The importance of dynamic personas
For good reasons, buyer personas are the holy grail for customer intelligence in many organizations. 90% of organizations better understand their customers through buyer personas and 82% state that they improved their value proposition.
If you are not too familiar with the persona concept, here is a quick overview!
What is a user persona?
Personas describe a semi-fictional character based on your customer base. They shall cover essential insights about the customers’ personalities, needs, pain points, motivations, and demographics, just to name a few. For a more detailed description of what features a persona should contain, read this article on how to create the perfect persona.
How are personas created?
Personas shall be 100% data-driven based on quantitative and qualitative data to avoid human bias. Personas shall represent the actual customer, not the picture-perfect one you might have in your head. Either you have the analytical resources to create them yourself or use external providers such as consultancies or AI solutions like ourselves to build them.
The difference between static and dynamic personas
As stated above, personas shall represent your current customer, and this concept comes with challenges. Your customers are human, and they constantly change, driven by internal and external factors. We can all agree that the past years have affected everyone.
Many organizations create personas once, spend a massive amount of time and resources, and let them sit there for years without touching them. This often does more harm than good because you will continue to use the same targeting and communication repeatedly, ignoring the dynamic changes in the market.
We are getting bombarded with over 3000 marketing messages daily, and personalization is the only way to differentiate. Therefore, it is essential to create dynamic personas that change and evolve the same way the actual customers do.
How to create dynamic personas?
Personas must be based on actual data, not assumptions, guessing, or gut feeling. The good news is that gathering in-the-moment data points is pretty straightforward due to the rise of social media, chatbots, and review pages. When you continuously monitor outlets where customers talk about your product, you understand changes in needs, motivations fears, and triggers the moment they arise. Addressing them allows you to drive personalization truly. We will go into more detail about data sources further down in this article.
Dynamic understanding of changes in persona features
Persona profiles often have the same set-up from demographics, the background story, needs, triggers, emotions, and go-tos to personality insights. The following section will demonstrate how and why updating the different persona components is so important.
Dynamic persona demographics
Here is a typical structure of the demographic persona section.
- Stage of life
Many organizations believe that the demographics of their customer base usually remain the same, which is a fallacy.
Especially the pandemic impacted this part drastically. There is a big trend for people to move out of the cities because they learned the hard way to be locked up in a small apartment in the city center. Due to the rise of home-office, people do not necessarily need to live close by their work.
Also, the income structure certainly changed. People had to live with short-term work, receiving less money than before. In contrast, others make much more money because the labor market changed from an employer market to an employee market.
And of course, interests changed dramatically. Many people suddenly have pets, aiming to become the next cycling superstar like Lance Armstrong, started an instrument, or found some other distraction for the pandemic and are now an essential part of their lives.
Since targeting often uses demographics as a basis, understanding these dynamics and integrating them into the personas is fundamental.
Dynamic persona needs
Depending on which industry you are operating in, customers’ needs change faster or more drastically than in other sectors. Let us take a financial management app as an example. Years ago, the markets were booming, and there was a massive demand for managing funds to secure retirement. Today, many struggle with rising inflation, plumbing stock markets, and the need shifted from investing extra funds to being able to sustain without going broke. In both instances, the need for a financial assistance app is there, but with two opposite drivers. Accordingly, communication and marketing require drastic adjustments.
Another classic example is Human Resources. We went from an employer-driven market where organizations could dictate salaries, set-ups, and requirements to a market where organizations struggle to receive applications for their jobs. The need for a job shifted where employees can make claims as they want. HR departments must understand these changes and offer jobs that meet these requirements.
Dynamic persona triggers and go-tos
To win a customer for your business and cut through the noise, you need to tell him right away why your products are the right choice. To do so, you not only require to address their needs but tell them how your product solves it. And even if the need remains the same, the drivers change.
Let us take a car buyer as an example. With rising gasoline prices, environmental concerns, rising competition, and supply chain shortages, car manufacturers deal with a different market than a couple of years ago.
Drivers behind the need
- Old car broke
- Wants a faster car
- Wants a fancier car
- Wants a safer car
- Wants to be environmentally friendly
- Wants to save money on gasoline
- Wants a smaller car due to scarcity of parking lots
- Can not afford old car due to financial constraints
- Does not want to wait years to get new car
Triggers, Go-tos and Messaging
- Bring your old car and drive off with a new one
- The fastest SUV on the planet
- Enjoy pure luxury
- Your safety is our top priority
- Drive electric and save the World
- You do not need to sweat anymore when you see gasoline prices
- Stop wasting time searching for a big parking lot.
- Best rates on our car and cash for your old one
- Receive your car within two months of order.
When you compare the drivers behind the needs and the required communication, you see how complex it has become for the car industry over the past years. The car industry is only one of many sectors that struggle with this challenge. Dynamic personas that reflect the different customer segments with their changing demands are critical not to lose track.
Dynamic representativeness of persona clusters
No organization has only one customer type. Of course, there are differences in the number of customer segments depending on the industry and product but believing that communicating to every customer, in the same way leads to success is unrealistic. And of course, the importance of the different customer segments varies depending on size, budgets, churn rate, and customer lifetime value. Understanding the importance of the various segments is critical to allocating resources and priorities better.
For example, let us go back to the financial advice app. When the market was roaring, the most significant customer segment represented people with extra income who wanted to grow a strong stock portfolio and needed financial advice on stock picks and analyzing and managing their portfolios. Nowadays, investing in stocks is very uncertain, and many people struggle to meet their month-end needs. They now require insights on better managing their mortgages or monthly expenses. This segment grew drastically, whereas the financial overflow segment decreased in size. And the change in customer cluster sizes has many implications. The targeting budget needs to be shifted, blog articles topics need to be adjusted, and sometimes a shift in customer segment sizes requires a change in the product itself or even the entire business strategy.
The need of dynamic personas to match customers’ personalities
Personality is hard-wired in our brain. It defines how we react to certain situations, people, and of course marketing messages.
If you want to understand more about customer personality, check out this article about OCEAN and the big five factor model.
If personality is hard-wired, why are dynamic personas necessary? Very simple – the different personality traits of the customer base influence how they deal with certain situations like the pandemic, which ultimately influences their purchase decisions. It is so important to understand that because 95% of all purchasing decisions are made subconsciously. We can not change our customers, but we can certainly adjust our communication and brand personality to match their personality and thereby subconsciously influence their decision-making process.
To give an example, we go back to the financial advice app. Let us assume a large customer segment is dominant in the following psychographic traits.
The most dominant trait is Neuroticism. To understand the context, we need to examine what effects this trait has on how this segment deals with specific situations.
People with a high degree of neuroticism tend to experience mood swings, negative emotions like anxiety, anger, or depression and are emotionally unstable, pessimistic, and nervous. They have a low-stress tolerance, are emotionally reactive, often interpret ordinary situations as threatening, and complain a lot about them.
Considering the recent developments in the world, such as Covid, the war in Europe, or inflation, it becomes irrefutably clear that those external factors severely affect their purchasing decisions.
Whereas other segments with, for instance, a high degree of agreeableness and are always optimistic are probably more resilient to these developments, the Neuroticism dominant segment certainly needs much more guidance, positive encouragement, and attention these days.
After we examined how important it is to adjust persona features along the way, I want to draw a bigger picture of how dynamic personas can help the entire organization.
Dynamic personas to drive customer centricity throughout the organization
For decades personas were a “marketing-thing” but it is much more. If done properly, they can be the vehicle for customer-centricity. We wrote a whole article on how all departments can benefit from personas, so I am not going into too much detail. Not only does marketing need to have a dynamic understanding of the customer base but all other departments. Product development needs to immediately understand changes in customer needs and requirements to adjust or enhance the current product features. It doesn’t help when marketing adjusts the message, but the product remains the same. Customer service needs to be prepared to live up to the expectations created by marketing and so on. Dynamic personas allow for all that. They carry these changes throughout the organization, so everyone understands the ultimate goal of customer-centricity and how to achieve it.
How to position dynamic personas throughout the organization
If you are the one who figured out how to develop dynamic personas you might hold the key in your hand to become the customer-centricity superhero for your company. Your goal should be to deliver the personas to every department. There are various ways to do it.
Include dynamic personas in company newsletters.
Many organizations send internal newsletters to their workforce to keep them updated on the latest developments. Ask for your own section where you inform your colleagues about the current customer developments.
Integrate dynamic personas in the internal network.
If you have an intranet in your organization, this also is a great place to display them. Usually, a news section is perfectly suitable to inform the workforce about the customers.
Integrate dynamic personas through personal connections.
Educate other departments about the concept and importance of personas and allocate those employees that will act as an ambassador. Once there is proof of success in one area, the others will follow.
Integrate dynamic personas by being funny and inspirational.
Whether it is a whiteboard in the hallway or the fridge in the company kitchen, these are all great places to display the personas. Maybe think of creating a MOST WANTED poster of the personas and pin it there. It will undoubtedly attract attention.
Finally, we no take a brief look at the data sources to build personas. We are not going into too much detail about the sources themselves but focus more on the importance of gathering in-the-moment data and applying them to the personas.
Data sources and integration to create dynamic personas
Personas should always consist of quantitative and qualitative data and internal and external data. Quantitative data will help with the basics, such as demographics, whereas qualitative data uncover the needs, pain-points, personalities, etc.
Additionally, you should always gather external data to provide insights that go beyond the cosmos of your organization. With some data sources, it is easier to follow a dynamic concept, whereas others bring challenges. For instance, for a long time, creating big customer surveys was key for persona creation. The problem is that it usually takes so much time to complete the surveys, and by the time you analyze them, the insights are already outdated. Excellent sources for dynamic data are Google Analytics, which tracks your customers on the website in real-time, Chatbot interactions, where customers continuously complain, demand, or advice about your product, or social media. Be sure that the second something is not working with your product or there is a better alternative, people will let you know on social media. All you have to do is listen carefully.
Dynamic personas as key for personalization
Customer change, whether we want it or not, and so should their personas. Do not work with them if you can not guarantee that personas are always up-to-date. You will miss significant market trends and never reach the goal of customer-centricity. The good news is that creating dynamic personas nowadays is way easier than it was a couple of years ago. Primarily through the power of artificial intelligence, the data analysis and creation process can be completely automated. You can even set alerts to get informed when the personas change. If you want to learn more about the automation of persona creation, just reach out to us!