The power of fake people

Imagine your most important customer, let’s call her Melissa, walking into your meeting room and laying the law down to your manager, telling them exactly what she wants from your Web site.

Now imagine that she’s not just your most important customer, but a representative of hundreds or thousands of your customers. Would she be able to change minds and influence decisions?

This is the power of Melissa. She is your Market Segmentation Study personified. She is your analytics report in a skirt. She is legal counsel for your creative team and a force to be reckoned with.

Melissa is an example of a persona. She represents the desires and fears of a large number of your prospects and customers in the most human and compelling way.

She isn’t real, but she will seem more real than any chart you can concoct.

Why Personas Have So Much Power

Roy H. Williams puts it best.

“Your business has three or four customers living at thousands of different addresses.”

Get to know them and they will lead you in the right direction.

Personas provide three power points that will help you focus your marketing and advertising dollars, and justify more spending.

You can Relate to People More Than Data

Melissa has a name, a face and a story. She is the perfect age, has the right income, and the ideal home environment to represent large numbers of your customers. With each little decision that marketers and business people make each day, you can ask, “What would Melissa do?” Each time you’re asked to make changes to your messaging, media, or offers, you can ask, “Would Melissa want this?”

You will relate to her as a marketer, manager, owner, CEO, Vice President or agency. This means better decisions, defendable positions, and consistent execution. Melissa is good.

Personas Create Consensus

The process of creating personas must involve anyone who would “know” Melissa. She is the personification of data, sales experiences, product research, customer support calls and personal experience. To make her whole, you must involved these functions in her creation.

Then, when budget time comes around; when knee-jerk initiatives seek to copy a competitor; when programs are proposed that are questionable, everyone will remember Melissa when you invoke her name.

Personas Turn Your Focus Outward

In any organization, it is easy to turn inward; to focus on the next product or the next campaign. Too many marketing conversations begin, “How can we get our message out more?”

Melissa changes the conversation.

“What could we do to get Melissa interested faster?”

“Why isn’t Melissa visiting the site?”

“What does Melissa need to know to go ahead and buy?”

These questions are fundamentally different. They are outward looking. Everything from strategy to copy to design will open to Melissa like a flower, and she will react.

The Key Components of an Online Persona

I’ll be covering the key components of an online persona in my SXSW Panel, provided you vote for it and it gets accepted.

I’ll also show you some of the decisions personas have influenced for my clients.

Give the panel idea your vote and then attend SXSW Interactive 2010.

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Brian Massey
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