Andrew Breese

Musings of a professional geek

CEO highlights the use of Personas in Online Marketing

I was really pleased to read the Grays Online CEO blog about the use of Personas in helping to guide and direct their marketing strategy. After many years of getting funny looks from business people about why an imaginary person is useful for determining who the audience is, and what strategies will resonate within the target customers – this is wonderful to see.

Yes folks – you create an imaginary set of people who represent the audiences you wish to both capture and avoid, so that you can test ideas and strategies against how those personas might react. It is simple and effective.

“personas” look to be a very effective component of marketing strategy and used by 40% of major US e-commerce companies. Personas are representatives of your buyer database that you use to develop strategies to market to. Most companies develop 3 or 4 personas that represent their major buyer segments. I’m looking forward to developing the Grays personas. I’ll put them up here to see if anyone recognises themselves! – Cameron Poolman.

I think a website the scale and complexity of Grays Online would need more than 3-4 personas in total, and 4 is a good starting number which will probably become more specialised as the team get into the concepts and drill further into who and why folks are buying. A counter point to having many different personas is the trap of creating too many, where you end up with such a diverse field of needs that no single action can be gauged as good or bad. In that scenario just scale it back, make them more general, or develop sub-groups within the broad personas for specific different areas.

For example there might be a personas which is a typical corporate wine buyer (Jamie, 38, office-desk bound finance officer, married with one child, living in Glen Waverly), but the team know that the wine buyer is actually up to four different personas, each with subtly different needs. Four different wine personas is useful when talking through the wine sales strategies, but poor when considering the Cars & Tractor market. So keep “Jamie” as the generic wine person who sits at the high level, and let him nudge overall views, but not really factor into the Car and Tractor discussions too much.

As an aside the style of communication on the CEO blog is nicely toned. It comes across as if it really was written by Cameron himself, and that he is personally invested in the goals of the business and also his customers. Now I’m willing to bet that this is because he is actually passionate and doing it himself, but that is really a side from the point: Grays have nailed the tone of a CEO blog for a website like theirs.

Kudos to Cameron Poolman for speaking so openly in a blog, and he’s been doing that for longer than some companies have had CEO blogs (since June 2009). Go read, it is refreshing and he makes far more points openly about what/why Grays is up to.

By way of disclosure: to make it clear I am not in any way associated with Grays professionally, but I am a quasi-regular customer; if this blog post reads like an ad then it is just because I think they are doing a good job over there.

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