Understanding your audience: How to build a persona matrix
By Pete Winter

Understanding your audience: How to build a persona matrix

How the first step of any successful go-to-market is to understand and map out each persona’s characteristics.

Due diligence when you’re the vendor as well as the buyer

Before buying an expensive item you’ll more than like shop around, read some reviews, and do some research. Before you buy a house you’ll get an evaluation of the property; there’ll be land searches and legal checks. You’ll also look at previous selling prices, both for the house you’re interested in and those in the neighborhood.

In other words, you’ll undertake due diligence before spending your money. And the same line of thinking can be applied when you’re the seller rather than the buyer and you need to invest in a go-to-market (GTM) strategy. But instead of researching what, you need to research who you’d like to buy your products or services.

At Tomorrow People we recommend building out a persona matrix as a fundamental part of your GTM planning. This will be a living, breathing document. It will require the input of a number of people, both in and outside of your organization. And it should be shared and discussed with everyone involved in your GTM planning and activation.

Let’s walk through the basic steps of creating a persona matrix.


Building a persona matrix step 1: Define prospect roles

Start with a blank template and write down your key target personas horizontally across the top. Make the list exhaustive. It should include everyone your product or solution will impact. Consider:

  • Who is going to be the day-to-day user? Sales? Marketing? How do these people fit into the wider organization?
  • What is their relevance to your product?
  • Who is the decision maker? Is there a single person tasked with sourcing new solutions, or a committee or wider group you need to target? Perhaps a head of department or senior executive.
  • Who has the final approval and will put pen to paper on the deal? Typically this will involve various members of the C-Suite, all of whom will have differing priorities. They may even be a persona matrix within themselves, as each requires careful consideration. The CEO may focus on strategic growth and alignment with core business objectives. A CFO will have a close eye on ROI and total cost of ownership. A CIO may be more interested in integration and data security.
  • Who are the secondary departments or functions that will also benefit from your solution? They may not be the prime focus, but are often crucial to the buying process when acting in an advisory or influencer role. The more people you have fighting your corner from within your target companies, the better your chances of a conversion.

Think about the size of your target companies. The title of CMO may not exist if you’re targeting SMEs, but Head of Marketing might. Likewise CIO may not apply for smaller businesses, but IT Director or similar is more likely to be a position of interest. Enterprises are more likely to have a Head of Innovation on the board, and so on.

Look beyond job roles too. It can often pay to focus on a persona’s characteristics and attitude than their job title. For example, look for a visionary who will champion your product no matter what their position—they could easily be a junior executive looking to make a good impression as a head of data tasked with finding new partners.

Similarly, the individual with the ‘correct’ job role may be a devil’s advocate or deal blocker—perhaps too inexperienced or not confident enough to make the case to colleagues; or perhaps scarred by previous bad experiences or skeptical of the chances of success this time round. The devil is in the detail.

Building a persona matrix step 2: Outline objectives

Under each persona, list out their core objectives within their businesses. What are they asked to accomplish? How do they add value to their organizations?

This step is crucial, because understanding each persona’s objective will determine the content you create for them. Your messaging and USPs will demonstrate how you will help them achieve their goals, otherwise they simply won’t be interested in your solution—no matter how good you think it is.

Building a persona matrix step 3: Success indicators

Taking this one step further, consider the metrics that define each persona’s success. A marketer’s objective may be to drive engagement, but what does that mean on a practical level? Is the metric linked to traffic? MQLs? Brand awareness?

By documenting how success is measured you can ensure that you’re not talking up a vanity metric that is actually relatively inconsequential for your target audience. Instead of impressing them, the reaction you get is a deflating “so what?”

Building a persona matrix step 4: Motivations

Get to know your personas on a more human level. Find out what it is that gets them up in the morning. What do they love most about their jobs, their industries, and their careers? Discover why they wanted to get into that industry in the first place, and the route that has taken them to where they are currently.

While everyone is unique with their own personal stories and desires, it’s always possible to uncover trends and patterns with the information you receive. This will help build out your persona profiles, and add subtle nuances in your storytelling that pique your audience’s interest.

Building a persona matrix step 5: Persona challenges

This is another crucial aspect of your persona matrix. Solutions by definition are designed to solve problems. To demonstrate how yours does this, you need to clearly understand what challenges your personas face, and how each challenge impacts their ability to meet their main objectives.

You then need to illustrate how your solution fixes this problem. Relevance is king. Get it right, and your audience is hooked. Get it wrong, and the moment is gone.

Building a persona matrix step 6: Relevant services

Let’s start talking specifics with your product offering. Which of your services will each persona be interested in? At this stage of the matrix you should be able to draw a line through your persona’s objectives, challenges, and which of your offerings ties everything together.

This will help pinpoint the exact messaging approach needed to link the conversation from person challenges through to the right service as they progress through your sales funnel.

Building a persona matrix step 7: Triggers

What makes your persona look for a new vendor or solution? Is it on an ongoing basis, as and when they learn about new technologies? Or is it on a more regular basis coinciding with license or vendor renewals?

Remember, knowing when to message your target accounts is as important as how.

Building a persona matrix step 8: Influencers and advice

Finally, how do your personas research possible new solutions? This is vital to planning your GTM strategy.

For example, if you learn that emails are routinely ignored or sent to trash, it may be wise to look at another channel (even though email remains king of marketing comms). If you discover that your key personas regularly discuss new tech and partners at networking events, then you can look at sponsorship or hosting opportunities. If your audience reads newsletters or industry publications, find out which ones and how to get your messaging into the press.

The same goes for internal education. Product may never make a purchasing decision without asking IT for their advice. By recognizing and documenting all influencers as well as decision makers you can ensure that your content plan contains assets to empower personas to make the business case to influencers—and even create assets to help the influencers make the business case to the board.

Building a persona matrix: Data gathering

How do you get all this information? At Tomorrow People we conduct in-depth persona interviews as part of our research and onboarding process. These are often with existing customers or friendly brand advocates, but they don’t need to be—any insights from relevant personas are useful. We aim for a number of interviews per persona so that we can start to identify commonalities and patterns.

We then conduct interviews with sales and marketing within our clients’ companies to get further supporting evidence. If the right martech is in place then a lot of this information can be pulled from their systems, such as average deal size, buyer role, lead source and so on.

Anecdotal information is just as important at this stage; we invite sales reps to tell us about their experiences, whether deals are won or lost, to understand more about target personas, influencers, key information requested by prospects, successful channels and tactics to date… the more first-hand stories we can get, the better.

Armed with these insights we can set about constructing a comprehensive persona matrix that captures all the information we need to formulate GTM strategies that deliver real results for our clients. It takes time and organization, but if the right due diligence is done up front then your GTM strategy will have a far greater chance of success.

Want to know more about getting the right message in front of the right person? Download Putting your audience first: the new rules of content marketing for 2020 and beyond

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