Charity of the Week:
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Onward and upward!
Steve Robinson: Hello, Iterative Marketer! Welcome to the Iterative Marketing Podcast, where each week, we give marketers and entrepreneurs actionable ideas, techniques and examples to improve your marketing results. If you want notes and links to the resources discussed on the show, sign up to get them emailed to you each week at iterativemarketing.net. There, you’ll also find the Iterative Marketing blog and our community LinkedIn group, where you can share ideas and ask questions of your fellow Iterative Marketers. Now, let’s dive into the show.
Hello everyone, and welcome to the Iterative Marketing podcast. I’m your host, Steve Robinson, and with me, as always, is the always-prepared, Elizabeth Earin. How are you doing today, Elizabeth?
Elizabeth Earin: I am good. How are you?
Steve Robinson: I’m doing wonderful. I actually had some big news to share with our listeners today.
Elizabeth Earin: I know what your news is. I have been waiting for you to share this with everyone.
Steve Robinson: My wife and I are expecting child number 3.
Elizabeth Earin: Congratulations! It’s so exciting.
Steve Robinson: Yes. Well, we are excited and we are also scared to be outnumbered. That doesn’t seem like a good position, but yeah, it will be a big day towards the end of August here this year. And as you may notice, I might take a little hiatus for it, might be a week or two late with an episode at that time, but we will be back.
Elizabeth Earin: I think for good reason. Well, we are excited to learn more about Baby Robinson.
Steve Robinson: So are we. We have an envelope sitting on our counter downstairs that says whether or not we have a boy or a girl on the way that we have chosen not to open.
Elizabeth Earin: I think right there makes you very brave parents.
Steve Robinson: To my knowledge, we have chosen not to open. I don’t know if Kim got overly zealous with steaming the envelope open or something, but to my knowledge, we have no idea. So what are we talking about today?
Elizabeth Earin: We are talking about personas and specifically wrangling your persona with a matrix.
Steve Robinson: Yeah, it seems every project we do that involves personas, we run across the same three questions. And early on in the process, we developed a tool to address these three questions and it made sense to share this tool with our listeners.
Elizabeth Earin: Now, if you are not familiar with personas, we have got a great podcast, podcast episode 3 is out there and we really recommend that you listen to that. Or if you’d like to check us out on the blog, we have got “Personas – The Great Brand Unifier,” which gives a little bit of background on what personas are.
Steve Robinson: I had mentioned three questions. The three questions that perpetually come up are how many personas do I need? The second question that comes up is how do I know when one persona begins and another persona – or one persona ends and another persona begins? Because oftentimes, there’s a lot of gray area between, well, is it this one or that one or do we need a third one, and that sort of stuff. And then the third question that inevitably comes up is how do I relate these personas back to how we are already slicing and dicing our audience? And I think that this tool really addresses all three of those questions.
Elizabeth Earin: I think what it comes down to is the answer is different for every organization, and if we had a quick answer, then there would be no point in this podcast. But there is no quick answer, and so that’s what we are going to take a look at today as we are going to walk through how you use the persona matrix and answer these three questions that, to Steve’s point, every organization that we have ever worked with have all asked.
Steve Robinson: Yeah. We talk about this tool like it’s some really complicated thing. It’s really just a table, but it’s a special table that really is incredibly powerful and it’s really become an important component to every persona project we have done.
Elizabeth Earin: And not only is it an invaluable tool when you are putting together the persona, but long after they are developed, I am constantly referencing it. We have got a few clients that have numerous personas across multiple industries, and it helps me to be able to keep track of who they are and what that relationship is, and we are going to talk a little bit more about that later in the podcast.
Steve Robinson: So what does this table look like? Do you want to kind of fill us in on that, Elizabeth?
Elizabeth Earin: Sure. So it’s a table with one set of segments across the top and then another set of segments along the left side and this is — when we say table, we are talking Excel table. This is not complicated at all. So literally, you have got a row across the top and then your very first column becomes your second segment.
Steve Robinson: And when you say segments, these are basically the ways that we are already slicing and dicing our audience. So these are the fields that we have set up in our CRM system or in our marketing automation system already to help us narrow in on particular groups of our target audience.
Elizabeth Earin: Yeah, I think that’s a really great point. We are not reinventing the wheel here. This is something that you are already doing. We are just putting it down on paper and using how you segment your audience currently to help make sense of these personas and how they all fit together. I think where it becomes a little bit complicated is if you have more than two segmentation strategies. If you are kind of divvying it up a little bit more than that, you’ll have to decide what makes sense for your business and what you want to focus on. But as you start having the conversation, every time we have had the conversation, it’s become very clear, very apparent, very early on what those two segments should be.
Steve Robinson: Absolutely. So to throw a couple of examples here, if you are a B2B organization, you are probably going to have something like role or job title across the top and say industry along the side if you are targeting multiple industries. B2C gets a little bit — that’s more than wild west. It really depends on how you slice and dice your audience, but through an example, if you are, like, a mortgage lender, the couple of things that are really important when you go to approach a mortgage product is what is the income level and then where are they in their life stage? So you might have those two as your two axis. You have income level across the top and then life stage along the left-hand side.
Elizabeth Earin: Now, we have written a blog about this that includes the free persona matrix template and actually uses these two examples in the blog post. So if you’d like to see a visual representation of what we are talking about, check that out. We will link to it in the show notes.
Steve Robinson: Great, great. So we talked about what it looks like on the top and the sides, but really, the value comes in the middle, and that’s where you start assigning your persona names to the intersection of these two different sets of segments. So back to that B2B example, if you are targeting restaurant chains and then one of your job titles was a procurement or purchasing, you would have the purchasing person at a restaurant chain and give that person a name, Mike for example, and then if you had a different industry and a different job title, that intersection would get possibly a different persona name, possibly the same persona name depending on how many differences you perceive between those two different roles.
Elizabeth Earin: And when we take a look at the B2C example, and we are talking about going back to that mortgage example, you may have someone in the column with a life stage of empty-nesters and they may be on a higher spectrum in terms of annual income; that person may be named Alice. While someone who’s younger, more middle class with a younger family, maybe she’s Anna. Again, we are looking for where those differences lie and where those similarities are and we find opportunities to either combine personas or separate them.
Steve Robinson: So, the key is picking which segments you want to use across your map and then how many different columns and rows you want. And the key here is run with what makes the most sense for your business, what are the most useful tools you can use to put your audience in the buckets to match them up with your products and services or to know what messaging you can count on resonating with your audience.
Elizabeth Earin: Because at the end of the day, that’s what we are using this for. We are using this to, not only develop our persona, but then later in the process, we are using it for our customer journey mapping which is going to help dictate our content and our channel alignments. And so you are really looking for a segmentation strategy here that you are going to be able to execute upon.
Steve Robinson: I know that, for us on the B2B side, we pretty much always end up with industry and role and that’s almost universally how things end up segmented as being the primary segmentation.
Elizabeth Earin: I think it’s important to note when you say role, that could also be job title. It’s kind of what makes the most sense for you, but be careful not to get caught up in that because it is possible. We have sat in persona development meetings where we have gone by job title and we have had 15, I guess, columns across the top row, and because the job titles were different, even though they were different, the roles were the same. So really take a look at that and see what makes the most sense. I apologize, I cut you off, I think you were continuing a thought there.
Steve Robinson: No, no problem. With all things, less is more, and the fewer columns and the fewer rows you can realistically put in there, the better served you are going to be. The key is making sure that you have as few as possible but enough to do the job.
Elizabeth Earin: I think that’s a great point. Again it’s easy to get wrapped up and when you – and populate a lot of different names, and when you do that, it starts to feel overwhelming. This doesn’t have to be an overwhelming process. This is a very helpful process, and so we want to keep you going on that positive trajectory as you start working on the persona development in the customer journey mapping as well.
Steve Robinson: So I think we are at a good point right now to take a quick break, so why don’t we go and help some people and will pick up the conversation when we get back.
Elizabeth Earin: Before we continue, I’d like to take a quick moment to ask you Iterative Marketers a small but meaningful favor and ask that you give a few dollars to a charity that’s important to one of our own. This week’s charitable cause was sent in by sent in by an anonymous listener from San Diego, California. They ask that you make a contribution to the PTSD Foundation of America, which raises awareness for post-traumatic stress disorder, which affects one out of every three returning troops. Just one $30 donation will provide the tools necessary to help one veteran and their family get the help they need. Learn more at ptsdusa.org or visit the link in the show notes. If you would like to submit your cause for consideration for our next podcast, please visit iterativemarketing.net/podcast and click the Share a Cause button. We love sharing causes that are important to you.
Steve Robinson: Hello everyone, and welcome back. So before the break, we talked about what the persona matrix tool was. I think it’s a good time for us to circle back to those big questions that we talked about and explain how this really addresses those questions.
Elizabeth Earin: So, the first question we had asked or we get asked quite frequently is how many personas do I need.
Steve Robinson: And realistically, this really varies from company to company. We have worked with clients that — they are really only focused on one persona and that’s it. That’s one decision maker and that’s the only type of person who is ever going to buy their product. And then we have worked with some B2B companies where they are fragmented across six to ten different industries, and then within them, they have three possible different decision makers and a bunch of influencers and it gets crazy. So, again, it is as few as you can get away with, but as many as you need in order to make sure that you can produce really targeted materials and target your media accordingly.
Elizabeth Earin: I think one thing that is important to note here, you mentioned it on influencers. Just because you have acknowledged a persona on your matrix doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to develop a persona for that person. Someone you have identified may be an influencer in the process. During the course of your conversation, you may decide, yes, it’s important. They have enough needs that we need to address them specifically, we need to target them individually or you may decide they play a secondary role to our primary persona, and while we want to acknowledge them and understand the role in the process, we don’t need a separate strategy to go after them. And so that’s one thing to keep in mind as you are taking a look at that persona matrix in terms of your primary and your secondary and your influencers and who you are actually developing personas for.
Steve Robinson: We recommend going ahead and assigning a name to that persona. That doesn’t mean that you have to build out the full profile, doesn’t mean you have to go through the full research process that we have talked about in the past. It just means that you have earmarked that this person exists and you have hopefully identified a couple of places where that’s the same person across a couple of different segments, so that you can reuse that name where appropriate, but you don’t have to go through the research process.
Elizabeth Earin: Let me ask you a question, Steve, because this is something that, as you are talking, is kind of popping into my head that I think our listeners might be interested in, and that is what is it that you are looking for to determine if somebody can be combined or should be split apart? What’ are those commonalities? How do you determine if a persona should be split?
Steve Robinson: It really comes down to when you start making decisions about the messages or the media that you are going to use to reach that individual, are you going to make a different decision? And so, sometimes you don’t know this until you get into the persona development and you start to go in and write down some of those key aspirations and goals and frustrations and you realize that they are very different from this particular persona to another one, and that’s when you know that you need to split. But otherwise, you just kind of go with your gut and start to “trying” inside their heads and say, okay, I can see that Jose and Mark are really going to resonate with the same messages. And you know what? They are reading the same stuff, they are both the same level of technology adoption, they are going to be in the same places. There’s no reason that Jose and Mark can’t be combined.
Elizabeth Earin: Wonderful, thanks for sharing that. I think our listeners are going to find that very helpful. I’d like to throw a little tip in here as well, just something that has sidetracked us in some of our persona discovery meetings in the past, is that believe it or not, when you are sitting around trying to agree on a name, it can be a little complicated. And so I always like to go into our persona discovery meetings with a list of names to start off with, because while we all know people, when you are sitting they are trying to fill in that first box or that fifth box, for some reason, every name falls out of your head and it can totally derail the meeting.
Steve Robinson: Absolutely, absolutely. And then having a few extra in your back pocket, because you don’t want to pull one of the folks in the room’s spouse as a name or an existing customer that’s high profile, because it will really hamper the ability for anyone to get inside that person’s head.
Elizabeth Earin: So what’s the next question that we get asked?
Steve Robinson: So, the next question really kind of ties back to that same question of where does one end and one begin? The nice thing about the matrix in addressing this question is it’s visual and it’s laid out in a grid, and so usually, if you are going to reuse a persona, it will be across the column or across a row because you are going to find that it’s the same persona within a given role or job title, it’s going to be the same across multiple industries or maybe income bracket matters, but life stage doesn’t as much in changing the way that this person is going to make decisions. So then all of a sudden, you double up across that row and so finding edges becomes a whole lot easier because usually you can at least count on personas being doubled up within a given column or row in the matrix.
Elizabeth Earin: I think that’s a great point. And again, getting back to what we touched on in the last section that you are really looking for where that message changes, where those targeting methods change, and that may come out during your persona discovery meeting, that may come out later when you are more in the throes of persona research and so be prepared that those changes, splits, or combinations could happen at either point.
Steve Robinson: And then the last question, Elizabeth, is how does this relate to our existing segmentation? So how does this relate to the fields that we already have in our CRM or Marketo?
Elizabeth Earin: Coming back to our very simple Excel matrix that we have got here, but it gives you an easy visual reference to help draw that connection between your other segmentation strategies and move it from something that your business is focused on, instead to moving towards a persona-first marketing mindset which is important, and why we are doing this persona discovery in the first place so that we can have that persona-centric marketing strategy and collateral and targeting and everything as we move forward.
Steve Robinson: It helps going backwards as well, after the fact, because you may have products that target a particular segment. Now you can come back and say, okay, so this product targets this segment, then what does that mean for which personas is this product really applicable for? And start looking at it through persona eyes when you have been used to looking at it through segment eyes. The same thing is really true with media. Oftentimes media, it’s not like when you go into a media buy, you can ask for as part of the media kit, which personas does this apply to? So you are going to get a bunch of demographics, you are going to get some psychographics at that audience. And so by having the matrix, you could now take and reverse those back out to which personas that particular media is applicable to, so you could pick which one to emphasize and focus on, with your collateral or your creative.
Elizabeth Earin: So, in addition to really helping us to set up this persona-centric mindset, what are some of the other benefits that come along that the persona matrix provides to us as we are working within our organization and in setting our strategy?
Steve Robinson: Yeah, I mean we developed this tool and likely it’s a complicated thing. We put an Excel spreadsheet together to address these three big questions, but out of this came a bunch of other tertiary benefits. And one of those was really being able to prioritize which personas to focus on, because essentially, you have taken what would be just a laundry list of names and you have given it some context and it makes it a whole lot easier for the sales team or the marketing team to take a look at this and say, you know what? Mark, Jimmy, and Susan are the ones that we need to put all of our effort into this year and those are the ones that are most integral to generating new business, because you can see it in a visual way and line it up with the other segmentation that you are — may be more familiar with at this point.
Elizabeth Earin: I think one of the other benefits, as you plot your segments on this matrix on the two different axes, it helps to make sure that all your bases are covered and it helps to identify, again, where you have those primary personas, maybe those secondary personas where you have a role that you haven’t really been sure how to handle them in the past. And through the course of this conversation and plotting it on the matrix, it makes sense that this is an influencer and it may not be someone that you necessarily need to or want to dedicate marketing efforts to. And so overall, it just helps to make sure that you have documented everyone that you are talking to, but then also that marketing and sales can agree on this. Because, remember, you guys are in the room together as you are having this conversation, and so if you have had a disconnect in the past about who that primary person is that you are going after, this is a great time to get it down on paper and identify that.
Steve Robinson: And speaking of marketing and sales being in the room, the other benefit of this document is that you can pretty it up just slightly. It’s still just going to be a table, but you can make it a little bit prettier and then get this distributed out to the sales team, to the customer service team, to the executive teams, so that they can understand when you are speaking in persona-ese, who it is you are referring to. This becomes the quick reference for people who are still adding the persona names into their vocabulary to be able to quickly translate it back to something that they know while the organization is in that transition to adopting a persona-first mindset. And from that standpoint, this tool has been invaluable.
Elizabeth Earin: Definitely. I think, before we make that prettied-up version, that we do want to make sure that we reviewed it and made sure that we have combined where we can combine and we have separated where it needs to be separated.
Steve Robinson: Yeah. Because, while it is a living document, changing it across the organization can be — after the fact is a little bit more work than changing it while you are still firming it up internally. Well, I think that that’s a wrap for today’s show. I want to thank everybody for making the time for us today. We really appreciate it, and until next week, onward and upward!
If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to the podcast on YouTube on your favorite podcast directory. If you want notes and links to resources discussed on the show, sign up to get them emailed to you each week at iterativemarketing.net. There, you’ll also find the Iterative Marketing blog and our community LinkedIn group, where you can share ideas and ask questions of your fellow Iterative Marketers. You can also follow us on Twitter. Our username is @iter8ive or email us at [email protected]
The Iterative Marketing Podcast is a production of Brilliant Metrics, a consultancy helping brands and agencies rid the world of marketing waste. Our producer is Heather Ohlman with transcription assistance from Emily Bechtel. Our music is by SeaStock Audio, Music Production and Sound Design. You can check them out at seastockaudio.com. We will see you next week. Until then, onward and upward!