PersonasUsing personas in defining a marketing strategy is not new. Among others conversion optimization practitioners, web developers, content strategists and usability experts have been using personas for ages. In this post you find several models to build personas for an integrated touchpoint marketing strategy.

Although the ideal of an integrated, and customer-centric touchpoint marketing strategy is that of an extremely personalized and relevant approach, defining personas is crucial while setting up that strategy. The same goes for social media marketing and content marketing. Touchpoint marketing is channel-agnostic but content is a key element in most touchpoints. Discover some psychological, behavioral and transactional models.

What you should know about personas before starting

There is a dangerous aspect in defining personas: we define. It’s important to understand we also have to involve prospective customers. Secondly, we need to avoid simplification and labelization. Personas cover a lot, but they can’t capture every individual. Only a personalized listening and holistic voice of the customer program can aim to achieve this.

Nevertheless, it’s good to work with personas. If you are interested in developing a content marketing strategy it’s also important to broaden the descriptions of your personas and include data on information needs, content consumption, sharing patterns and interaction, communication and touchpoint preferences.

From a content marketing perspective, it’s further meaningful to understand the psychographic aspects and integrate them with the dimension of persuasion, perception and conversion. Content, words and images are very important in this regard and from a consistency and brand attribute perspective.

Below are several models that are – and have been – used to define personas. Note that sometimes personas are ‘created’ by focusing on specific – mainly behavioral – traits or data. These include for instance the source via which a person found us and several other digital footprints. This is useful in the scope of many projects.

Many models to develop rich personas

In this post, however, I look at so-called rich personas: fictive people in our ‘target’ groups that get a name, a face, a psychological and relational profile, etc. Information gathering and buying preferences are included as well. They are buying personas and ideal to create a cross-channel touchpoint and content marketing strategy, if you analyze content consumption and sharing patterns (including preferred channels, informational needs, etc.). They are key in defining integrated marketing scenarios and resulting touchpoints. Finally, they have a story and almost become ‘alive’. Remember that the definition is not a matter of only your business goals and observations. Involve actual people to make sure you get them right.

Several models to define personas exist. There are probably more models than there are psychological ‘schools’, since that’s often where these models are based upon. Human behavior and psychology are not, regardless of what some may claim, an exact science. Gestalt, psychoanalysis, behavioral, client-centered, cognitive, you name it. Even in the various thought schools, there are many other subgroups. Think about Freudian, Jungian, Lacanian, etc. in psychoanalysis. And I haven’t even mentioned humanistic psychology founding father Maslow – that most marketers know – yet. Finally, buying persona definitions don’t only come from the world of psychology, so there is quite some choice.

Here are several models to define your buying personas.

Personality and psychology models

Let’s start with some that are deeply rooted in psychology.

The functions and types of Jung

In developing his own psychoanalytical views, Carl Gustav Jung, defined two “primary” rational judging functions: thinking and feeling. He also found two irrational perceiving functions, being sensing and intuition.

He further refined this by adding that these functions are either expressed in an introverted or extraverted form.

This resulted in eight psychological types.

The Myers-Briggs approach

Myers Briggs is based on the mentioned typologies of Jung and is really a psychological assessment that aims to understand psychological preferences.

The so-called Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is composed of 16 psychological types. They are expressed by combining four letters for each type.

The letters that are used in these combinations are E (extraversion), S (sensing), T (thinking), J (judging), I (Introversion), N (Intuition), F (Feeling) and P (Perception). Obviously, you can’t combine them all since extraversion, for instance, is the opposite of introversion. The same goes for S and N, T and F, and J and P.

Other psychological models

These psychological models have been used for persona development as well, just as many others have, such as the 16 personality factors of Raymond Cattell, the so-called “Big Five” and the four (and five) personality models.

It’s interesting to study and understand them but to be honest; I don’t use them (also since I have a fundamental problem with categories and labels anyway). “Translate” them if you want but in the end, you will only work with probably four personas anyway (maybe up to six).

Buying and behavior personas for marketing

So, here are some more pragmatic models that are used in marketing, some for specific marketing tactics.

The buying personas model of Bryan Eisenberg

Bryan Eisenberg has an actionable model that is based on buying decisions and behavior. It also seems to correspond with the four typologies Jakob Nielsen found in heatmaps and the usability tests he conducted.

Bryan identified four personas, that are based on two axes: pace (quick or deliberate action) and bias (logical and emotional decisions).

The resulting personas are called competitive (quick and logical), spontaneous (quick and emotional), methodical (deliberate and logical) and finally humanistic (deliberate and emotional).

The human motivations approach by Synovate Censydiam (now part of Ipsos).

The compass of human motivations by Synovate

This is not a persona model as such, but you can work with it to create personas that suit your goals and correspond with the traits of your ‘target’ groups. It is based on motivation and intent (see the flip book “True Colours: Using Human Motivations to inspire Marketing”) with two axes: personal and social dimensions.

The model is developed for marketing and branding purposes and defines 8 motivations. Is it perfect? No. However, it’s an actionable model as well. Most persona models I have seen, based upon it, distinguish four personas. Indeed, just like Bryan’s.

Social technographics

Forrester developed several typologies that you’ve probably heard off in recent years. One of them is the social technographics ladder, categorizing consumers into creators, critics, collectors, joiners, spectators and inactives.

Such models are often used in social media marketing, social touchpoint and even content marketing persona models and while they are probably interesting to use, it’s my feeling you better use them to overlap with one of the above models since they only highlight a specific dimension.

Digital footprints, interactions and data

This brings me to other ways that are more closely related to actual behavior and the ways in which people interact with businesses, both online and offline. By measuring, testing and aggregating data, you can define personas when moving forward in your digital marketing or touchpoint marketing strategy. When starting with content marketing, it’s relatively easy to enrich these personas with more insights. Beware though that we are more than digital data. Obviously, you can also take the voice of the customer into account (surveying, listening, panels, real-life experience and usability tests) but watch out for the differences between what people actually do and say they do or want.

Anyway, I hope that this post provides you some ideas, and that you understand it’s about defining the right clusters and flows of touchpoints, depending on personas, real-life interaction, data, goals and intent. And most of all, that no model is perfect or can stand on its own, just as no marketing strategy should be isolated.

Conclusion: looking at (inter)action

You will have to overlay all these models with KPIs, scenarios, touchpoint flows, data and buying journey models so it’s important you have an approach that’s relevant, while adapting your personas to realities instead of models.

It’s probably why the typical models with four personas, that are used in marketing for years, are your best starting point, and personalized cross-touchpoint marketing is your end goal.

How people buy, their buying journey, how they decide and why/how they act, click, share, like, recommend and get out their wallet in the end is what marketing and thus personas should be about.

Let me know if you work in other ways, agree or disagree.

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