Thanks to Software San Diego, I finally got the opportunity to learn about why there is such a widespread interest in personas these days. I always thought of them in terms of B2C marketing. Although creating personas is more formalized than it used to be, we B2B direct marketers have been targeting messaging to customer profiles for decades. So they didn’t seem like anything new.
What I didn’t understand, I learned from a knock-out presentation I just attended by Mitchell. Mitchell is a company started in 1947 that is now the leading provider of technology for claims management and repair shop solutions. They’ve adopted personas big time and not just in the marketing department.
Mitchell is in the process of joining a literal handful (5%) of companies that are putting the customer experience above all else in every aspect of their operations. That means people in every department are discussing customers, by persona, as part of everything they do.
InformationWeek recently recognized this growing shift in their cover story “Goodbye IT, Hello Digital Business: Delighting customers is job No. 1. Everything else is secondary.” In this story, Chris Murphy tells how IT no longer has a “support-the-business” role but is now at the forefront of creating products and applications that enhance the customer experience. At Mitchell, when the development team talks about products and features, those talks focus on the personas identified as users of that product.
The Mitchell presentation covered their journey and their learning process on how to create their personas, how many to create, what info should be included in them and how to make them easy to use and understand. Here are the basics I learned that may be helpful to other B2B marketing companies:
- The 5% of companies currently heavily focused on incorporating personas into their entire operation are, without exception, leaders in their industries.
- Depending on the budget available, these profiles can be created through a combination of customer interviews and surveys, plus interviews with sales and other personnel who directly interact with customers.
- Less is more. To incorporate too many data points or too much information on each make using personas too complex and difficult to use.
- Rather than just data, the descriptions should be somewhat emotional.
- Each persona should be based on an individual’s role within their company.
- After much trial and error, here are the ingredients of each description that they found worked best at Mitchell:
- Name: Using names with the same initials as the individual’s title were found to be much more memorable. For example: the parts managers might be Pete Murphy, the shop estimator might be Sean Edwards, and Carl Atkins might be the claims adjustor, etc.
- Job Title and Description
- Activities: What their job involves, specifically
- Experience and Skills
- Goals: In relation to their job
- Tools and Technology: What they currently use, not just for the solution being sold but all the technology and tools used
- Quote: These are usually gathered from interviews
- Environment: A description of their surroundings when working
- Picture: These are essential to help employees identify with each persona
At the heart of what I learned is that personas aren’t just for B2B marketing anymore. They can help the company succeed at every level and should be incorporated into decisions regarding products, messaging, personnel, processes and services. Every one contributes to the customer experience.