You’ve Got Your Segments, What About Personas?

If you have followed my posts or my colleagues’ blog entries, you would know that we are very big on market research, market analysis and market segmentation. In fact, we just did a great forum on market segmentation with Luke Hohmann of Enthiosys. Today I just want to share a couple of thoughts on yet another aspect of market and customer research, that is the development of personas after market segmentation.

It would be instructive to talk about personas from the context of market segmentation. The goal of market segmentation is to help define the distinctive homogeneous subsets of the prospect universe to help the company leverage its focus on product and development targeting the most attractive segments. As I understand them, segments are high level aggregates, macroeconomic groupings that help management teams figure out the appropriate business growth strategies.

In contrast, personas are specific microeconomic units in those aggregates; they represent the commonality of actual prospects in each of those segments, but in them very particular issues, goals and motivations also manifest. A segment defines a persona to the extent that it gives rise to people in the same personas with regards to certain areas of concerns, which is relevant to the company’s product and/or services.

Personas are important for the execution of go to market strategies, because to market well into a segment, the marketing team needs to be able to relate to the prospects in that segment, who can not be fully described by their demographic or psychographic indicators. The marketers need the personas to bring those prospects to live, to gauge how to connect with them in a meaningful way. Similarly, the product and development managers need to know goals, triumphs and frustrations of their users to make products that are actually useful for them.

Thus, if segmentation is solving the growth question, personas solve the execution question of how to get new customers and actually close them. Personas are the logical and essential next step for any segmentation project. Without concrete personas, segments remain theoretical constructs that have no legs in real life, and furthermore, we can not validate or leverage the segmentation hypothesis unless we build a corresponding set of personas.

There are a good number of great online resources that goes further than these quick thoughts. I encourage you to check them out:

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