By Brian Massey published August 30, 2010

The Anatomy of a Great Web Persona

Melanie is your market research with an attitude, your analytics in a skirt. Bill is the voice that rings through the headsets of your customer support people, unwavering in his desire to get what he wants. Amy is that segment of your house list who got distracted before she finished ordering online.

None of these people exist, but they are powerful guides for any business that wants to grow in an age of digital content. Melanie, Bill and Amy are touchpoint personas, and they can walk right into any meeting you have and “lay down the law.” They know what they want, and they are your ally in getting the resources you need to deliver.

Read on to learn why a touchpoint persona is so powerful and to figure out what information you should include.

How is a touchpoint persona different from a buyer persona?

Those businesses with the most effective content marketing strategies are using buyer personas as their guide. But, buyer personas have the following limitations when it comes to implementation:

  • They may not be found in every channel. A buyer persona that visits your store may never buy online.
  • They often do not comprehend the limits and strengths of individual channels. In the store, the salesperson is the primary content provider. Online, there are far more communication options.
  • The demographics associated with each are open to interpretation. What kind of home does a person making $175,000 a year live in? Some may say a mansion. Some may say a small ranch.

Touchpoint personas focus the team on one channel: the store, the Web, the phone, the social graph, etc. The result is fewer personas per channel and more specific personas, which means a more consistent effort on the part of your production teams.

Creating touchpoint personas for the web

Here are the components of the touchpoint personas that Conversion Sciences creates for clients. Much of this has been adopted from the book Waiting for Your Cat to Bark? by Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg.

Demographics
Demographics play only a small part in the touchpoint persona. Age and gender give us an idea of their technical savvy and possible communication styles. Business role will be important for B2B and some B2C sales. Don’t muddy the water with demographics that don’t apply. For example, marital status may not be helpful in a B2B sale. If not, don’t include it.

Customer Commentary
The customer commentary answers the question, “Why are they coming to this site at this time in their lives?” Unlike buyer personas, the customer commentary is written in the voice of the persona. This helps the production team empathize with the people visiting your site. It provides the proper vocabulary for writing and keyword research. Answer this question, and you will know exactly how to create content for them.

Mode of Persuasion
The customer commentary will tell you much about the way a certain kind of visitor is going to make a decision, from which you can identify their mode of persuasion. Will they decide to take action quickly or slowly? Will they seek to decide emotionally or logically? The Eisenbergs outline four primary modes of persuasion to guide your designers and writers: Competitive, Methodical, Humanist and Spontaneous.

Funnel Points
What is bringing the persona to this touchpoint, and where are they arriving?

  • Did a referral drive them to type in your domain?
  • Did an online search bring them to your home page?
  • Did a banner ad or email bring them to a landing page?

List these scenarios here, and strive to get visitors close to their points of resolution as directly as possible. Don’t limit funnel points to those currently in your marketing mix, but consider new outreach methods based on how visitors like this will find you.

Points of Resolution
What are the important pieces of information this kind of visitor needs to feel comfortable and confident in taking action? This is your content guide, from which your editorial calendar will rise. Points of resolution may be as simple as “price and delivery” or as complex as “a full understanding of our manufacturing process.”

Conversion Beacons and Conversion Points
The conversion beacon calls a visitor to action. A conversion point tells you that a visitor has taken action. In the online world, a big red button may serve as a conversion beacon, and a confirmation page may be the conversion point that tells you that a visitor has completed a form. These map the visitors’ buying processes to the businesses’ selling processes. They also tell you which key performance indicators will gauge the success of your changes.

Priority
Touchpoint personas are quite thorough and will generate more ideas than can be reasonably implemented, but one conversion beacon or one content item may have a significant impact on leads and sales.

The Eisenbergs recommend listing out the actions generated from these personas. Estimate the minimum time, positive impact and smallest effort each on a scale from one to five. Add these three values together and start working on those with the highest total.

Keep your personas out of the drawer

Your personas should influence your decisions, and they should evolve as you learn what is working and what is not. Don’t put them in a drawer when you’re done. Print them out and put them in your conference room or break room.

Consider placing them on a collaborative system so that the organization can change them organically.

Like Frankenstein’s monster, it is easy to create personas, but it is more difficult to breathe life into them.

To thoroughly explore the power of touchpoint personas, I strongly recommend the book Waiting for your Cat to Bark? by Jeffrey and Bryan Eisenberg. For more on touchpoints please read Social Media Marketing: An Hour a Day by David Evans.

Do you use touchpoint personas or something similar? If so, are there additional things that you include?

Author: Brian Massey

Brian Massey calls himself a Conversion Scientist and he has the lab coat to prove it. “Conversion” is the process of converting Web traffic to leads and sales, and his practice, Conversion Sciences, brings these disciplines to businesses of all sizes. Brian is a dynamic speaker, presenting before corporations, universities, and at national conferences. He is the author of the The Conversion Scientist, and is a columnist for ClickZ.com and Search Engine Land. Follow me on Twitter @bmassey.

Other posts by Brian Massey

  • http://www.buyerpersona.com Adeler

    Interesting post Brian. But I wonder why you suggest that buyer personas should not be just as focused as your touchpoint personas? Your definition is entirely consistent that of a well-researched buyer persona.

  • http://conversionscientist.com Brian Massey

    Adeler,

    I don’t know that buyer personas _shouldn’t_ be as focused as a touchpoint persona, but my experience in working with them is that they typically aren’t. Most buyer personas that my clients have had in place attempt to address all buyers regardless of channel. Some of these buyer personas will never visit the Web site, and as such aren’t helpful for developing Web strategy and tactics. Likewise, the in-store marketing team would find my Web touchpoint personas terribly lacking for their purposes.

    Touchpoint personas are my attempt to simplify and tactify (is that a word?) the buyer persona.

    I’m happy to share a sample with you and get your opinion. You clearly have a great deal of experience based on your Buyer Persona Blog.

    Best regards,
    Brian
    http://ConversionScientist.com

  • http://www.buyerpersona.com Adeler

    I am trying to educate the market about the importance of specificity in buyer personas. When I saw your post I noticed that you also understand the issue and were trying to improve the quality of the work. If marketers don’t get it right we may end up with another wasted effort like the “voice of the customer” work that was popular a decade ago. So I’m happy to find another advocate, and only concerned that another name for these personas will cause more confusion. Whether we call them buyer personas, touchpoint personas, or oranges, we just need more details and more good application to real marketing challenges.

  • http://conversionscientist.com Brian Massey

    Adeler,

    I think we’re going to have to call them different names, dress them in colorful clothes and put lipstick on them.

    Personas appeal to those folks that are comfortable with the symbolic; they sense the world symbolically and can easily go from general to specific. However, they are the smallest part of the population.

    Those who sense the world through data and fact, who need the specific before going to the general find personas to be too ethereal.

    Touchpoint personas seek to appeal to both worlds through the lense of the Web. The latter group must be brought in. They are our guardians and action-takers, and they exist on every team.

    I think we’ll need to create design personas and brand personas and buyer personas and channel personas and political personas and orange personas to make them appeal to an entire team.

    Brian Massey