How Personas Create a Customer-Centric Direct Marketing Approach

Arthur Hall_20140407 By Art Hall, Quad/Graphics

Gone are the days of one-size-fits-all approaches to direct marketing. Industry research shows that traditional direct marketing response rates have plummeted from a historical 2% to less than 0.6% for many of today’s mailings. Even email marketing, which originally exploded in volume, is now experiencing a significant decline in effectiveness.

Consumers’ preferences for online and mobile channels have made it more difficult for marketers to break through their crowded field of vision to achieve desired levels of attention and consideration. In spite of these challenges, there are tactics marketers can employ to leverage customer data for highly targeted direct marketing communications that drive significant increases in response rates, revenue and loyalty.

Take A Customer-Centric Approach

Traditional direct marketing campaigns are typically product-centric, not customer-centric. Consumers are not all alike. They have different demographic profiles, income levels, lifestyles and media preferences that drive their buying behavior. Marketers should capitalize on these differences by tailoring direct-to-consumer communications to individual customer preferences or characteristics.

Implementing persona marketing takes audience identification and predictability to yet a higher level. A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of an ideal customer based on a combination of market research and real data about existing customers. Building personas for a core audience can improve the way marketers communicate to their customers.

Use Data To Create An Ideal Customer

Marketers must identify specific audience segments and be as detailed about these groupings as possible. The qualitative data about customers is a crucial component of building a persona. Rather than focusing specifically on what they buy or what they do, data collected on a customer’s individual needs and expectations, and the reasons underlying his or her behavior, uncover an in-depth understanding of that consumer.

For example, a clothing retailer may seek to target consumers they determine to be “trendsetters” based on their demographic, purchase history and previous responses from direct marketing efforts.

The persona created for the trendsetter could result in a marketing piece that features images of the newest jacket, for example, or a celebrity seen wearing the fashion; copy the customer readily identifies with, such as “latest,” “trend” or “fashion;” and an offer tailored directly to what motivates this persona to take action and make a purchase.

Persona driven data is well equipped to expertly influence creative design and copywriting, which increases the relevancy of the next offer and improves campaign performance.

Personas Yield Return

No matter the size of a customer base, the number of personas can vary. A marketer might identify two or more distinct persona groups. While it seems daunting to target many personas, technology to hyper-personalize direct marketing yields a greater return on investment. Caslon and Company’s 1-to-1 Response Rate Report indicates response rates of personalized marketing campaigns are, on average, more than four times higher than the response rate of static, same-to-all marketing messages.

Consumers are bombarded with more marketing messages today than ever, and marketers have more data at their fingertips. Using data to create personas and drive all aspects of a marketing campaign, from the creative to the channel to the copy and call to action, helps marketers create relevancy, break through the media clutter and create a lasting connection that keeps consumers coming back for more.


Art Hall is a Multichannel Consultant in Quad/Graphics’ Integrated Data Solutions group. Leveraging more than 20 years in the marketing, technology and finance disciplines, he educates and encourages marketers to leverage the power of their customer data into highly personalized Life-stage and Persona Marketing solutions.  Hall has worked with companies such as Scotts Lawn Care, Sofa Express, Hanover Insurance, Learning Care Group, Comcast and MGM Grand in developing successful marketing programs through the optimization of database management, modeling and analytics, data processing, list procurement and management and contact optimization strategies.

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