13 February 2012 ~ 58 Comments

Which Type Am I? Thoughts on Personas & Personality Type

Isn’t it interesting to site back and watch the old become new again?

While speaking with marketers after my session on Personas at Conversion Conference, it seemed to me a trend was (re)gaining traction.  Over the past few months, the digital community at large has taken up the Personas mantle, and there have been many great articles written to help Marketers.  As we wrote in Waiting for Your Cat To Bark, understanding your customers and enabling them to get what they came for is of utmost importance. This rings true in every interaction they have with your company, product or team.  Personas remain one of the best tools out there to help Marketers transform what they know (or think they know, at times) about the customer base from the abstract, to the concrete.

A foundational element of the Persuasion Architecture Personas we’ve helped clients create for years is the use of Personality Type to help build followers.  To this end, the singular question we routinely get asked more than any other by Marketers seeking to learn how to increase the performance of their marketing with the use of Personas is…

What Type Am I?

The answer: it’s irrelevant.

Contrary to what you may assume, Persuasion Architecture Personas are not about identifying the “type” of each individual who visits your website so you can control exactly what you show them (ie – the goal is not to enable dynamically loaded content). Personas are about focusing your attention on the proper planning of scenarios or click-by-click pathways specifically designed for each persona.  Doing so removes the need to identify a visitor’s type in advance and assures you that the website is showing all personas the information they need to move forward.  As long as your site has persona-driven content, self-selection handles the rest.  Persona driven content is content that is “just right” for each type of visitor or visitors “behaving in a specific mode.”

For those new to PA Personas, a brief summary:

  • Persuasion Architecture personas are rooted in behavior because they describe a pace for gathering information/making decisions (quick vs. slow), and information bias (logical vs. emotional).
  • Your sales process needs to account for and align with the four different and identifiable paths a Persona will take to make a purchase or try your product.
  • It’s possible to cater to all four types of personas on one website, and even within one page of that site.

Personas don’t represent groups of people as much as they represent groups of behaviors. I know this is hard to digest, but it actually makes things easier. If you let go of the false assumption that each of us has a type, and fits into one of these groups, things start to make a lot more sense. That’s because even though each of us has a preferred way of acting, and a preferred information focus, certain situations can make us act differently. This is one reason we here at FutureNow prefer to think of the personas as describing a mode of behavior rather than describing a particular kind of person.

Grok the concept that Persona cohorts are best developed by utilizing the characteristics of a specific “buying mode” rather than the Personality Type of the visitor you will your head will start swimming with a sea of facts you know about your customers.  The key to successful Persona creation is in organizing the facts you know, so they can be validated through the persuasive content you plan based on these facts.  Enter…

The Persona Canvas

The Persona Canvas is a tool we use that maps the questions you hear from your customers, their motivations, and the topology of your personas within the context of four “decision mode” quadrants.

Here are some of the things you’ll want to think about as you take a stab at doing a Persona Canvas for your business:

1) Products, brands and companies frequently have a “type” or “mode” associated with them too, and that can be part of what causes a person’s preferred mode to skew toward another mode of behavior and decision-making when purchasing a particular item. Technical products with lots of details, like computer hardware, for example, tend to fall into the Methodical quadrant. This can cause even the spontaneous types to act more methodically when purchasing them. But that’s not to say you won’t have competitive or emotional buyers purchasing computer hardware.

2) The circumstances in which a person is making a purchase can also influence their mode. Think of someone who makes those kinds of purchases for their department at work. They purchased a secondary hard drive for a colleague’s computer last month, and now another colleague has come to them with a similar request.  They know just what they want, and where to go to get it. They are unlikely to need all the facts and details this time, because they already did that the last time they made a purchase. This situation is very different from the man looking for more storage for his home computer because he and his wife are about to have their first baby, and want to make sure they have enough storage for all the videos they plan to take in the next year or two.

3) Believe it or not, we may even shift modes several times while attempting to complete one purchase. Our stage in the buying process can influence our mode too. We may be much more methodical at earlier stages of the buying process, collecting lots of details, and comparing the stats for one product to those for another.  By the time we’ve narrowed down our options, it’s possible we’ve reverted to our naturally preferred mode of decision-making; we just want to read some testimonials to see what other people thought of the products, before we make our final decision.

The variety of reasons why people might have need of your product or service, the image your company presents, the nature of your product, and other factors that can skew persona behavior all will be evidenced in your Canvas.  That’s where you’ll be able to see how those factors play out in your personas.

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