How To Start Thinking In Terms Of User Personas


Monday, 9.17pm

Sheffield, U.K.

Too often, Buyer Profiles are nothing more than an attractive way to display obvious or demographic data. – Adele Revella

In one of his podcasts Jay Abraham tells the story of a friend of his who has trouble dating.

They just can’t find the right person – it seems.

So Jay asks whether the person’s friends know exactly what to look for – and it turns out they don’t.

And, once his friend makes it crystal clear exactly what kind of person fits the bill – dates are lined up very quickly.

Or so the story goes.

So, the lesson is that you should do the same thing when marketing – you just need to know exactly what your perfect customer looks like and you’re off to a good start.

If you do a search for “how to come up with a persona” you’ll find lots of advice that follows traditional segmentation rules.

To save you the trouble of going through the results here are some of the questions you might ask – assuming you’re doing B2B sales.

  1. What job do they do?
  2. What job do they want to get done?
  3. What’s stopping them from getting on with the job?

Or you can do something that looks more like a CV.

  1. Name
  2. Gender
  3. Age
  4. Marital status
  5. Ethnicity
  6. Job title
  7. Income
  8. Blurb
  9. Education
  10. Previous roles
  11. Job goals
  12. Skills
  13. Social media use
  14. Frustrations

That’s turning into a long list.

Most of the first page of results have some variation on the lists above – and the differences are usually about how they’re arranged on the page and whether you’ve got a photo as well.

When you’ve done all this you’ve described someone on the outside – in terms of what you can see.

An enhanced approach is described by Chip and Dan Heath in their book Made To Stick.

In addition to demographic data they look at a case where the marketers also try and build a psychographic profile – where they try and get into someone else’s mind.

What does this person care about? Buy? Do with free time?

When you pull together information like this you end up with what looks like a collage – pieces that make up a person that now exists in your mind.

The thing with these approaches is that you can spend a lot of time building up a detailed picture of a person.

The other approach is to use the Sherlock Holmes technique.

And that is to start by elimination.

Who is not someone who is in the market for what you do?

In a B2B context that probably rules out kids and retired folk.

When you eliminate the impossible, you can go after what’s left.

Now, would I use any of these approaches to develop my own personas for marketing a product or service?

Perhaps – but there might be another, more powerful way.

Two, actually.

The first is to look at people who have already bought from you – or people who have bought the things similar to what you’re selling and try to understand them better.

But better yet is to throw away the personas – and try to have a conversation with the people you haven’t eliminated as ones you could work with.

In the Robert Collier Letter Book, first published in 1931, the author tells you the secret of selling.

“Find the thing your prospect is interested in and make it your point of contact, rather than rush in and try to tell him something about your proposition, your goods, your interests.”

Start by listening and try to understand.

Everything else will flow from there.


Karthik Suresh

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