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The three steps of persona mapping

This blog gives a breakdown of the key stages of persona mapping for pharma marketing campaigns.

Although persona mapping is a relatively new marketing method, at its heart is the oldest notion in the book: empathising with customers. Many of us, however, confuse empathy with ‘sympathy’; there’s a tendency to think it’s merely an attitude of care – of understanding the customer’s feelings and doing one’s best to bear these feelings in mind.  

Such understanding is essential, of course, and anyone – in any line of work – should put the customer’s feelings first. But to be somewhat cold, empathy is more about the mind than the heart, and persona mapping is more about science than sentimentality. Paradoxically, though, the success of this science will make happier customers!

And from the marketer’s viewpoint, a persona makes life so much simpler. When you have a particular character in mind, it’s possible to tailor your message to that one individual rather than try to please multitudes.  

So how, then, do you create this ‘character’ who will make both you and your customers happier? If you have an ‘average customer’, how multi-dimensional do they really need to be? In short, the answer is a further question: how multi-dimensional are you? One great rule of marketing is “to convince others, you must convince yourself first”, so on that basis you must assume that your average customer (and hence your persona) is as least as complicated – if not more so – than you are.

Step 1: The outer ring - demographics
Although you’re of course free to adapt this at will, we like to think of persona mapping as a three-way process. Each part in this process represents a facet of the character not unlike the Id, Ego and Superego (in a sense), and our job is to nail down every aspect of these facets in order to create the full persona.

We think of the persona as a circle, with each facet being a ring within it. Like an archery target, if you will.  

The first of these facets, the outer ring, refers to the basic demography factors of age, location, occupation, race, salary and so-on. For many marketers, this is where creating a persona starts and ends, but it’s really just the tip of the iceberg.  

The demographics part is really about discovering how society sees the individual, and the role they play in it. So once you have the vital statistics figured out, think about what your persona does in an average day, who they meet, and where they spend their time. You should know as much about them as, say, a passing acquaintance at this point.  

Step 2: The inner ring – habits
Without being exactly private, this facet is harder to find than demographics – and involves what your persona likes to buy and from where, but also where they like to ‘hang out’ online. Knowing that this person shops regularly at M&S and has 728 followers on Twitter, for example, gives a clearer picture than merely knowing their age and occupation.

The real ‘digging’ comes when you track their online presence more thoroughly and find out what groups they belong to, what content they have shared, how they have responded to forums and debates, and so-on. You can now go beyond their basic role in society to see how they are actually affecting it, or even what their political affiliations may be. Remember, though, that this is not an exact science! You just want to build a clearer picture of an individual to enable an easier message.

Step 3: The inner circle
This facet is the one which represents what really makes your persona tick. What are their deepest concerns, fears and desires? Their beliefs? What keeps them awake at night and gives them a reason to get up in the morning? This sort of knowledge is usually reserved for best friends, so now you’re really getting to the heart of the matter.

Going beyond market research (i.e. one-on-one interviews) would always be a winning formula at this point, but questionnaires (especially if anonymous) have a good knack of encouraging volunteers to pour their hearts out. But even when they don’t, ‘reading between the lines’ is always possible – and advisable. Loaded questions can of course help, such as “Would it anger you if such-a-thing happened?” rather than “Have you heard about the plans for such-a-thing? Discuss.”

The main point of getting to grips with this ‘inner circle’ is to, ultimately, answer two huge questions:  

1) What does your persona need?
2) How can you provide it.  

These needs will constantly change as you adapt your persona with the passing of time. Your persona is not the solution to any given marketing problem, but rather something (or someone, rather) to consistently refer to. When it comes to customer engagement, we don’t begin in a privileged position – simply because we aren’t best friends. With a fully rounded persona at our fingertips, however, we have the next best thing. Can we afford not to have one?

This post was originally published on:

4th December 2017



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