Great things start out small, and the persona discovery process is no different. As marketers, we are responsible for identifying and creating the one core persona that will have the greatest impact on our bottom line. Once we successfully implement and improve our program for that one persona, we can move on to the next.
At least, that was our plan before we sat down with the sales team and realized that there is no way we market to just one persona. And in no time at all we are sitting there with a list of 19 different names, feeling completely overwhelmed and unsure of how to move forward.
One of the biggest hurdles to creating personas is in first understanding precisely how many are actually needed. It’s absolutely essential to pare back your development and identify one or two central personas; you can always expand on them later. When we have too many personas, the lines between them become blurred, which makes it hard to execute in terms of content development and channel alignment.
What Is The Persona Matrix?
The persona matrix is a tool that helps iterative marketers to identify and keep track of personas. It segments personas by the intersection between two attributes. Attributes vary by industry and sometimes even by company. For example, B2B attributes might be industry or job title.
The first step is to identify two attributes that can be used to segment the audience into like groups. These attributes can then be inserted into the x- and y-axis of the persona matrix.
Persona matrix segmentation often aligns with our current audience segmentation strategy. For B2B companies, this typically means industry and role/job title. Using transportation manufacturing as an example in the template below, we capture the industries aerospace, automotive and rail on the y-axis, and the job titles Project Manager, Engineer, Compliance Manager and Purchasing Manager on the x-axis:
When segmenting a B2C audience, attributes may vary. They may be demographic or psychographic, they may describe the wants and needs, or they may represent buying power or aptitude. Using a mortgage lender as an example, we might capture life stage (Young & Single, Newlyweds, Full Nest, and Empty Nest) on the y-axis, and income (<$76k, $77k-90k, $91k-$150k, $151k+) on the x-axis, as shown in the table below:
The point at which these axes intersect represents a possible persona.
Why We Use The Persona Matrix
As we enter our discovery phase, the persona matrix is used to document the different subsets of a target audience. Whether we are B2B or B2C, the goal is the same: to identify the similarities and differences in our identified audiences. We do this for three reasons:
- To strike a balance: The point at which the axes intersect represents a possible persona. Notice I said “possible”, as not every intersection will necessarily result in a persona. This is a relief for marketers with multiple target segments. It’s important to use your own judgment: when two intersection points are relatively similar then you can use the same persona for both boxes.
- To prioritize: Once the persona matrix has been populated with all reasonable sets of combinations, your team can prioritize a persona. Not all personas are created equal, so now is the time to step back and review which of the identified personas are especially important, and which play a more secondary role.
- To provide a quick reference: The persona matrix is also useful once multiple personas have been developed as it provides a quick visual reminder of the different personas and their roles respective to each other.
How To Use A Persona Matrix To Identify Personas
To get started, follow these five simple steps:
- Identify your attributes: Identifying which attributes to use is your first step in creating a persona matrix. Please keep in mind, that as attributes vary by industry so too will the persona matrix. This should comply with the methods you already use to segment your audience.
- Populate the matrix with names: Once you have identified your attributes along the x- and y-axis, you can start populating the matrix with persona names. The best way to do this is to get your marketing and sales teams, along with representatives from other customer-facing departments, together in a room to help identify these personas.
- Review for persona overlap: Once the matrix has been populated with names, your team may have a pretty extensive list of personas. In many cases, the first version of the matrix is not the final matrix. The persona matrix allows you to capture basic information and then come back as a team to discuss if there are enough similarities between matrices that two (or more) personas can be combined into one.
- Identify the core persona: Once you are confident that you have the right names at the right intersections, review your matrix to determine your target persona. Many of persona matrices identify as many as fifteen different personas, so take a step back and select the one core persona that will have the biggest impact on your business. The criteria for selecting your core persona will be influenced by the unique goals of your organization.
- Develop the core persona: Taking notes during your persona matrix discussion are the first-steps in uncovering key information about your target persona(s). Expand on this by analyzing your customer database and Google Analytics, as well as compiling additional research from social media sources like Facebook and LinkedIn.
To maximize your available resources, we recommend developing one persona at a time, based on what you’ve prioritized with your team. You can select your primary persona to create content, align channels, set up experiments and optimize your program for continuous improvement. Once a marketing program has been up and running for the primary persona, then you can return to your matrix and identify the next persona to develop. By starting small, you give yourself the clarity needed to hone in on one target group and set yourself up for later success by developing a program that can be expanded on.
As you single out more personas, you will likely find opportunities to combine those with similar attributes. You’ll also find instances where you think you can combine two personas, but during research it will become obvious that they are actually two different people. Be flexible as you flesh out each persona. Always remember that it’s a process and that these are living documents.
Get started today by downloading our free Persona Matrix template. You will be prompted to subscribe to IterativeMarketing.net, a free subscription that gives you complete access to our premium content.