personas”.  But what are personas, how do you create them and what do they mean for your business?

Let’s take a step back in time, say to the beginning of the 20th century, and look at Webster’s definition of personaIt was (and, still is) “an individual’s social façade…that reflects the role in life the individual is playing; the personality that a person projects in public; also known as image, via a vivid or graphic representation or description”.  

Then, in 1998, Alan Cooper (father of the visual basic programming language) published his book “The Inmates are Running the Asylum and coined the term  “persona” as it applied towards “Goal Directed” computer software design. Rather than looking at real-word software users, he proposed personas, or “characters”, whose goals, rather than their actual tasks, would help generate the best software usage experiences. But, therein lies the rub.  Cooper did not come up with a detailed way to flesh out those personas…so someone else had to!

Fast-forward to 2005 and Hubspot came onto the scene. As the industry leaders in inbound marketing (they invented the term), Hubspot finally came up with some very specific ways to generate personas.  According to Hubspot, Personas are “fictional, generalized characters that encompass the various needs, goals, and observed behavior patterns among your real and potential customers. They help you understand your customers better.”

But in layman’s terms…what do personas really do?

Well, personas are supposed to allow you to market your product or service, all the way down to the individual level, by conducting research based on demographic, geographic, psychographic, and geographic elements.

Does this really differ from target marketing or market segmentation, tactics that have been used in traditional marketing for decades?

Essentially, personas do the same things, but they take “deeper dive” into the individual, by examining search behavior, current job, hobbies, wants and needs.  They also come up with a picture and name for each fictional person created. That used to be called market research!

So, how do you create a Persona?

Start by jotting down what you already know about your customers, existing research that can be gleaned from your sales team, focus groups or surveys. Then monitor their online and social media behavior. What your customers say they want or need may be different that what they really want or need.  Interact with them in real time.  Whether it’s a quick response from your customer service team to a negative Tweet or thanking someone for positive feedback via a Yelp! post, real time interaction is some of the best (and most cost-effective) research you can conduct.

Then create a fictitious version (or versions) of your customer base. Depending on the products or services you sell, you will likely have more than one.  

Start with a name, age, face and body and what they’re wearing. Move on to where they live and what’s in their immediate surroundings.

Do they live in an apartment or house, do they have pets? What kind and how many?

Create their job title, consider their education, figure out if they’re single, if they have kids or if they are trying to have kids; Are they on their second marriage, starting a new career, into fitness or gaming?  

Where do they spend their free time? Is it in the virtual world or the real world? Where do they spend their disposable income? Do they dine out or prefer to cook at home? Do they like to host intimate gatherings or do they prefer going out to bars?

Do they spend money on air travel and hotels or do they prefer local activities and staying with friends? What to they want and what are they willing to do to get what they want?  What are their challenges, problems and concerns? How do they feel about your product or service?

Here’s an example of a persona that could be used for an online dating app or offline Matchmaking service

Persona of Automotive Sales Guru Tara

© Hubspot / Ami B. Cadugan 2018

After you hunt and gather all of this data, you can begin to target your personas when and where they spend most of their time. It could be Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. But they could also be watching HGTV or a listening to a local radio station. Do they watch “The Today Show” in the morning while drinking their coffee, or do they read the news (online or a physical newspaper)? Or is it some combination of all of these?

So many things to think about!  By taking the time to engage in Persona creation, you can strategically direct your marketing budget to the proper channels.  The goal at the end of the day is to generate positive ROI – in whatever sense it applies to you and your company!

Ami B. Cadugan is a freelance content creator/writer and media buyer. Fresh off a three-year stint in Paris, she has blogged extensively about travel, food, wine, the arts and architecture. Follow her continuing adventures on Twitter and Instagram.

An Approach to Naming/ Bank Example

Developing a new bank name can be challenging. Sometimes internal stakeholders have biases or emotional attachments to certain names with no research or rationale to justify their preferences. Often, office politics and egos rear their ugly heads in generating and deciding on naming options. To make matters worse, there are agencies out there that have no validated naming process in place and thus they develop names in a vacuum.

At the agency where I work, we take a different approach. We have developed our own naming process that has proved to be effective, robust and successful. It is a process based on market research, taking the time to thoroughly understand all constituents, communities and the competitive landscape. It is a successful process that can be repeated and adapted to suit any individual situation. The real advantage of this approach is that it not only saves money but also saves time. We hit the ground running and develop the new brand vision, promise and positioning based on values. We then immediately incorporate those values into our development of the new brand identity.

As an example of our process in action, we were recently approached by two banks shortly before they were to merge into a larger entity. Our charge was to name and brand the institution. Of particular concern was that one of the banks had recently gone through a name change itself, and so it was reluctant to change its name again so quickly. We needed to determine the efficacy of keeping one bank’s name or developing an entirely new brand altogether.

Our first course of action was to interview stakeholders from both banks, so as to truly understand each one’s heritage, corporate culture and values. We then visited the communities within their collective footprint, and conducted focus groups of both customers and noncustomers who lived within the combined footprint of the new banking entity. We assessed their current feelings about the area and tested their brand awareness of banks within that area. Our process included an evaluation of the features and characteristics that make that area unique, identifying any nuances and specific needs of the communities’ residents.

We also tested various “brand stories” that represented potential brand positions for the new bank, to determine those attributes that resonated most strongly with respondents. Each brand story focused on a different aspect of how a local bank can benefit its customers and make an impact on the communities it serves. Ultimately, it was the highest-ranked brand story that we used to vet the final list of names. All proposed names were evaluated solely on how they related to the brand story.

After that, gaining consensus was relatively easy. Essentially, we had changed the conversation from whether or not we should keep one bank’s name after the merger, to determining an appropriate name that relates directly to a clearly articulated shared vision of the future for the new bank. Thus we were to eliminate any premerger biases and emotional attachments to any particular name(s).

Steven Salloway

Steve is a seasoned Brand Strategist and serves a strategic advisory role for many existing agency accounts at Davis Advertising, located in Worcester, MA. From market research, to brand positioning and account planning, he’s recently completed naming projects for Cornerstone Bank and Coastal Heritage Bank, brand positioning projects for Service Credit Union, the Yesway Convenience Store chain and the Wayback Burgers franchise.

Over the past 13 years at Davis Advertising, he was the Account Supervisor on the Charter Communications account – a Fortune 500 company, and has worked on a wide array of brands from the higher education, franchising, business-to-business, telecommunications, healthcare, financial and retail categories.

Having worked at RDW Group and Donovan Group Integrated Marketing, he has an extensive background in marketing, branding, advertising, public relations, and media. While there he managed such notable accounts as Fallon Community Health Plan, UMass Memorial Healthcare, HealthAlliance, HarborONE Bank (formerly Brockton Credit Union/HarborONE Credit Union), Markem, Stratus Computer and Simplex Manufacturing.

Steve holds a Bachelor’s Degree with Individual Concentration in Advertising/PR from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

All The Kings Horse’s…

Today, marketing has become so complex and fragmented that clients have shifted from seeking “one-stop- shops” (integrated agencies ) of the past, to now demanding specialized agencies which take responsibility for producing individual marketing tactics. Clients rightly feel that no single integrated agency can be great in all phases of marketing – it is just impossible. You would think that clients must now take on the task of synchronizing the individual contributions of each of their agencies in order to build cohesive messages and indeed a consistent brand – but, you would be wrong. The prospective customer is the one who will find various marketing messages as they travel along their individual purchase journeys. It is the prospective customer who provides the context/story to the equation and who will put the pieces back together again – in a way that makes sense to themselves. Who owns the brand? As always, it is the customer.

Steven Salloway

Steve is a seasoned Brand Strategist and serves a strategic advisory role for many existing agency accounts at Davis Advertising, located in Worcester, MA. From market research, to brand positioning and account planning, he’s recently completed naming projects for Cornerstone Bank and Coastal Heritage Bank, brand positioning projects for Service Credit Union, the Yesway Convenience Store chain and the Wayback Burgers franchise.

Over the past 13 years at Davis Advertising, he was the Account Supervisor on the Charter Communications account – a Fortune 500 company, and has worked on a wide array of brands from the higher education, franchising, business-to-business, telecommunications, healthcare, financial and retail categories.

Having worked at RDW Group and Donovan Group Integrated Marketing, he has an extensive background in marketing, branding, advertising, public relations, and media. While there he managed such notable accounts as Fallon Community Health Plan, UMass Memorial Healthcare, HealthAlliance, HarborONE Bank (formerly Brockton Credit Union/HarborONE Credit Union), Markem, Stratus Computer and Simplex Manufacturing.

Steve holds a Bachelor’s Degree with Individual Concentration in Advertising/PR from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Want to Write for Us?

If you’re intrested in writing for Virtual Ad Club, we’re interested in talking.

Mark has built an impressive career engineering, managing and owning high volume websites, content management and eCommerce sites.

As Director of Software Development at Lycos Inc. he managed all Domain Sales and ran the WebPub development team, which managed Tripod.com and Angelfire.com,two of the top online publishing platforms in the world. {Prior to that he was  Senior Engineer for Afternic, an online multiple listing service for domain names, which was later sold to Godaddy for serious cash.

He has also worked as Senior Developer for Premium Websites  at NameMedia, Inc., and was previously the Corporate Webmaster for Atex, the primary supplier of software systems for the Newspaper Industry, and been in charge of Technology for Lenovo’s Online Marketing Department.

At NameMedia he built premium websites like Geek.com, cycling.com, hotcars.com, photography.com and more using WordPress as a content management and social networking platform.

He has previously written for the Worcester Telegram and Gazette, and in 2014 published his first novel, Blue Ice.

He started out on the net  in 1995 with Reel-Time, The Internet Journal of Saltwater Flyfishing, which he ran as Managing Editor, which was a combination of Lead/Only Developer and Lead/Only Editor.

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