The way the Sitefinity Digital Experience Cloud (DEC) works is by giving points to your website’s visitors based on their actions. When the points reach a certain threshold, the DEC categorizes the visitors as one type of persona or another. These persona categories are designed to reflect the site visitors’ intentions. What pages are visited and what interactions take place on those pages give the DEC clues about which of your products or services the visitor is interested in.
Someone could, for instance, come to Aptera’s website through a link on Sitefinity’s partner page, and we could have a rule that gives this person a pre-specified number of points toward being identified as a potential web development client. (We actually do use such a rule.) If the site visitor later navigates to more web-related pages, that person gets more points—until he or she reaches the threshold we’ve set. Then the DEC categorizes that visitor as belonging to our web development persona.
So the DEC uses a more empirical approach to personas. But does that mean you don’t have to create old-fashioned Buyer Personas? Does it mean, in other words, you don’t have to do all the research and conduct all the interviews that go into traditional personas?
Sadly, that’s not what it means. While you could simply set up the rules for your DEC personas without first creating detailed Buyer Personas, you probably wouldn’t get nearly as much out of the tool that way. For that matter, you probably wouldn’t get nearly as much out of your website that way, or your digital marketing in general.
Why Traditional Buyer Personas Are Still Important
You’ll still need to know what questions your potential customers have, so you can write content that answers those questions. You’ll still need to know what their web surfing and social media browsing habits are, so you can choose the most effective channels for getting your stuff in front of them. You’ll still want to know what new questions come up as they progress along the buyer’s journey, so you can offer them the right content for the right stage.
You’ll also want to know something about your prospects’ tastes and goals—because you need that information to design your website. Finally, detailed and well-researched Buyer Personas will come in handy when you’re trying to decide what your DEC rules should look like.
What Does the DEC Do then?
Many CMSs and marketing automation platforms encourage you to upload your Buyer Persona information. But what happens to that information after you upload it? Your personas will be there for you to access when you need some insight, but they’re really just sitting there. Once you start implementing your marketing strategy, you could easily forget they’re even there.
DEC personas, on the other hand, are constantly working behind the scenes. Here are a few of the coolest things they do, or that you can do with them:
Lead Scoring: The scoring the DEC uses to identify site visitors as one persona or another also provides information about where that visitor is in the buyer’s journey. Did this person just visit the site for the first time and check about a few pages about web development? Or has he or she been back a few times, navigating between main pages and case studies, perhaps downloading an e-book? All these actions are tracked by the DEC, which continues to assign points to the visitor. You set further thresholds for who becomes a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) and then a Sales Qualified Lead (SLQ). And you keep an eye on everyone’s progress, taking action when appropriate.
Recommendations Based on Machine Learning: Another way the DEC is quietly working even when you’re not is by tracking the behaviors of people matching all your personas to see if there are opportunities for you to pave their paths to conversion into leads. There are quite a few really great tools for tracking and analyzing visitor behavior on your website. What the DEC offers that’s unique is an algorithm that recognizes patterns the human eye is apt to overlook. These patterns often provide clues for optimizing your site’s performance by making it easier for your visitors to find what they’re looking for and encouraging them to click on CTAs.
Personalization: The DEC can also recognize returning visitors, tagging them according to which persona they fit and pinpointing where they are in the buyer’s journey. With the Online Marketing or Enterprise edition of Sitefinity, you can then use this information to automatically offer the visitor personalized pages. So, instead of the standard static web experience, your site will be engaging visitors in something much more dynamic, a little bit more like a real back-and-forth conversation.
So, even with the DEC, you do still need to create detailed and deeply researched Buyer Personas to serve as linchpins for your online marketing strategy. The question is what you’ll do with those personas after you’ve created them.
Will you upload them into your CMS or marketing automation system, take some inspiration from them on occasion, use them to determine where to post and share your content, and then forget all about them once you get rolling with your strategy? Or will you use them to get better customer intelligence on an ongoing basis, as they help you provide your site visitors with a more dynamic and personalized experience?
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I'm Aptera's Content Strategist. I've been writing about tech and marketing for 5 years and have certifications from HubSpot and The Content Marketing Institute. A big science and literature geek, I taught college rhetoric and composition while I was still busy going to school for way too long, earning bachelor's degrees in anthropology and psychology, along with a master's in British and American literature. Look me up on LinkedIn.