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Content Intelligence

How AI Can Help You Develop Personas To Drive Conversion

by Tom Salvat | 15 April, 2020

Brands need to have emotional intelligence, says Chase Neinkin, which helps them to recognise their audience persona and, on that basis, deliver what they desire. Reporting from December’s Digital Marketing for Financial Services event, at which he spoke, Neinkin highlighted a belief of Charles Schwab MD, Tim Rickards, that if marketers want to understand what their audience really cares about, they need to consider more than what raw data appears to be saying.

In essence, where big data lets you segment an audience by gender, income, which newspaper its constituents read and how they might take their coffee, other factors are likely to be either under-reported or overlooked altogether.

A rich persona marks out each member of the audience as an individual. People who live in the single town, enjoy a similar income and send their children to the same school will still have had different upbringings, hold opposing political views and could be influenced just as much by the soaps they watch as the papers they have delivered. Each factor will affect how – and whether – they engage with your content.

Understanding the degree to which this is true will help in creating meaningful CTAs, subject lines and standfirsts – and selecting appropriate imagery – each of which has a measurable effect on engagement.

How many personas do you need?

With a potential audience of millions, it’s impossible to create accurate personas for everyone who might encounter your message. So, how many do you need? A thousand? A hundred? In truth, it’s probably less than you think.

“It is recommended that you make three to five personas to represent your audience; this number is big enough to cover the majority of your customers yet small enough to still carry the value of specificity,” writes Kevan Lee at Buffer.

Crucially, as well as age, location and income, Lee’s suggested persona template includes ‘values and fears’, ‘goals and challenges’, and an elevator pitch that’s likely to engage them.

If you have the capacity to go beyond five personas, and can devise sufficient unique content to match, your hit rate should be higher, but the increased workload mustn’t be underestimated. Fortunately, AI can help. By detecting commonalities across different personae – which, considering the size of the data involved, may be beyond the scope of a human analyst – AI has the potential both to distinguish more clearly between otherwise similar recipients, and sufficiently rework a single content idea that it directly addresses each of their interests and concerns.

The marketing persona

Nathan Ellering of CoSchedule suggests devising a persona that distils the company’s offering into a single sentence, using the formula, “{Insert your company} creates content to attract {insert target audience} so they can {insert desired outcome} better.” Naturally, for companies that create a physical product rather than ‘content’, or provide a service, the focal point of that sentence will shift, but the essence remains the same.

Comparing this persona to your existing audience persona should highlight any disconnect between what you’re already doing and what some parts of your audience are looking for. If there’s considerable cross-over but you still don’t feel that you’re achieving your full potential, this could suggest a problem with your messaging. Any change here needs to be handled with care.

Don’t dilute your brand

It’s important that your brand core values aren’t compromised at this point. When you’re attracting 50% of your potential market, you’re doing something right – at least as far as they’re concerned – and, having bought into your brand, they’ll consider it at least partly their own property. At this point, tweaking your formula needs to be done sensitively if you’re to get their buy-in.

We can only imagine the discussions that preceded Coca-Cola’s decision to launch New Coke in 1985 – and the roll back to its old formula less than three months later. In retrospect, the reversal may look like an admission that it had made a mistake but, like the best brands, Coca-Cola not only learned from its misadventure; it used it to its advantage.

Speaking to CBS on the 30th anniversary of the launch of New Coke, an unnamed Coca-Cola spokesperson said, “When we look back, this was the pivotal moment when we learned that fiercely loyal consumers – not the Company – own Coca-Cola and all of our brands. It is a lesson that we take seriously and one that becomes clearer and more obvious with each passing anniversary.”

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