I tend to compartmentalize things and people. I mentally place people in boxes and segment them out into groups like my nuclear family (husband and kids), my extended family, my neighbors, my best friend and so on. I’ve often referred to these groups as my “boxes” and I do not like them to intermingle or randomly change. These boxes structure my communication and they dictate how I interact with one individual versus another.
For example, I know I can pretty much tell my best friend anything and she’ll continue to love me, which is an example of our boundaries and expectations. I know what she is expects from me and what she can give me in return. We have a mutual understanding of respect that has grown over the last decade.
Website visitors, however, do not offer than same continuity. Unlike my best friend, the average visitor gives you about 30 seconds before they make a decision and put your website and company into a box. Your box can quickly become the “expert”, the “clueless”, or worse yet, the “has been”. Website visitors have short attention spans, multitasking lives, and they simply have to much data thrown at them to weed through useless rambling and ill contrived text.
When I sit down with a prospective website design client, I always ask about visitor personas. A visitor persona is simply a box for your website visitors. It helps segregate your web traffic into manageable groups similar to what I do in my personal life. Personas help define your target market and helps web designers formulate a design that direct a more precise marketing message to the various personas.
When a client and I brainstorm website personas I usually ask a lot of questions and before you know it, we have our personas. By default, personas vary greatly between B2B (business to business) and B2C (business to consumer) companies. A B2C company will have personas that include characteristics like gender, age, education level, or geography. A B2B company will have personas that include characteristics like industry, management level, and organizational department. Regardless of B2B or B2C segmentation, defining a website’s visitor personas will help place prospective users in a box.
Why would a web designer or company want to segregate their web traffic into boxes? So the marketing message can be tailored to each persona or group of visitors. Once you have your personas defined, you can create unique messaging targeted to those personas, you can better articulate your offering, and thus convert more web traffic.
Once you’ve defined your personas, put yourself into the box. Think about why your visitor might land on your home page, what might they be looking for, and what might they need to hear to encourage them to take action.
Two Very Different Website Persona Examples
- B2B Example – Over the years I’ve worked with a lot of B2B technology companies. There personas many times get defined into boxes that include IT, finance, users, and the c-level team. I don’t care what service or product you offer, those four groups digest and respond to information differently. They also have very different “pain points” or needs. Different pain points mean completely different marketing messages.
- B2C Example – Since I’m a technomommy, my B2C example would be cereal. General Mills has placed their target market into boxes. There is the kid box and the mom box. Kids want to hear tasty and see colors and chocolate. Moms want to hear nutrition and see grams of sugar and see value. Both are your demographic and both have to be targeted from a marketing prospective. Let me just say, I’m certainly not buying Lucky Charms for myself, which proves the five year is a clearly defined persona.
Figuring out your website personas and placing them in their boxes is the hard part. Once you do this, their needs and their wants begin to quickly materialize.
I so strongly believe in website personas, I will not even consider the aesthetics of a new website until I do a deep dive into your marketing requirements. If I don’t know who we target or how many boxes we will have to satisfy, I can’t begin to think of possible web design options. It just isn’t possible.
So now that you know about personas, take a step back and look at your current website. Do you have them and do they convey the right marketing message? Unlike my best friend, your website visitors are not forgiving and they won’t give you a decade to win them over.