Death Of Personas
Most marketers claim to be customer-centric.
Of course they do: no sane marketer would proudly announce that they’re not customer-centric, especially in financial services marketing where client insight is key to growing long-term B2B and B2C relationships.
But we shouldn’t ask marketers if they’re customer-centric – we should instead, ask their customers.
When you ask customers how customer-centric they find the marketing they receive, they unanimously suggest the same thing: the vast majority is irrelevant.
Obviously, financial services organizations want to produce marketing that’s relevant to potential and existing clients. But, if they don’t know their clients well enough to do so they end up talking about what they know best:
• Their products and services
• Their advertising campaign
• Their sales strategy
The problem is that this does not attract potential clients or engage existing clients. It also doesn’t provide any intelligence on client behavior or desires that can feed back into marketing. However, one class of companies – often referred to as direct-to-consumer (DTC) companies – has mastered truly customer-centric behavior. By studying them, financial services marketers can glean insights and practices they can put to good use.
One of the best known DTC companies is Netflix, which maintains a direct streaming -- and billing -- relationship with most of its customers. Netflix analyzes past subscriber viewing behavior in order to make data-informed recommendations about what a subscriber might enjoy watching in the future.
The entire Netflix experience is built around the customer.
Netflix is so customer-centric that there’s no single Netflix; instead there are 130+ million “Netflixes” because no two Netflix subscribers see the same home screen. For example, I see different recommendations than Joshua does and Joshua sees different recommendations than my mother does. In this respect, Netflix is radically customer-centric.
First, let’s further explore how Netflix recommendations work.
Say you like to watch romantic comedies like Serendipity, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, and While You Were Sleeping. Based on your past viewing behavior, Netflix will classify you as a “romantic persona.” When you scroll over the film Good Will Hunting, Netflix will tease out the romantic storyline, showing you a picture of Minnie Driver and Matt Damon kissing.
Or assume you like to watch comedies like Arrested Development, Zoolander, and Anger Management. Netflix will categorize you as a “comedic persona” and show you a picture of Robin Williams when scrolling over Good Will Hunting.
In other words, even the smallest detail is informed by data.
Let’s now return to the realm of financial services to see how marketers can build personas to develop more relevant marketing for their B2B and B2C audiences. Persona building can be challenging in financial services marketing. In B2B, what generally happens is marketers -- and maybe salespeople -- get together in a room armed with some third-party data and create personas out of “thin data.” We say “thin data” because it’s supplied by a third party and is static, which means the personas are outdated even before they’re created. In B2C, actioning real-time client data also has its challenges. This explains why the majority of potential clients say that the marketing they receive is irrelevant.
So how can financial services marketers – who do not have direct access to first-party data like Netflix – act more like Netflix?
That’s where LinkedIn can help with its free Website Demographics Pixel. Our pixel lets you see which professionals – in an anonymized fashion -- are coming to your website, giving you a first hand, dynamic understanding of your potential clients. Once you’ve used a data-informed approach to establish who your potential clients are, you can start developing relevant marketing that resonates with them.
To be clear, you don’t need to be Netflix. But most financial services companies want to try to understand their clients as deeply as possible. You can start that process by re-inventing the way that you build personas.
Personas are dead, long live personas.