Personas are one of those branding projects that always seem to get pushed off for months. Often, the persona projects are either too theoretical (based on hunches more than data and easily dismissed) or too deep (bogged down in too many client interviews, surveys, and focus groups). By the time the personas are actually sketched out, they might be months out of date and fairly worthless.
This is unfortunate because personas can be a powerful branding tool. A well-developed persona gives your team perspective about who they’re working for, energy to design new products, and insight into how to effectively market.
To create personas efficiently, you need to base your research on a set of quickly accessible, real data — data that can be measured and validated but that don’t require extensive, and expensive, research work. LinkedIn, with its network of 460 million professional profiles, is the perfect match for the B2B branding work we do at Uncommon Bold. Here’s how to use publicly available LinkedIn information to develop a data-driven look at your company’s most valuable customers in just a few days:
- Extract a sample — Start with a sample record of 100–300 clients or leads. It might be last month’s sales pipeline. Or a segment of most active or most valuable customers. Or a list pulled from your most recent net promoter survey. You’ll need at least the first name, last name, and company name for each person. Email address can substitute for the company name if you don’t have it. If available, include additional quantitative data about client value (such as lead score or deal amount) and recent customer satisfaction scores.
- Investigate — Now that you have a list in place, look up each person on LinkedIn and start filling in the demographic details. At Uncommon Bold, we record gender, years of experience, degree, and current title as the baseline. Depending on your segment and what you’re trying to uncover, you might also mark if they have a specific industry membership, language spoken, location, specialty, or managerial experience. As you find each person, be sure to link to their profile for fast reference later. We usually add more categories to analyze based on what trends we find during the research process. This is a time-consuming step, but there is incredible value to looking at each individual profile and starting to pick out patterns in the profile data.
- Analyze — Answer the simple questions first: What is the gender breakdown of my customers? Where are they based? How senior are they in their careers? Then, pivot the data based on their value and satisfaction rating. Are your customers on the East Coast happier? Do you get most of your high-value clients from people with a specific degree? Are your buyers and users two very different kinds of personas? This lightweight data analysis often helps reveal something unexpected about your customers. For example, we often see that a company’s customer base includes more women than predicted.
- Generalize — Now that you have analyzed the results, you can start to sketch a data-driven picture of the personas involved in your business. Break it down into three or four personas based on the demographic data. Then, take a closer look at customers who fit those segments in detail. Are there more things you can learn online about their volunteer experience, hobbies, or companies they follow to add personality to the sketch? Conducting a few interview calls at this stage is helpful to fill in more context to match the personas you have identified.
- Review — When you present your persona findings to the executive team, they’ll probably seem familiar, especially to people on the sales and customer service side. At Uncommon Bold, we include existing and future customer LinkedIn profiles that fit the generalized personas to keep them grounded in reality. Work together with your team to analyze which persona is the most important to your success. Discuss how your brand is doing in meeting that persona’s needs. Are your current personas matched with your company goals? Do your personas need to change?
The advantage of this process is that it can be done quickly and repeated as your company grows and evolves. If your personas are headed in the right direction, you can always dive deeper into other data like market share, growth trends, and usability research to add more context to your initial findings. CrunchBase is a terrific secondary resource for company data if you’re working with startup companies.
By using LinkedIn data to shortcut the branding process, this process helps you create fresh, data-driven personas ready to discuss with your executive team in just a few days.