Digital Transformation

A deep exploration into building buying personas

By Wesley Mathew |



The Drum Network article

This content is produced by The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

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May 17, 2019 | 6 min read

The year is 2019. People have finally realised that a living standard measurement was fun to learn about in marketing school but isn’t sufficient to build a campaign on. Today, we know that well-rounded insight is the key to reaching people in meaningful ways. When you get that right, the hard work is done for you.

Building lasting relationships with your consumers becomes a more human affair. But how do we use that to affect the bottom line?

Meltware personas - lots of shots of the same man in different moods.

Data-driven persona building could help you understand your customers.

You need to know your consumers better than you know yourself

The truth is gaining a competitive edge (especially in the attention economy) means connecting with your consumers. In a rampant display of irony, warm connection is easier to do with cold, hard insight. What do we love about cold, hard insight?

  • It’s easy to obtain. Social media analytics and other media monitoring tools make it easier than ever for us to gain detailed insight into who engages with us online.
  • It’s a cost-effective way to improve your marketing communications and subsequently, your bottom line.
  • Collecting data helps you be more accurate, at least to the extent of validating or discounting assumptions.
  • It’s challenging. The nature of data is that it changes. Garnering useful insight from it is a job in itself and a challenging endevour - but well worth it.

The Devil is in the details, and the details are in the data

This is an adage that head of data at Social Chain, McVal Osborne knows all too well.

In a recent interview with Marcomm News, he said: “Gaining social-first insights has become integral to the decisions that we make and the actions that we take. The data captured through social media is forever changing how brands operate, both online and offline. Brands want to understand buying behaviour, customer motivations and consumer perception in their target demographic, which means they need access to the right data, quickly.”

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Osborne is the founder of WeWriteForGrowth, a platform for businesses to connect with talented writers and researchers and growth hackers. He is also the author of How to Make $2,000 a Month Online and Start Up your Life: Why we don’t know what we want, and how to set goals that really matter.

He writes about motivation, decision making, and strategic thinking and has since worked as a market researcher and business consultant in Washington D.C., New York City and London. If you’d like, you can learn more about what drives him on Twitter. But, it’s safe to say he knows what he’s talking about.

So, if we take his words as a basis for approaching persona building, how could your brand change its daily operations, based on insight?

Determine your objectives. What is the why behind understanding your consumers and their behaviour intimately? What’s not working? Start there. Today you can get detailed information on everything from where a user looks at an image for longest to where they are situated, how they feel about your content and who it most often resonates with. Choosing your metrics will be determined by your problems and subsequent objectives, so refine them.

Collect the data. The best data can be viewed over time. So whichever analytics or monitoring tool you go with will become more useful after a waiting period. Give the data time to accumulate (minimum 2 weeks +) and then pull it in as raw a format as possible. The key here is to collect detailed information across various metrics. You can distill it later. There’s an abundance of software that will present it to you in a detailed yet consumable way.

Decide how many personas are necessary. It’s not possible to understand every consumer as an individual with the resources on hand. Distill your personas into the most important ones. Three to five is usually sufficient depending on how varied your product offering is.

Create a template for consistency. Once you’ve done this, you can start to fill in the blanks of your personas based on the data and your initial objectives. Try to view the persona as one person, incorporating desire, behaviour and pain points. Where are they situated? How comfortable are they with your technology and messaging?

Then put your personas to the test. Use focus groups to determine whether or not your customers identify with a persona or can add insight to what you already have, from a human perspective.

These basic steps should have you well on your way to using data in a more insightful and effective way but if you’d like to learn more, why not join the team from Meltwater and McVal Osborne for for a #SocialSession on building more data-driven personas. The session takes place in Manchester between 9:00-11:00am on Friday 24 May. Save your seat here.

Wesley Mathew is head of marketing UKI and India at Meltwater

Digital Transformation

Content by The Drum Network member:

Meltwater is a software as a service company that develops and markets media monitoring and business intelligence software.  

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