Design/User Researcher. Ex MONotype Research Director and BBC Audience Researcher. Former Director of Mark Boulton Design and Five Simple Steps.

Joining the dots between customer segments and personas

Photo by s-cphoto/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by s-cphoto/iStock / Getty Images

At the end of 2016, I commissioned an external research consultancy - Esposito Research and Strategy to conduct a Cross Company Segmentation project for Monotype. Together with my team, Muriel our consultant, and internal stakeholders, I managed this process and communication of the outcomes.

Earlier this year we shared the results with internal teams. Since then, we’ve been working with the data and the segments in various ways. One of the ways we’ve been using the data from the segmentation is to create personas with our Product Marketing team.

The overall segmentation was a big picture view of our customers and markets. Understanding individual personas on a product by product basis is really the opposite of this. The market is the big picture and the persona is the individual, granular view but we need to consider other slices of the picture too.

If we think of a persona as having layers, we can build up a picture of them by peeling back these layers. At the core of a person are their wants, needs and goals. Next are their attitudes, aspirations and future intentions. Next their behaviour and finally their organizational circumstances, the industry they work in and so on. It’s important to layer in all these types of information when creating personas.

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  • Market segments are situational and derived from market data, firmographics
  • Buyer clusters are about the what and based on behavioural data and the role of the person in the buying process.
  • Customer segments are about the why and based on psychographic data – attitudes, aspirations and future intentions
  • Product Personas provide a much more granular view and are built on customer needs and goals.

I would argue that these first two are ‘top down’ and focus on the organisation or the individual customer’s role in the organisation. The second two are ‘bottom up’ and focus on the individual customer’s wants and needs.

Personas can divide opinion but when done properly, they can be a very useful tool. Prior to the segmentation we worked with Product Marketing to create buyer personas for one of our products. They were then used by the Revenue Marketing team to plan and create content for a campaign. They were also helpful to hone in on targets for events – deciding who in our database to target with the campaign vs. “spamming”. The results were the most successful Demand Gen campaign Revenue Marketing have done.

So this year the goal was to create buyer personas for all our products. There were four steps to our process:

  1. Step: Defining goals and reviewing existing customer data/research including the segmentation data. Output: Proto personas
  2. Step: Speak to real people to plug gaps in knowledge. Output: insights
  3. Step: Collaborative analysis workshop. Output: Detailed personas
  4. Step: Development of further artefacts. Output: Other materials – buyers journeys, scenarios.

We worked at the granular level to create a set of personas for each product. During the process we noticed several key personas that kept coming up time and again - these became our 'Golden' personas. Each persona was also tied to a customer segment as well as a market segment so we had a way of creating an overall 'map' across the organisation. Our next steps are to identify gaps or overlaps in our portfolio - which personas are we underserving, which personas might be interested in more than one product? We are also looking at how our personas interrelate in an ecosystem. B2B buying is very rarely an individual activity so it's important for us to understand the buying 'unit'.

In my view, the actual process of creating personas is the useful bit. Spending time talking to and about customers – whether through conversations with them or via research/insights is the valuable part. The artefact or output can be shared more widely throughout the organisation and provide a shared understanding of the target customer. Once this sharing and conversation around what it means happens, is where the persona really becomes a tool and not just an artefact.

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