Personas: Useful marketing tools or unnecessary fluff?

Personas: Useful marketing tools or unnecessary fluff?

A persona is the human representation of a specific segment of your market in regards to your product or service. A persona is not a shortcut to good market research. It is simply its embodiment.
You create a persona by putting a human face to all the socio-economic, attitudinal and behavioural data you collect on a specific market segment.
Why would you bother making the effort to put a human face to your data and not simply use it as is? The answer lies in the fact that as humans we “get” other humans much more easily than we understand a bunch of data.

Marketing persona
If I give you a sheet of paper with 50 different facts that I collected on a market segment of nurses in a given area vs the picture you see above, you will instantly know the following about your segment:

  • They are nurses
  • Most are women
  • Are in their 20’s or 30’s
  • Are of Caucasian origins
  • They feel overworked

You will have understood this without reading any of the data. If I also give you a little snippet of text that tells you her name, a bit of her background and what her typical day is like, you will start to feel like you know this person. This will enable you to infer information about who she is and, just as importantly, who she isn’t. Information such as: she most likely has a cooperative style of problem solving. It will also tell you she’s not a student male gamer that is willing to take a few hours to learn how to play a new game. This type of information may be difficult to communicate with a written report to 20 programmers working on developing a nursing application or a product team designing a piece of medical equipment. It is much simpler to introduce them to the persona and tell them they are working to make her day simpler. Having a picture of the persona next to their work station also reminds them constantly who they are working for.
Personas are a very useful tool in the design thinking approach. They allow many people, with different backgrounds to have market information that is similar but won’t inhibit their own ideas on how to satisfy the customer’s need.
Most products or services will address the needs of more than one market segment. Personas can also help to remind the product team that trying to satisfy too many people at once often results in no one being fully satisfied. It can also assist to predict if, and understand why, certain secondary segments will have issues with the product. Using personas can lead to a better focus of your product design.
Personas must, of course, be created with rigorously collected data that has been interpreted correctly in regards to your product/service. Otherwise you are answering the needs of the wrong segment. Not only is creating personas with bad data useless it can lead to much wasted time and resources.
The main reason an organisation shouldn’t use personas in their marketing is that they aren’t equipped to do so. If you don’t have the resources to get accurate data, both secondary (already published) and primary (your own market surveys), and you don’t have someone to interpret the data appropriately, then stick to using the data you do have the best you can. Creating personas in imperfect conditions will falsely lead you to believe you have sufficient data to clearly understand your market and may thwart your efforts to go out and get more and better data.
Personas may not be necessary for your organisation. If only a handful of people need to understand your market segments and they are good at interpreting market data, personas become an unnecessary luxury.
Despite the persona being a useful tool to understand a market segment quickly, communicate market information to a large number of collaborators, generate inferred data and focus your product/service design, some organisations may not be ready to use it or may simply not need it.
Like any other marketing project, it should only be undertaken if it has an overall positive return for your company.

3 facts to know before you start your market research

3 facts to know before you start your market research

Market research is one of those essential tasks many entrepreneurs often see as the big green one-eyed monster in the closet. It can be scary if you have never done it before. However, just like that monster, once you tame it, it can become your best friend. Here are three facts to know before you get started.

Who you are going after

As a company your mission is to answer needs. Who’s needs will I be fulfilling is the most important question you will ever answer. Any answer to the other what, where, how and why questions are all tributary to this first one.
You generally have a good idea as to who you want to sell to. It’s important not to make your definition too inclusive. Otherwise you’ll be chasing so many rabbits with your limited marketing budget, you risk not catching any. There will always be time to increase your market scope after. Start-ups who do well usually get a larger market share, of a smaller market, rather than a tiny share of many markets segments.

A good way to reduce your market scope is to ask the following 3 questions.

  • Who would be interested in my product or service enough to listen to me talk about it?

This is your potential market

  • Who are you pretty sure would buy your product or service if you asked them really nicely?

This is your target market

  • Who would thank me for selling them my stuff and would buy it again and again?

This is the low lying fruit that, as a start-up, you can afford to go after

Now that you know who you are going after, try and find out all you can about them. First you use what is already there. Look for general market stats, articles or other information on companies who are going after the same market or talking to people who have worked with this market and understand it.
That is however not enough. It will give you an idea of how many there are of them and where to find them but it won’t tell you what relationship they will have with your product of service. This is called your market/product fit. Any company who wishes to stay in the market must know their market/product fit. To know this you need to

market research interview

Go out on the streets

Find people that are representative of your target market and go talk to them and observe them.
How do I go about talking to them you ask.Well it’s a whole science called market research. If you’re a start-up and on a shoestring budget these few tips might help. Just remember you are doing what you can with what you have, not conducting real market research. There will come a point in your company’s development where you will need to have specialists help you out. For now here are a few pointers.

  • Go hang out where they hang out
  • Become one of them
  • Put an ad up on Kidjiji or other high traffic site.
  • Create an event or environment that will attract them

It’s an ongoing process

A large chunk of what you learnt about your target market last year won’t apply this year. Not to mention your market or product focus may have also shifted somewhat. Because this is an ongoing process for companies and because current and future markets are often so competitive that you can’t afford to lag in answering your customer’s needs adequately, you need to build a process inside your company that will continuously update you on what your target market wants.

Therefore you should always approach your market research as though you’ll need to start it over again next month. Build tools that will be re-used. Train resources that will get better over time at doing this. Organize and keep the data you collect in a methodical way.
I’m also going to give you a bonus here.

Be prepared to be proven wrong

You start talking to who you thought was your target market and realise they really aren’t that interested in your product/service. They don’t react at all in the way you anticipated they would. They keep asking you questions you don’t have answers to. These are all signals that you either don’t have the right market and/or product/service. Be prepared to listen to this information you are getting and act on it. If you’re not sure of what you are hearing ask others around you what they think it means. We are sometimes so blinded by our way of seeing things we don’t see the obvious. Being told you don’t have the right product or market at the beginning is NOT a failure. It’s a huge win. You could have been wasting time and resources on this path.
Just remember any company needs a good product/market fit to survive in the long term. You will spend most of your time seeking this holy grail. Make sure you have the best possible tools for your journey

Le marketing des projets de la ville intelligente – 2ieme partie – De la théorie à la pratique

Le marketing des projets de la ville intelligente – 2ieme partie – De la théorie à la pratique

La définition de la ville intelligente, tel que nous l’avons vu dans un précédent billet, est dynamique. Elle est fonction des infrastructures technologiques, des applications utilisées, des citoyens de la municipalité et surtout du cadre de développement que les élus de la ville décident de mettre en place. La définition évoluera donc au même rythme que chacun de ces éléments qui la composent.

Voilà pour la théorie. En pratique, la ville intelligente se concrétise de par les projets qu’elle engendre et qui sont déployés.

Toute municipalité qui a déjà tenté de déployer un projet, où la participation citoyenne est clé, vous dira que le plus beau projet du monde est inutile si la population n’embarque pas. De plus, selon la nature du projet, l’adoption par les citoyens est loin d’être acquise.

Classification des types de projets

Ce ne sont pas tous les types de projets de ville intelligente qui nécessitent un effort marketing pour maximiser l’adoption par les citoyens.

On peut penser à un projet où la municipalité munirait un camion de ramassage d’ordure d’un capteur afin de mesurer le poids des contenants à déchets lors de la collecte par exemple. Un autre type de projet, où la participation du citoyen n’est pas requise, serait la mise en place de l’infrastructure nécessaire à la transmission et la collecte de données des informations provenant des camions d’ordures ainsi que la programmation et l’utilisation de l’application par les fonctionnaires municipaux pour utiliser les données captées .

Dans la figure ci-dessous, qui classifie les types de projets de la ville intelligente, selon ma définition, ces types de projets seraient de type I et IA.

Ville intelligente - Classification de projets

Source: Baker Marketing


Un ’autre type de projet, où la participation citoyenne n’est pas requise, serait l’installation et l’utilisation d’applications reliées à la ville intelligente destinées à l’administration de la ville. Il s’agirait alors d’un projet de type A.

Tous les autres types de projets, soit ceux qui impliquent les citoyens, nécessitent un effort de la municipalité afin de s’assurer que le taux d’adoption du projet soit maximal. On peut penser ici à tout projet où la municipalité désire offrir un service existant, tel l’obtention de permis, via une application en ligne. Un autre exemple serait celui du coffre-fort virtuel de la ville de Québec. Le coffre-fort virtuel étant une plateforme web d’échange de documents, ayant une valeur légale, entre les citoyens et la ville ou entre les citoyens eux-mêmes.

Nous verrons dans un prochain billet les actions que peut poser une municipalité afin de s’assurer de maximiser le taux d’adoption d’un projet résultant de la ville intelligente.

Entrepreneurship: A killer lifestyle

Entrepreneurship: A killer lifestyle

I’m taking a little break from writing about marketing to hopefully make a few entrepreneurs reflect about the dangers of the lifestyle associated with entrepreneurship.
Tragedy struck my world last week. It’s not the first one. It’s the third one of this sort in the last 15 years.
An entrepreneur I knew, Will, killed himself. I had met him online through some work I had done on a suicide watch program hosted by a popular international online community platform. I had a few conversations with Will about 4 months ago when he started having suicidal thoughts.
On the outside, his employees, partners, friends and even his family would not have suspected for one minute that Will was struggling. He had started what was now a very successful business about 7 years ago. Will had healthy children, an ex-wife who he got along with, a beautiful house, a boat, a cottage, and a few nice cars / sports trucks. Will was involved with charities and worked hard, very hard. He had little time to eat right, exercise, have meaningful talks with his close ones or take more than 3-4 days vacation at once. Will was living the American dream. The ones business magazines are splashing all over their front pages. The one you are expected to have as a successful entrepreneur.
I can assure you there is a flip side to this dream. One you don’t hear often about in Forbes, Times or Canadian Business. It’s the one I got to know in detail in the last couple of decades of mentoring, coaching, consulting and doing suicide watch with hundreds of entrepreneurs.
The one in which many men and, a few women, confided in me. Their thoughts were rarely suicidal, yet they were still suffering.
They thought of themselves as failures as parents or spouses. They often felt alienated from their loved ones.
They felt they were letting their business partners and employees down whenever they thought of taking a longer break. The funny thing here is that I’m talking about 2-3 weeks not months or years.
When things went seriously wrong, and they had to downsize their company, they personally felt like failures. They started questioning if they had a role in society, whether they even mattered or not.
Entrepreneurship is not a cause of suicide. It can, and often does, however generate a lifestyle that exacerbates existing propensities for it. It facilitates addictions and creates conditions that are known contributing factors to suicide.
Not all entrepreneurs feel like this all the time of course. It seems however that most of them will experience some or all of these feelings at some point. The sad part is that almost all of them will keep it to themselves. Can you blame them? We, as a society, don’t want to hear how a successful entrepreneur is miserable. With all that they have. How dare they complain!
If you are just starting out in your business make sure you always keep your physical, mental and emotional well being as priorities. Yes, if you are a solo entrepreneur, this may mean that your company’s growth will be slowed down at times but it’s a choice you need to make. It’s ok. YOU must come first.
If you have been at it for a while assess your current situation. Do you feel fulfilled? Are you nurturing the relationships that keep you happy and balanced emotionally? Are you taking care of yourself physically?
If so, then keep on doing what you have been doing. If not, make this your priority. Start thinking seriously about making some changes. Analyse all the hours you have spent at work last week. Were all of those absolutely necessary? Are you physically healthy? Do you have hobbies or activities that allow you to completely escape your work? Do you have someone to share your business related burden with, like a mentor? Are you spending enough time to nurture the most important relationships in your life?
Entrepreneurship is not a career, it’s a lifestyle. Please, make sure it doesn’t end up killing you.
Entrepreneur suicide
If you need help now, follow one of these links:
Quebec: AQPS
Canada: Provincial hotlines
USA:  Lifeline