Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Buyer Personas and a Practical Dilemma

I got the opportunity to devise a new marketing strategy for my current employer, which is great, by the way! We decided to use buyer personas to gain insight into our target markets. The concept really works well in practice. It gets people, who are involved in marketing process, thinking and focused on real issues t.i. understanding the customer and his problems. Another good thing is that it provides a method, which is usually missing in marketing. Marketing is too many times perceived as a tactical process, although it should be exactly the opposite. Marketing should result in a deep intelligence about the customer and should provide a strategy for sales process.

One of the things you could use buyer personas for, is design a product's web site. This approach would give you a quite unique web site. The content would be mostly focused on customers, understanding their problems and presenting solutions for their problems, which you would hopefully have. Looking at your competitors' web sites, you would notice that they are quite different. They would focus on presenting their company, their products and solutions and they would talk very little about customers. This is at least true in our case.

And now the dilemma ...

What do your customers really want? How would they be satisfied? By finding what they expect to find on a product page, because the industry has trained them for years to sift through lists of products, features and system schemes or do they want to recognize their story on the vendor's page and look for answers to their problems there. In other words, while it is clear that the right, properly targeted content answers the questions more quickly for the customer, he may be more satisfied with the conventional way of presentation of products and he may find searching for a solution as an essential part of his buying process. And to make things even more complicated, this preference may change over time as more and more vendors use customer based presentations on their web sites.

What we will do? I do not know at the moment, but you are welcome to check out BeeSmart.tv in the near future. Feel free to comment this post, I am very interested in your opinion.

11 comments:

waki said...

Your dilemna is interesting. Having experienced this method implementation in my former job, i can tell you that if your insights are true, if you picked up the right consumer issues and if your website presentation does not look artificial, the consumer will forget traditional product presentations. They will just feel comfortable and seduced...

Matjaž Bevk said...

Thank you for you opinion. It is comforting to hear that form someone with experience.

What was the industry you worked for when dealing with buyer personas? Can you explain a bit further how you approached that and what was the result?

Thanks!

waki said...

Actually, it was in automotive sector for Renault. The objective was to create genuine 360° communication and the use of personas was one way to align communication departments on one single strategy and to put the consumer at the core.
Our first attempts were a bit artificial...You could read the brief by looking our websites or or print ads...We had also a tendancy to sometimes select too narrow consumer insights...Sometimes, they were too generic and not engaging enough. But, by improving our planning tools (a mix of qualitative and quantitative studies) and with experience, we leart how to do it better.
Its an easy benchmark, but think of apple products and communications. They are client focused, fully relevant and non-conventional....And have huge success...

Tiago Perlott said...

Hi there! I have just read your text, and just wanna tell that this is the exact activity we will be starting at the bank which I work for in a couple of weeks! Would be great if we can keep in touch as the work is developed, to share experiences and exchange informations!

Matjaž Bevk said...

Hi Waki,

Thank you for sharing your experience with us. How long did it take to perfect the process? How did you maintain the reasonable number of personas? I have this strange problem with multiplying personas.
You are right about Apple, we should all look up to them. But do we dare?

Matjaž Bevk said...

Hi Tiago,

I agree, let's stay in touch. I will most probably post another article on personas quite soon, as I am in the middle of this process now.

What kind of market and products are you dealing with?

waki said...

Hi Matjaz,

As far as i know, i started this process in June 2006 and it is still on-going. It is not perfect and it will never be. It just makes the client at the center of all discussions, it forced us to find insights, to share them, to priorize them. We never overpassed 3 personas for one campaign. Our campaigns could weight 30-50 million euros each in media spending...I agree with you...Apple seems like an ambitious horizon. But there is no monopoly of talent or good ideas...

Tiago Perlott said...

I am working for a credit bank which started its operations as bank last month. We will be developing lots of new financial products, and we decided to use the buyer personas strategy to help to understand what are the customers seeking in the financial market. Our customers are basically fuel stations, pharmacys and supermarkets. We also act in other segments, but with less strength. I am still not sure about how the work will proceed exactly, as everything has to be created, but I am pretty sure that this is a pretty good strategy. If you guys have any tips about it, I would be glad to hear.

Matjaž Bevk said...

Hi Tiago,

What is most important, I think, is to make your own market research. Get your people on the field, get them interview enough customers to get first hand insight into your personas. Do not rely on information from external market analysts to define your personas. It is a fun process. You will probably find out things, which will surprise you.

Adele Revella said...

The best approach for the use of buyer personas on your website is to provide both traditional product/solution orientation AND problem orientation. Think of it like this -- if I'm a buyer who knows the name of your product or service, I should find it easy to navigate directly to that product (by name). However, if I find your site (maybe by SEO) and didn't know you had a solution to my problem, I don't know the name of the right product. I want to see my problem and be able to quickly navigate to your solution.

In addition to understanding the buyer persona's traits and problems, think about their buying process and where they are in that process when they reach your site. Then optimize the content to be responsive to that buyer and that stage in the process. Here's a great example -- the company sells seminars and the buyer can get to the right seminar through traditional navigation (the top nav bar) but they can also navigate to the right seminar based on their role and problem (center section) www.pragmaticmarketing.com.

Good luck and keep on blogging about buyer personas, my favorite topic.

Matjaž Bevk said...

Hi Adele,

I am so glad that you shared your opinion here. I have been "obsessed" with personas, since visiting your seminar. I can only recommend it to anyone interested in product marketing (buyer personas included).

What you suggest here is what I call a "hybrid approach". Covering both scenarios is also something what we are leaning to at the moment. There are actually two distinct buyer personas. The ones who are problem solving oriented and the ones who like to browse the catalogs.

I am concerned that having several presentations of the same product on the same web site might be confusing for the user. But I see more and more hybrid presentations of products on the web. It is becoming a kind of a trend. We will also most probably use a hybrid approach at the end.

Good luck to you too and keep up the good work with Pragmatic Marketing.