It staggers me that brands still try to target people based on personas and demographics, rather than building audience tribes and engaging them based on their interests, wants and needs.
Unless you’re Brad Pitt, it’s unlikely you’re going to meet the partner of your dreams by only talking to them about your household income, the trendy house in a particular postcode you live in, and your demanding social schedule.
Now I’m no matchmaker, but I’m pretty sure that approach equals an instant strikeout.
Instead, you’re more likely to build a connection by focusing on the person you’ve just met, and asking questions about who they are and what drives them.
And when you find out that you’re both into online gaming, cat videos, weekend getaways or hiking with friends, you can make an informed decision about whether your shared interests may be a good match.
This approach should be even more pronounced for marketers.
When you understand what truly motivates customers, you’re able to cultivate a community of like-minded people. A ‘tribe’ if you will. And you can nurture this tribe and turn them into fierce brand advocates, which you can ultimately monetise.
What are marketing personas?
User personas have been around since – at least – 1983, and from all reports, they were pioneered within the software development space.
In essence, they’re a combination of lifestyle attributes, demographics and attitudes to create fictional characters for marketing segmentation and ad targeting.
More and more Australian brands are betting a bigger piece of their marketing budget on personas nowadays. But a bet is all it is because personas only scratch the surface.
Should I bother with demographics?
In short, if you’re using them as a standalone, no.
Demographics are useful to help direct a media buy. However, they don’t help you engage with or understand the customer.
The common marketing traps with personas and demographics
Proper audience segmentation gives you enough information and insight into your customer’s mind, and it should be underpinned by a mix of first, second and third-party data. The more sources to understand your customer, the better.
Most brands default to Roy Morgan Helix Personas or are built based on demographic details.
While this approach is a solid first step, you need to build it out further to capture enough insight into what makes your customer tick.
Once you know that, you are ready to engage with them at a deeper level.
Personas are restrictive at best, short-sighted at worst
While it’s easy to be able to put people in a box, bucketing them believing they will stay within that segment throughout the customer lifecycle is a mistake.
People’s circumstances and needs shift frequently, and too often the personas you’ve created limit you from retaining customers whose situation changes.
Why should you invest in audience tribes?
Seth Godin is the champion of customer-led marketing, and one of the sharpest thinkers of our time.
He’s forgotten more than most of us know about marketing, and his view on tribes is equally salient.
“A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate,” Godin said.
I love his thinking. But with all due respect to Seth, I would extrapolate it out slightly.
Diagnose business outcome before building audience tribes
Too often, I see organisations focus on tactics upfront.
This is categorically the wrong approach – you must be clear on the commercial and customer outcomes you’re driving before considering how to execute.
I’m biased – because we developed it – but I genuinely believe the best methodology to achieve this is diagnosing your organisation’s ‘three Cs’: commercials, customers and competitors. A summarised version of this approach is:
Use data to determine your tribes
Now that we know what we’re doing, why, and who will deliver it, it’s time to start building out your future tribes.
Search is my personal favourite as it is data-driven truth serum – a look into what consumers want at any given time.
You should define each keyword into category clusters that allow you to pinpoint your marketing bullseye: a tribe of like-minded people, not a persona.
Social enables you to understand what it takes to be a tribe leader within an interest.
For example, an Instagram influencer or celebrity within the beauty and cosmetics space has built up a tribe of 4 million people based on the hashtag #ethicalbeauty – which has 1 million posts.
Monetising your tribe
Collectively, this delivered a 580% increase in transactions and a revenue increase of 499%. Why was it so successful? Because they followed a data-led methodology that enabled them to truly understand their customers.
The other important point to note around tribes is that this approach works equally well across both B2B and B2C.
So scrap personas and don’t rest on your marketing laurels.
Instead, become relentlessly focused on, and relevant to, your tribes and connect with them through a nuanced and data-driven approach.
That way, you’ll be able to exceed their expectations and positively impact your bottom line.