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Website Personas in the Real World

*This was originally posted on Ektron's website as a guest blog here.

Over 13 years ago, MethodFactory formed as an interactive agency specializing in enterprise eCommerce and Web Content Management (WCM) for B2B and B2C Fortune 2000 companies; commercial brands, national associations and local government agencies. We are a Microsoft Gold Partner and an Ektron Elite Partner. Some of our Ektron success stories include Rawlings Sporting Goods, The Coleman Company, ISC, and Chestnut Hill College.

At MethodFactory, we sell and market to two different audiences; IT and Marketing.  But those two groups really couldn’t be more different.  So how do you connect with each audience, using their language and addressing their interests?  Personas.

What is a Persona?

Personas are representations of our buyers, based on a range of attributes. For the purpose of this discussion we’ll explore two personas that we use at MethodFactory - Sue the Marketer and Joe the IT Director. We have used personas to create relevant content over the past few months and years, but now we are able to extend those personas, and easily target content to each persona with Ektron.  Here’s how we do it.

Targeting Content By Persona In The Real World

PersonaWe use data in different systems (Marketing Automation and CRM) to create digital personas and then target content to each persona.

We construct a dynamic persona profile that contains five attributes. We capture visitor type, organization size, organization type, location, and visitor interest.  We combine these five attributes to get a slightly more complex persona profile.  It looks something like this...

I'm a... [Marketer], from a [large] [association], located in the [Southeast US], that's interested in [SOLR Search].
So how do we capture this information?

We capture primary visitor interest based on the referring URL, Google Ad Words campaign or keyword.  From one of those three sources we can segment the visitor appropriately.  We capture organization size, location and industry using an IP lookup service.  The last attribute is the trickiest - visitor type:  We gather this information in a couple of different ways.  Sometimes we just ask for it.  We’ll ask the visitor what interests them (Marketing vs. IT).  We also place quick polls on pages that we use to infer a visitor type.

Lastly we tag web content with a visitor type.  Each viewed page gets tallied and attributed to the visitor’s profile.  If a visitor looks mostly at marketing tagged content they are treated like a marketer in the kind of content that is pushed out to them. And the same goes for IT; if the visitor’s behavior and interest indicates they are in IT, the content will relate to their needs and interests.  Obviously, our message to IT visitors is more technical and addresses their buying criteria versus the Marketers who are interested in how our products and services address their marketing needs.  Our eCommerce and WCM systems offer benefits to both IT staff and marketing staff and through the use of personas, we can give them only the information that is relevant to them.  A targeted message is more likely to garner the desired outcomes.

Website analytics are key in defining and refining personas, as data that is collected on page visits and visitor behaviors can inform the persona profiles and help you create the user journey that will likely lead to conversions.

Targeted Content Templates

PersonaSo, now that we have set-up our personas and know how were going to capture that information, what do we do with it?  The wireframe to the right illustrates a persona managed web template and shows what content would be displayed for the different attributes of the buyer persona.  In this template we’re presenting:

  •     Narrative that’s targeted at the combination of interest and visitor type
  •     Featured software products that are targeted at the combination of interest and company size
  •     Calls to action that are targeted at visitor type and company location
  •     Case studies that are targeted at the company industry
In this persona managed template example we’re looking at Sue – a marketer from a mid-sized, Southeast US-based association.  Sue’s interested in eCommerce.

When someone who matches Sue’s persona visit the site, they see website copy written especially for that persona. We show her eCommerce products that are aligned with a mid-size organization. And we tease her with conferences in the Southeast as well as highlight other associations that we work with.
How does this change for Joe,  the IT Director from a large, Central US based consumer goods company and is interested in eCommerce?

Joe sees website content written especially for him, that only displays when someone who matches his persona comes to the site. We show him eCommerce products that are aligned with larger organizations, tease him with conferences in Central US and list other consumer goods companies that we work with.

Joe and Sue are on the same exact page, but using personas we dynamically adapt our message to be as relevant as possible to the visitor.

Now of course, personas can be built to fit a wide range of attributes, not just what we cover here.  This can include factors like region, customer status, role, or almost anything else you are tracking in a Marketing Automation or CRM system.

Visitor Journey

But wait, there’s more.  Personas are only a piece of the puzzle.  Now that we have defined personas, and we know how to identify those individuals and target them with relevant content, what do we do now?  The next step from our perspective is to map out visitor journeys.  A visitor journey is an optimal path that we’d like that visitor to take through our site towards a clear and measurable target of gauging success. Here’s an example of a visitor journey:
Let’s follow Sue –

    Sue finds MethodFactory from a Google Ad-Words campaign and clicks into our Commerce landing page.  Take a look at what we already know about Sue.
    Sue takes a visitor interest poll and sees the results.  We know she’s a marketer and can further target content to her.
    Before leaving our site she signs up for our newsletter.  That’s a mini-win for us.  We’ve got her attention, and now we’ve got her interest.
    Sue doesn’t come back to the site for a while.  We don’t know why.  We send her our newsletter email that has a Commerce feature and she bites. She starts reviewing commerce systems and finally signs up for a system demo.  That’s our measure of success.  We’ve got Attention, Interest, Desire and now, Action.

By putting this all together, we can have a much more relevant online conversation with our site visitors and increase our conversions.

Putting it all Together

So, what do you need in order to execute on a program of persona based targeted content?

Well, the first thing you need is an enterprise grade web content management system that has an architecture and taxonomy that supports personas.  You also need a system that will integrate with wherever you’re storing your visitor information - a marketing automation or CRM system.

You’ll need a marketing automation system (like Hubspot or Marketo) or a CRM system (like Salesforce or Dynamics).  We use Salesforce to store our persona information and have real-time integration with our WCM system (Ektron 9.0).  

Lastly, you need a web analytics package that supports personas.  When you start working with personas you’ll have another dimension of reporting that you need set-up.  We’ve built out custom segments in our Google Analytics account that represent the various persona slices.  This approach allows us to track overall page performance and also drill down to individual persona profiles.

Hopefully, this practical example has helped to illustrate what’s possible and how you can design your own personas, target content to those personas and report on the persona activity.

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