The 4 Rules of Personas: Creating Great Personas, Part 2

Ian Lurie

If you haven’t yet read my 9/24 article on personas, you should read that, first. It provides a very detailed look at personas and how to create them. Today’s article explains what you do with the personas after you’ve written them.

The 4 Rules of Personas

Personas can drive a great internet marketing strategy, if you follow four rules:

  1. Pursue only focal personas as customers until you dominate this little marketplace.
  2. Then pursue the ‘eh’ personas on a test basis. Make them into either focal or exclusionary personas, and adjust your strategy as necessary.
  3. Then expand your business in a new direction.
  4. Never, ever, ever try to win over the exclusionary personas. Trust me, I’ve tried. At best, you fail. If you’re really unlucky, you succeed and end up in some truly awful business relationships.

Yup, I just used some terms you’ve not heard before: Focal personas, ‘eh’ personas, and exclusionary personas. Read on, and you’ll see how this works:

How it Works (told ya)

Let’s say you’ve created 10 personas:

Mean Mary

Loyal Larry

Flaky Frank

Rich Robin

Spendy Susan

Demanding Dave

Connected Chris

Timely Tim

Slow Stephanie

Bad Bob

Now you need to filter them, building the audience you want, the one you don’t need, and the one you want to avoid.

Focal Personas: Your Little Marketplace

You really want some personas as customers; they’re your perfect match. They’ll be loyal, or spend a lot on you, or vote for you every election, etc.. They’re called focal personas, and they’re the target of your internet marketing strategy. They form a small marketplace where you can sell to a receptive, happy audience.

As a rule, have no more than 5 focal personas. If you have more than five, consider splitting them up into smaller sub-groups for separate campaigns – it’s hard to find consistent selling propositions among more than 5 personas.

Let’s assume that you want Connected Chris, Loyal Larry, Rich Robin and Timely Tim as your focal personas.

‘Eh’ Personas: Nice To Have, But OK To Lose

Some personas might be OK customers, but only just OK. They buy quickly but never come back, vote for you once and then hate you forever, or they’re a poor match for your brand. These are ‘eh’ personas.

In this case, our ‘eh’ personas are Flaky Frank, Slow Stephanie and Spendy Susan. It wouldn’t be the end of the world if they were customers, but it wouldn’t make our day, either.

Exclusionary Personas: Run!

You don’t want these personas. They’ll make your life hell, or pay late, or grind you down on every dime. Regardless of the reason, make a decision, right now, to disqualify them. Build a campaign that shows this audience you’re not their best choice.

For our exclusionary personas, we’ve got Bad Bob, Demanding Dave and Mean Mary. We’ll avoid them like the plague. Life’s too short.

What now?

Build for the focal personas, and to filter out the exclusionary personas. Present as neutral a face as possible to the rest. See that? You’ve just outlined the broad strokes for your campaign! You now know who your market is, who it might be someday, and who it should never be. You’re off and running.

*If you’d like to see more about personas and applying them in internet marketing, please comment below. I’ll continue forward with this series. If not, say nothing. I’ll slink into the corner, grumbling, and write something else.

**The original concept of focal and exclusionary personas is not my own. It comes from many, many sources – too many to count. So I’ll just link to the Google Search Result. ‘eh’ personas I made up all by myself.

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  1. Thanks for the great content. I’ve been exploring the use of user personas and this is great content to get my team up to speed on the concept and practice as well as application.
    Hope there is more coming!

  2. This is really good content 😀 I like it very much hehe
    I have this website(hobby site) and I figured it out(after reading your this article), my main visitor is someone who like free stuff. They come to my site to get my free stuff.
    So I call them Franky Freebie…
    Well, I realize they fit in my exclusionary personas… because everytime I try to sell them something, they just dont buy!
    My question is, how can I turn them into
    william the willing-to-buy-er? (oh this is my focal persona :D)
    Nearly 99% of my website visitor are Franky freebie.. so I hope I can do something to turn them(my loyal visitor) into william the willing-to-buy-er.
    Thanks Ian, for your great post 😀
    Carson The Curious
    P.S. I am only a persona… but my problem with my website is real.

  3. Thanks Ian. Wonderful information.
    I support Bary in his request about persona design for non profits.
    I use persona’s often for my clients to keep them focus on what should be on the main site and subsequent pages and what not.
    Basically to work out priorities. Do you do that as well and if do you have any tips/best practices on it?

  4. @Bora That’s actually my primary use for personas. There’s no great tip, I’m afraid, but I encourage the client to focus on the persona and ask themselves which features that persona would really appreciate. It’s amazing how well that works.

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