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Customer Personas – It isn’t just Market Segmentation…

Posted On: June 8th, 2010 by Jane Hiscock

I was working with a healthcare technology client on Friday and they began to describe a challenge that they were having with engaging their customers and prospects.  The CEO was very clear that they were selling their products to hospitals and he wanted the strategy to get his company to sell more software to hospitals.  I asked him a question that led to an interesting discussion:  what are the Personas of the various customers inside of the hospital?  The CEO responded saying “Why does it matter? I just want to sell volume to different types of hospitals.”

Personas are not a new concept; in fact social media expert – David Meerman Scott @DMScott has been blogging and talking about the importance of a Persona strategy for some time.  But the idea of Persona seems to create a challenge.  For example, the CEO of the healthcare technology client immediately answered my question by stating – “we aren’t really talking about people here we are talking about selling to hospitals.”

But it is about people – whether we are working on B2B marketing challenges or B2C challenges it is always about people and their experiences.  Personas are a very powerful tool for B2B companies because the exercise of mapping Personas forces you to consider the customer experience.  Often marketers confuse this exercise with customer segmentation.  Consideration for Personas is different from customer segments (though you may end up with the same groups).

So back to my healthcare client.  We began a Persona strategy discussion by thinking through a few simple questions to help identify the Personas (whiteboard below):

  1. What are the aspirations and motivations of your customers and prospects?
  2. How does that group work and how do they integrate your services into their workflow?
  3. What experiences do your customers expect to have?
  4. How does the customer describe and / or identify themselves?


Based on our customer interviews we were able to map answers to the questions and create a set of customer Personas that were very different from the market segmentation.  With this exercise we could clearly see where engagement would take place and what areas required further investment to help those customers and prospects have positive experiences with the products.

Using Personas in a community strategy will help you to create points of engagement for your community that are personalized.  The experience for customers and prospects goes from one where the community is being marketed at as a segment to one where the customer feels that you understand who they are, their experiences, and the journeys they might wish to take with that product.  This approach creates a much stronger strategy that connects into marketing and selling programs and provides longevity to those programs.

We are interested in your experiences with Personas – how is this approach working for you?