Segments walk and personas talk
Updated: May 19
A refresher on the difference between segments and personas
I've often seen marketers and product managers talk past each other related to segments and personas. Even some seasoned marketers will advise you to treat them the same way. As someone who struggles with words, especially on the fly, I find that sometimes it's better to review the terms in advance. So here is a quick refresher on segments vs. personas.
One can think of customer segments as high-level categorical groups of people, while personas highlight specific details that speak to the type of person. For instance, their attitudes, needs, experiences, preferences, and motivations are details that define personas. Examples I have seen for segments are more like yesterday's visitors, hibernating segments, and Southeast regional businesses.
VIEWN has discussed how marketers use customer segmentation to classify various types of customers into groupings to make it easier to target products and communications. And the challenges of tailoring to the group's preferences or needs and defining customer segments are real and fairly complex- especially if you want to use data. To do it right and unbiased, you need to conduct both quantitative and qualitative research.
The data you collect can come from your sales and support conversations; we have seen excellent results from customer surveys. For segments, you can include demographics from audience profiles, behaviors from past purchases. Firmographics and affiliations may also indicate certain preferences, but those assumptions are unproven. Analyze the data and make groups that represent classifications. The first groups or segments of your customer base may be too many or yet too generalized. Segments that are too large or too numerous can make marketing on limited resources daunting for your team. Contrastingly, you can't afford to do niche marketing when your segments are defined so narrowly. And while segmentation is incredibly valuable for making sure your message or product hits the right person, it's not so useful for helping you understand what motivates your prospects and personas or for telling you about who they are and how they can be best connect with them. That's where personas come into play.
Marketers use personas to help better understand customers on a more personal level through research, surveys, and interviews with real humans. They construct character profiles and representatives of different groups that share similar traits, beliefs, attitudes, and values concerning the product service or experience. An example of attitudes can be, What is more important to the profile, individuality, or the latest trends?
Web and software teams use personas to get a deeper understanding of who they are designing and the needs and motivations of various types of site visitors. Personas work as empathy builders.
Personas are essential for building user flows that depict an overall user experience for specific people. Some data points used to develop personas include behaviors, attitudes, and journeys.
When they are done correctly, the beauty of personas is that they have a way of cutting across segments and unifying them in much fewer market targets. This makes marketing personas much easier, cheaper, and more effective than segments alone.
Personas really are what unlock personalization.
Segments and personas are both helpful marketing tools. Still, they're used for different reasons at different stages of the marketing process based on the quality of data personas are used early in the process to give prospects and customers personalities and preferences. In contrast, segments build from quantitative data help marketers more effectively reach their target audiences.