Do Personas signal the end to conventional market segmentations? Err, no…

Robin Griffiths

Talk to some people who have ‘drunk the Persona cool-aid’ and you might come away thinking that once you’ve adopted personas there’s no longer any need to think about segmenting customers in any other way! This impression will only be strengthened if you read a lot of the received wisdom on the Web on the topic or look at some of the templates and online tools available for capturing persona content.

I’m sorry to be the party pooper, but in B2B, the reality is Personas are only part of the picture and need to be slotted into a wider segmentation framework – to understand customers and develop compelling messages and content for marketing. So what is needed for larger enterprises that sell a range of products to a number of different types of businesses?

Top-level segmentation – Industry/Business Type

Some people might ask why do we still need this if we have personas? There are two key reasons. First it’s hard to work out who all your target personas are if you don’t think about the different Industries or Types of Businesses (or organizations) you serve. Second, slotting personas under ‘Industry/Business Type’ enables you to start looking across customer groups to identify common personas. This is important, as it enables you to get really clear on when a set of value propositions will work for the same persona across different industries or alternatively when you need different value propositions for different industries.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say you are a software company and you sell a solution for managing intellectual property (IP) assets so one of your key target personas is Chief IP Counsel. At the present time, you’ve been successful selling into the Pharma and MedTech segments. The CEO thinks there may be opportunities to take the existing software product into other markets including Automotive and Consumer Electronics.

The question is, do these new types of companies have similar business challenges to your existing customer groups when it comes to managing IP assets? Or are the problems the Chief IP Counsel and his team face significantly different in a consumer electronics manufacturer versus a pharmaceutical company?

Business Activities and Workflows

This brings me onto the second point I want to discuss: do we need to think about the Activities and Workflows that are going on inside our customer’s businesses? Again some people believe once you have personas you don’t need to have a separate dimension in your segmentation for Business Activities. For some B2B enterprises this may be the case but not for many.

Customer Business Activities and the Workflows that sit under them are critical not only to the designers of products but also to marketers as they think about the challenges customers face and the opportunities they may see to do things differently and better.

Typical Segmentation Framework

Pulling these threads together we get to a 3 level segmentation framework, which for most B2B enterprises will look something like this:

Dimension One: Industry/Business Type

Dimension Two: Business Activities (and possibly Workflows below them)

Dimension Three: Personas

Robin Griffiths

Specialist in proposition development and creator of the Proposition Mapping™ methodology. Robin's career includes Founder and CEO of Force12 Software, and Director of Cambridge Consulting Engineers.