The 20 Jobs Of In-App Messaging

Great in-app messaging is an extension of your product’s UX, and of your organization as a whole. Those pixels, prompts, and flows have a style and a voice, and show up to work every day (24hrs a day, without fail, without coffee) to get the job done.

Nailing down that job is critical. It’s easy to jump straight to drawings and mockups, or try to accomplish too many things at once. The goal of this post is to get you out of the weeds (and your app) and trigger the creative juices. We ask: “If the in-app messaging was a person, what would that person’s job (or jobs) be?” In this post, we present twenty(!) possible personas for in-app messaging.

Who does your product (and your users) need to hire?

Coach

The coach is all about your big goals and the plan for how to get there. It’s the coach’s job to take that path to glory and break it down into achievable steps. Along the way, she keeps track of progress and keeps you accountable — if you’re not showing up to workouts, she’ll let you know you’re off-track. The coach is also a motivator who reminds you to celebrate the intermediate steps on the way to your goal, who checks in on your well-being and cares, even if she has to take you to task now and again.

Teacher

The teacher wants to help you master a particular skill. That means getting your attention, building your understanding of the basic concepts, showing you how to apply your learning in the real world, and keeping it all lively and engaging. A good teacher knows the subject matter and finds it interesting himself. Teaching can be very focused and brief (show me how to do this!) or broad and mind-expanding (teach me about this field!).

Usher

The usher keeps everyone moving along toward a particular goal, knows the layout of the product top to bottom, and understands how traffic needs to flow. The usher welcomes you, makes sure you have your ticket, and points you to where you need to go. The interaction is friendly, helpful, and brief — the show must go on!

Tour guide

The tour guide learns your interests and uses that information to plan a good tour. She has deep knowledge of the points of interest along the route and what areas will be valuable to you. More than a teacher or a product demonstrator, the tour guide wants to keep you engaged by telling a great story. You find yourself in suspense, listening intently to find out the mystery behind that spooky landmark over there. You’re learning a lot, but you’re enjoying the ride.

Maître d’

The maître d’ is there to oversee your total experience. Waiters and others may handle the details, but the maître d’ just wants to make sure you’re happy. He checks in. Are you having a good time? Are things going smoothly? How is the atmosphere? Is the music too loud? The maître d’ is proactive, but takes a big-picture perspective.

Analyst

The analyst is your eye on the data. An expert to provide insights on the important trends and a forecaster to help you understand where things are going. An savvy adviser who connects disparate threads that you might not have seen and offers Did you know…? insights. She helps you make sense of the information and see your path forward.

Lawyer

When you need one, you need one. Someone has to take care of the legal details and help you understand what you need to know in all of that fine print. The lawyer presents you with terms and conditions, makes you feel comfortable accepting them, and explains the privacy policy.

Demonstrator

You’ve seen this persona on late-night TV. A good product demonstrator puts on a good show. He’s charismatic, energetic, and skilled at drawing people in. You learn by watching the product in action. You know it’s a bit of a sales pitch, but somehow you can’t turn away as the demonstrator walks you through all the features and possibilities of the product. Yes, it’s just that easy!

Greeter

The greeter isn’t going to follow you around for long, but wants to make sure you have a good first impression. The greeter makes you feel welcome and quickly assesses your needs and disposition. Based on that, she quickly frames what’s possible (Yes, we have what you’re looking for!) and points you in the right direction.

Cashier

In a self-service model, you might not need much assistance once you’re ready to make the purchase, but you need someone to help you with those last few details. You might need to clarify a couple of questions about pricing or how things work, and you count on the cashier to help with those. But, mostly, you’re ready to buy and the cashier creates a clear and friendly path through the transaction.

Lifeguard

The lifeguard is always on the lookout to make sure you’re safe and keep you out of trouble. She proactively creates a safe environment through signage and warnings, and, if something bad happens, can swoop in with speed and agility to help out. You can relax and do your thing knowing that someone is there if danger arises.

Customer service representative

While the lifeguard may prevent catastrophe, sometimes you need help with a particular problem. The service representative is your problem troubleshooter. He is there to calm you down and works to quickly understand the nature of your problem. Unlike a teacher, who might build your skills by helping you find your own solution, the service representative presents a highly prescriptive solution as soon as possible. You need help now, and the service person is there to get you on your way.

Cheering squad

You’ve got a lot of work to do and someone needs to keep your morale up! The cheering squad celebrates your victories and encourages you to keep at it when the going gets tough. They cue up the band and bring the positivity when you need to avoid getting discouraged.

Researcher

The researcher is a mediator between the customer and the company and is all about asking questions and gathering insights. She has her own agenda composed of learning goals and seeks out people of interest to get the necessary information. She wants to establish a friendly dialogue, but to do good information-gathering, she needs to remain unbiased and not try to sway your responses.

Personal assistant

The personal assistant helps you out by staying one step ahead of the details. He’s an expeditor in complex situations, making arrangements and smoothing out wrinkles. The personal assistant takes care of the busy work and knows what needs to happen to help you get something done. You feel like you can relax a bit more when your personal assistant is on the job.

Bulletin board

The bulletin board is an information hub for the community. It’s where you go to keep up with news, updates, and items of interest. Having this go-to helps to build general awareness and knowledge, assuming that you are eager to stay in the loop.

Emergency Broadcast Announcer

Beeeeeep….beeeeeep….chhhhrrrrrrrr. When it’s not just a test, the emergency broadcast announcer gets the word out that something is happening. The stakes are high and people need to know. They get right to the point and explain the impact of a situation concisely.

Closer

What do I need to do to get you into this car today? The closer is there to seal the deal and make the sale. The closer is persuasive and focused on finalizing things in a timely fashion. The value of the closer to the business is obvious, but the closer’s value to the customer is all about timing. If it’s too soon, you hate the closer. If you’re tired of mulling it over and want to make this decision and move forward, the closer can be just what you need.

Traffic signaler

Maybe your teacher taught you how to drive and your usher gave you directions, but you’re running into a snarl. The destination is the same, but the way to get there has changed. There is a new traffic pattern, or construction that has complicated your usual route. You need someone with clear signals (and perhaps a sign or two) to slow you down and help you navigate.

Reference librarian

The reference librarian is all about keeping track of information. She has all the available resources on the tip of her tongue and can help you understand what information is available and where to find it. More importantly, she knows that there are multiple ways to find and categorize each item, can find a route to the information you need from more than one starting point, and can help you see how resources are related.