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Integrating Myers-Briggs Personality Types Into Persona Development

Over the last few years, persona development has become a hot topic within the SEO industry, as understanding customers has taken on new importance. A higher level of customer connection is now seen as crucial for developing strong strategies for organic search. As a result, there have been a number of posts done that provide great starting points for crafting your own process for persona development. Today, we’ll take a look at a simple but powerful piece of the persona puzzle that can help SEOs, content marketers, and anyone else working with personas better understand and connect with their target markets.

The Myers-Briggs Personality Types

Before we get into the application, if you’re not familiar with the Myers-Briggs Type-Indicator (MBTI), I suggest doing a quick review of this specific approach to applying C.J. Jung’s work to our everyday lives at myersbriggs.org. A quick read is probably all you’ll need to have a little background on the approach and psychology applied. If you’re interested, you can learn how to take the test, or find a knock-off version online for free. Of course, the online free versions are likely not to be quite the same.

In general, there are four main dichotomies utilized to help us understand important characteristics about an individual’s personality. The following information was sourced from myersbriggs.org

  • “Favorite world: Do you prefer to focus on the outer world or on your own inner world? This is called Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I).
  • Information: Do you prefer to focus on the basic information you take in or do you prefer to interpret and add meaning? This is called Sensing (S) or Intuition (N).
  • Decisions: When making decisions, do you prefer to first look at logic and consistency or first look at the people and special circumstances? This is called Thinking (T) or Feeling (F).
  • Structure: In dealing with the outside world, do you prefer to get things decided or do you prefer to stay open to new information and options? This is called Judging (J) or Perceiving (P).”

Depending on where an individual falls in each area when tested, a four-letter code is utilized to define key traits of their personality. All combinations are displayed below:

Example: ISTJ (introverted-sensing-thinking-judging)

While the personality types are not meant to define someone in and out, nor are they meant to put anyone in a box, they do tend to be very good at showing natural tendencies and preferences for individuals. I, as well as a number of others I know, have found the analysis to be very apt after reading through deeper descriptions of each type.

Integration and application

On to the good stuff: let’s take a look at how utilizing this information could be very informative for persona development.

First, meet Bob.

Bob is a modern businessman who sells a very clever SAAS product designed for accounting firms. While Bob has done OK selling his product to some smaller accountants in his area, he really wants to expand his reach and start targeting larger organizations.

In order to better understand how the personality integration could enhance our personas, and even more beneficially, our marketing, we’re going to read a story about Bob.

Because Bob is so savvy and reads marketing materials all the time, he’s decided part of his budget for marketing his business should go to creating content that he can utilize to connect with his target market.

Good thinking, Bob. Good thinking.

But while Bob has a decent sense of who his customers are and how to connect with them, he really wants to refine his approach to content creation so that he can waste as few resources as possible. Bob launches into persona development and walks through a general process that looks something like this:

  • He defines the goals or objectives for the persona(s)
  • He then brainstorms important attributes that he knows about his customers and group
  • He dives deeper into research utilizing:
    • web analytics
    • interviews
    • social listening/conversation
  • Finally, Bob begins writing up his research in a common persona format

Not a bad place to start, but Bob thinks he can do better. This is where Bob gets clever.

Work it, Bob. Work. It.

Because Bob studied psychology in college, he’s familiar with the Myers-Briggs test. Bob is also familiar with clustering personality types in order to identify common traits across a group of four common personalities. As Bob thinks through his research method, he remembers that the Myers-Briggs personality types are often associated with tendencies toward certain careers or types of jobs.

Now Bob’s REALLY got something.

Doing some research, Bob discovers that there are a few of the personality types whose temperaments are suited well for accounting: ISTJs, ESTJs, and ESFJs.

So, Bob does some deeper reading on each of these types and looks for common threads and extremely unique elements to better understand things like:

  • How to talk to them
  • When to talk to them
  • How they enjoy taking in information
  • What might inspire them
  • What turns them off
  • Other hobbies/interests they might have
  • What needs they might have
  • What things about their personalities may make it difficult to solve problems at work
  • What internal problems they may struggle with
  • What they value
  • How they discover and take in information

In Bob’s case, he discovers that ESTJs and ESFJs appreciate data, logic, and organization. He also understands that as “Sensing” individuals, they enjoy learning by doing and are very in the present. Contrary to what Bob assumed about his target market (that most accountants were introverted), he actually discovers that many individuals filling accounting rolls may very well be extroverted. Bob’s world is changed.

From this, Bob decides that:

  • webinars
  • presentations
  • group demos

and other types of content may work well for large portions of his target market, because they might enjoy the slightly more extroverted and social nature of the activities.

He also knows that:

  • direct data points
  • clear logic
  • and quickly applicable information

are important to these individuals (as well as the fellow ISTJ). As a result, Bob makes educated decisions around:

  • laying out landing pages
  • using ordered, clear, precise page structure
  • and other important elements

Bob also creates a demo of his product that allows a user to easily upload some of their own data in order to test out the tool. He makes it seamless to share with other stakeholders and crafts an easy way for the primary tester to get feedback on the software so they can make a better-informed decision.

Interestingly, Bob also realizes that while at the root many decisions carry heavy emotional bias, these personality types are less likely to respond to emotional persuasion. As a result, Bob keeps his language tight, sticks to the facts, and highlights how the product will solve important problems for these individuals immediately.

…Which in turn creates a happy emotion for his target audience ;).


The connection to search

From his analysis, Bob is also able to make better educated guesses at how to craft his page titles, meta descriptions, and other key meta data to appeal to his target market. His calls to action (that he knows his market will be reading on search results pages) are now even more accurately designed to carefully hit his market’s interests, needs, and preferences.

Bob is also able to pitch better guest posts to experts covering his vertical and related verticals, as he’s very dialed on the interests of his audience and how they like to be talked to. Bob can build better relationships with influencers and customers, resulting in more sharing and discussion around his content, more links to his site, and strong CTRs on his results.


Wrapping it up (TL:DR)

It’s not easy understanding who we’re talking to. Integration of personality test results in ways such as described above can help us start from a more educated position as we work to craft messaging, connect with influencers in our verticals, and perform tests to improve results. While the Myers-Briggs is a very popular personality test, there are others that can be creatively utilized to enhance our customer understanding and improve our iterative marketing processes.

A little disclaimer: It’s important to test your theories as no matter how good you think you’ve got your persona information dialed, there will always be areas where you’re off at least a little.

How do you see utilizing personality tests in persona development or other areas of your search and digital marketing processes?

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