March 21st, 2020

5 Ways to Categorize User Personas for Your Business

Author: Laura Lynch
Laura Lynch
Director of Marketing

Persona marketing helps businesses more effectively target buyers. But how should you deploy them on your website?

When visitors come to your site, how well do your headers, navigation labels, calls-to-action, and content areas speak to their needs? Do you try to target every customer at once? Or do you focus too much on one type of customer to the exclusion of all others?

We’ve talked in the past about the benefits of marketing personas, and how identifying the various types of users who end up on your site can help you structure the content to be more user-friendly. However, over the years of identifying and building out user personas for our clients, we’ve also discovered that personas come in many different types.

The most effective personas will draw on a number of the following elements, and you’ll identify more as you go. But here are just a few ways you can think about your personas so as to better write to their needs.

1. Product-and-Service-based personas.

One of the easiest way to start thinking about personas is to look at the products and services you sell on your website. Do different types of users go for one over the other? And are these differences meaningful?

For instance, if you run a salon and spa, you might get some clients who come to your business for waxes and facials. This group may be more interested in your spa day packages, and will respond well to a “treat yourself” message. However, you may notice that those clients who come for a haircut see your service more as a commodity rather than a luxury. They may respond better to a loyalty reward program that gives them points off services, rather than a package.

Of course, this may not hold up to scrutiny. But the point is to look for behavior patterns and see if you can find any that are tied to a certain common factor. If you can’t find any interesting patterns by looking at products and services, your next stop might be…

2. Demographic-based personas.

…demographics. Age, gender, race, marital or socioeconomic status, etc. Different demographics often have different buying patterns based on the general preferences of that group. Finding the common denominator can help you address that group more clearly.

For instance, let’s say you run a grocery store. You’ll probably notice that different generations tend to purchase different groceries, with Baby Boomers buying more orange juice and oatmeal, and Millennials buying more kale and quinoa. Noticing these differences may affect how you run a sale, or how you target an online ad campaign.

Of course, you may run a grocery store that already self-selects for factors that transcend generational differences. It’s likely that shoppers at Trader Joe’s have more in common with each other than they do with most of the generational statistics you might find.

3. Industry-based personas.

Many businesses sell solutions to specific industries, and although their base service is the same, they still find they have to adjust their marketing pitch to match the industry. Even if you’re selling the exact same product, showing how different industries put it to use helps make a connection in consumer’s minds that this is for them.

Similarly, different industries tend to have different concerns. For instance, if you sell software that helps businesses track their supply chain, an automotive manufacturer may have more concerns about tracking international shipments, whereas a grocery store may care about the freshness and careful handling of their produce.

4. Funding-based personas.

Do you work with a mix of non-profits and for-profit companies? Or are you yourself a non-profit that relies on a mix of grassroots donations as well as large grants from wealthy donors? Each of these groups may care about different things, and will want to hear a different message from your business.

For instance, if you work with non-profits, they may want to know more about your experience in the non-profit space, to be sure that you understand how much their business relies on transparency with their donor base. Similarly, if you work with a start-up, they will want to be able to deliver a report to their backers to show that they’ve made smart use of their investment funds.

5. Negative personas.

Finally, you may have what we might consider a “negative persona,” in the sense of a recurring customer or client type that isn’t a good match for your business. To go back to our first example about hair salons, maybe you don’t want to attract customers who have a “commodity” mindset when they get a haircut. In this case, you might use more words and imagery in your marketing to attract people who are looking to splurge a little on highlights or a special occasion up-do.

Or maybe you find that certain types of large corporations are too demanding and have too much bureaucracy for you to do your job with them efficiently. Looking for ways to signal your values can cause the business you don’t want to look elsewhere.

The better you understand your customers, the more your personas will match their needs.

Sometimes, we sit down with a client and they can immediately tell us of a very specific user type they have with their business. This persona is such a well-defined client that the client knows exactly who they are and can speak clearly to their needs. Usually it means they have a very positive relationship with their customers, and are deeply invested in their needs.

When you get a persona down this well, it can make you feel like a horse whisperer. You know exactly how to speak to your clients in a way that resonates. This is a hugely rewarding accomplishment, and what we aim to achieve whenever we develop a persona.

All our persona development is based on research we do through interviews conducted with your team, your clients, and a review of your industry. If you need help defining your personas, we can work with you to find the common threads and improve your messaging. Contact us to get started.

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