Real People vs. Personas

Avoid stereotypes by tapping into real people when segmenting your audiences.

Wendy Ruyle 1.4.2017

Using personas is a tried and true technique in audience segmentation exercises. They can be valuable but you want to beware of stereotyping your audiences.

Personas are developed by putting a name and face to each specific buyer type to whom you are trying to market. These types can be determined by demographics, psychographics, industry segments, or other differentiators. The goal is to identify audiences with similar traits and by personifying them, attempt to empathize with their wants and needs throughout the sales cycle.

The problem comes in when marketers are too many steps removed from the real people who are using their products or services. Key factors can be missed if you don’t actually know these real people and communicate with them.

There are several ways to incorporate feedback from real people to confirm or challenge your assumptions.

  1. Recruit audience members to your brainstorming team. Bring a few members of your audiences into some of your initial brainstorming sessions if you are launching a new product or trying to discover better ways of creating touchpoints. Many customers are more than willing to spend an hour or two giving you their opinions. They like to feel heard and they might get a better customer experience out of the deal. Be sure to have specific goals for your meetings so they know what to prepare and wrap up in a timely manner to honor their other commitments. Feeding them doesn’t hurt either!

  2. Conduct phone interviews. Have a consultant or key team member do some phone interviews to get feedback on various topics. You can ask about customer service, brand equity, messaging, product feedback, or countless other questions. The value of a phone interview is that you get qualitative feedback. You don’t just get a yes or no answer. The interviewer can ask why, dig deeper, and get to the bottom of customer concerns. If you do enough interviews, you’ll also see trends and know which issues are worth addressing.

  3. Do focus group testing. If you have developed some concepts and want to get feedback on which idea resonates the most with your audiences, do some focus group testing. These can be one-on-one or with a larger group. And, you can scale the size of your sample to save costs. The more your audiences differ from your marketing team, the more valuable this testing is. You will get comments that you would not have considered otherwise.

  4. Send out post-launch surveys. It’s never too late to get feedback. Even if you are in the end stages of launching a product, website, or experience, you can still improve your process. It is the nature of these touchpoints to always be evolving. Surveys can help you understand what the next stage of evolution should be.

Challenging your assumptions can seem like a risky endeavor, but it’s better to find out the truth directly from your audiences’ mouths rather than to blindly send the wrong message.

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This brainstorming activity is a great way to solve problems.

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