News and Insights

Why Your Persona is Not Enough

June 25, 2019

It’s well established that buyer personas are a marketing best practice and foundational element of any effective strategy. But there are several pitfalls that must be avoided when you’re developing personas and the biggest may be assuming personas alone are enough.

A persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on real data and insight about demographics, behaviors, pain points, and interests/affinities. It can help us build empathy towards the audience group this individual represents, direct how we target them and what we say to appeal to the audience like him or her. But it has a blind spot: personas provide very little context about the information landscape this individual exists within.

If we don’t know what information is surrounding this individual and who is providing it, then what hope do we have of cutting through the noise? If we’re not tracking that landscape to understand how it changes over time, then how can we stay relevant?

Conversations, like personas, are not static. They ebb and flow, and they’re impacted by seasonal trends and news events; they evolve over time. To illustrate, we took a look at how different “healthy” beverages are being discussed within the general health and wellness conversation online and assessed three key areas:

  1. Volume. Understanding the frequency with which different topics are discussed as well as which topics are rising and which are falling, helps determine the best point of entry.
  2. Audience Segmentation. Conversation analysis can help augment what we already know about our personas, helping us tailor tactics based on observed behavior.
  3. Competitive Landscape. We may have a list of known competitors, but in online conversations, we’re often competing for audience attention from a much larger set.

In the chart below, we see that while matcha gets mentioned much more frequently than coconut water, matcha volume is beginning to trend down while coconut water volume grows. An early sign of waning matcha interest? Knowing that both matcha and green tea mentions spiked in January and were driven by New Year’s detox content can help guide what content might resonate with audiences and when to capitalize on important dates.

Conversation analysis can also unlock information about different audience segment preferences, which can add another layer of data and insight to personas. In the figure below, matcha interest leads among those 44 and under but drops off dramatically with those 44 and above. Are older audiences not interested in matcha, or have they not been messaged effectively about the benefits?

Identifying which entities are already leading the conversation expands our understanding of the competitive landscape and can help us differentiate our content from that which already exists.

Top brands contributing content about matcha, green tea, and coconut waterOn the left is the list of top brands contributing content about matcha, green tea, and coconut water. We can drill down to the post level to see exactly what is being said by, or about, each brand, but even at the high level, we can start to see where certain brands not generally affiliated with health and wellness might be tapping into increasing consumer interest in both. As we drill down, we can also see the opposite: individual’s reverse engineering McDonald’s St. Patrick’s Day Shamrock Shake with healthier ingredients. Having this clear line of vision across the competitor space helps us more clearly define where our “ownable” space exists.

Personas can tell us a lot about how best to reach our key audiences, but if we don’t couple that knowledge with an understanding of the conversation landscape, then we’re working with a very limited view and at risk of missing key opportunities.

If you’re interested in learning more, you can download FINN Partners “Red” paper Content Marketing ROI in a TMI World for additional information.


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