Search is traffic. We need traffic. But what’s better? More traffic? Better traffic? Both?

Confused yet? Grant Simmons, vice president of search marketing at Homes.com, wants us to define “better.” Personas are a tool to help in strategy development, tactical execution and measurement of outcomes. They help us inform who we want to reach – and who we want paying attention to our brands.

Personas are dummy users who represent hypothetical groups of people our business wants to reach. We create personas that are:

  • Defined by their goals
  • Delineated by their motivations (why is someone going to buy from you, engage with you, what will inspire them)
  • Described by their behaviors
  • Distinct by the tactics to address

There are two types of audiences to consider.

  1. The people actively searching for your product right now.
  2. The people you could inspire to search for your product. How can you stimulate them to do so?

Homes.com example: Why do people move? Foreclosure/eviction, better neighborhood, own home, cheaper housing, new/better home. These are great options, but you can’t pigeon hole people into selecting options. What could other factors be that lead to house purchases? Kids are gone. I met someone. I got a pay raise. My commute sucks.

Triggers happen without you (the brand). You just have to connect with them and take advantage of the opportunities they present. Triggers are factual. Evictions are happening. Paycuts require smaller houses.

Then, there are stimuli. These are the little “tickles” you can help influence. These are not based on a trigger. These are the “I want to” feelings of your consumer. He can show his audience a house that’s 10 minutes closer and influence them to want a shorter commute. Alternatively, he can make people dream about a better life that impresses their friends.

To understand these stimuli, you have to physically ask people what their wants, needs and desires are. You must ask open-ended questions.

Then, “DeFind” your audience. (Quick recommendations – use Census.gov, FedStats, Bureau of Labor Statistics). Use academic research available to you. You can also pay companies for this analysis).

To build your audience, you can’t just ask your “knowns.” If you want to expand your audience, you have to leverage outside audiences (not just your website data, for instance). Put surveys out – Survey Monkey, Fluid Survey, Survey Gizmo, SodaHead, Google Surveys. Then, Google Analytics can give you great insights into your *current* audience.

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Grant uses a template to create personas, but he makes sure to include real things – tweets, images, etc – that showcase this persona’s existence. Ultimately, you’ll get to name the personas and define the content targeted for each persona.

Personas like:

Homemaker Hannah.
Investor Isaac.
Veteran Vic.
First-Time Francis.
Empty Nest Ernie.

Naming them is fun (but don’t let it take you a month just to name these).

Personas: Demographic facts
What do they do?

  • Business
  • Hobbies
  • Education

Who are they?

  • Demographics
  • Age, Geography, etc

(Google Adwords Display Planner is your friend here)

Persona: Goals/Challenges
What are they trying to do?

  • Goal 1 (trying to by a home)
  • Goal 2 (be more specific – to cut down on commute)

Why can’t they do it?

  • Issue #1
  • Issue #2

How can you help them solve their problem?<

Persona: Behavior

  • Where do they search (or not?)
  • Why do they search?
  • How? (via keyword? mobile devices? voice?)
  • What are they searching for? (answers to questions? basic information?)

Persona: Triggers/Stimuli
Why do they need to be in the funnel?
Triggers: Economics, family, health, it’s time… etc. Why do they enter the funnel?

Why do they want to be in the funnel? For example, they don’t want to miss out. They wonder “what if I don’t?” They want to do better than their neighbor. They want to give back. These are emotional motivations.

To be a successful marketer today, you have to understand the new funnel.

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Digital marketing and search has changed the traditional linear model. Recommendations from friends – and strangers – matter more now than ever before.

Stimuli is important to understand – We can have an impact anywhere in the funnel now. You can inspire people (You can make people feel they deserve better. That better is attainable. That they should dream.).

You can influence people. Your brand has to understand the influencers. Peers. Relationships. Educators. Parents. Media/Advertising. Social. Speakers.

And you can always inform people.

Grant talks about “Intent to content with context.” If you can connect someone’s intent (I want to buy a home) to your content, that is terrific. But you need context – you need to align supplemental content based on the persona, whether that’s their location, the device they’re using, when they’re searching, or other factors.

Persona: Messaging

What are their questions? And how can we answer? They do interviews to test out messages, and receive feedback. This informs them on what kind of content will connect.

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We do the research, break out segments, give them personalities, and put them in their applicable scenarios. Then, we define the content necessary to reach, inform and inspire these personas to act.

“Good content connects with behavior. Great content inspires behavior.”

But you have to connect at the right time, in the right place, with the right message in the right place. All of these are part of your persona development.