Joining the dots between B2B customer segments and personas

Joining the dots

At the end of 2016, I commissioned an external research consultancy — Esposito Research and Strategy to conduct a Cross Company Segmentation project for Monotype. Together with my team, Muriel our consultant, and internal stakeholders, I managed this process and communication of the outcomes. In early 2017, we shared the results with internal teams. After that, we worked with the data and the segments in various ways.

At the time we commissioned the segmentation, Monotype had a few different ways of segmenting our customer base. Each model or method had value but there was nothing that was joined up or giving us the 360 degree view. The segments were derived from attitudes, aspirations and future intentions although we also looked at how firmographics and demographics overlaid on top of these.

One of the ways we used the data from the segmentation was to create personas for every product with our Product Marketing team. The overall segmentation was a big picture view of our customers and markets. Understanding individual personas on a product by product basis was really the opposite of this. The market was the big picture and the persona was the individual, granular view but we needed to consider other slices of the picture too.

Layering data

If we think of a persona as having layers like an onion, we can build up a picture of them by peeling back these layers. These were the layers we brought together from existing ways we had segmented our customer base:

Contextual layers within a B2B persona
  • Market segments — situational and derived from market data and firmographics
  • Buyer clusters — about the what and based on behavioural data and the role of the person in the buying process.
  • Customer segments — about the why and based on psychographic data — attitudes, aspirations and future intentions
  • Product Personas — provide a much more granular view and built on customer needs and goals.

At the core of a person are their wants, needs and goals. Next are their attitudes, aspirations and future intentions. Next their behaviour and finally their organizational circumstances, the industry they work in and so on. It’s important to layer in all these types of information when creating personas.

I would argue that the first two are ‘top down’ and focus on the organisation or the individual customer’s role in the organisation. The second two are ‘bottom up’ and focus on the individual customer’s wants and needs.

Creating Personas

Personas can divide opinion but when done properly, they can be a very useful tool. Prior to the segmentation we worked with Product Marketing to create buyer personas for one of our products. They were then used by the Revenue Marketing team to plan and create content for a campaign. They were also helpful to hone in on targets for events — deciding who in our database to target with the campaign vs. “spamming”. The results were the most successful Demand Gen campaign Revenue Marketing have done.

So after this initial work, the goal was to create buyer personas for all our products. We were aiming to create personas that were suitable for both the UX team and our Marketing teams. There were four steps to our process:

  1. Step: Defining goals and reviewing existing customer data/research including the segmentation data. Output: Proto personas
  2. Step: Speak to real people to plug gaps in knowledge. Output: insights
  3. Step: Collaborative analysis workshop. Output: Detailed personas
  4. Step: Development of further artefacts. Output: Other materials — buyers journeys, scenarios.

We worked at the granular level to create a set of personas for each product. We worked collaboratively and the core product team worked on the project (slightly different people took part in each persona project). For example, I worked on our font licensing products so I worked with the UX team, product managers and product marketing people for those products whilst my colleagues in Olapic worked with the Olapic product team to create their set of personas. Where possible we tried to use a similar process and communicate the results in a consistent format (we used UX Pressia for this).

During the process we noticed several key personas that kept coming up time and again — these became our ‘Golden’ personas. Each persona was also tied to a customer segment as well as a market segment so we had a way of creating an overall ‘map’ across the organisation. Next steps were to identify gaps or overlaps in the portfolio — which personas we were underserving and which personas might be interested in more than one product. We were also looking at how the personas interrelated in an ecosystem. B2B buying is very rarely an individual activity so it’s important for us to understand the buying ‘unit’.

In order for this to work, the output was tailored and had the right amount of detail for both Marketing and UX. For each persona, we created a high level overview that contained the key information and also more detailed versions and other artefacts such as scenarios and journey maps. This enabled us to provide the type of granular information the UX team wanted and found useful to work with but at the same time providing a short, shareable artefact for Marketing to work with. Working together in this way meant we were all working to the same set of personas which represented our shared view of our target customers.

Even if our definition of a persona was slightly different, ultimately we were talking about the same people. So by being joined up in our approach to our customers internally, we stood a better chance of being more joined up in our approach outwardly.

In my view, the actual process of creating personas was the useful bit. Spending time talking to and about customers — whether through conversations with them or via research/insights was the valuable part. The artefact or output can now be shared more widely throughout the organisation and provide a shared understanding of the target customer. Once this sharing and conversation around what it means happens, the persona will really become a tool and not just an artefact.

Originally published at