Best PracticesDealership Marketing

What’s YOUR Persona?


Century Interactive is on the 7th floor of a cool office building in Dallas, TX. To our right, as we look out, is Downtown Dallas. To our left, and no more than a pitching wedge away, is a bustling Whole Foods. It’s a great spot for a high end grocery store and they do really well. Whole Foods is smart. Really smart.

They offer hands on events at the store. These fun interactive sessions like cooking classes, baking classes, sit down meals, barbeque skills sessions, and wine tastings. A couple months ago, I forked over $40 for myself and a date to participate in a wine tasting class. It was fun, informative, and we bought a couple bottles to take home.

Here’s why Whole Foods is smart: They aren’t getting rich from my $40 to attend the class and while they’re happy I purchased on the spot, that’s not the end game. The end game is for me to leave the class feeling like a “Wine Guy.” I’m a guy who drinks wine. I’m the wine drinker in my group of friends. I’m the guy who knows a little about wine. I’m the guy who can recommend wine. Ultimately….I’m the guy who shops at Whole Foods for wine.

Quite literally, I walk to Whole Foods after a long day to grab a decent bottle of wine and fresh food. Note that I’m not a rich fancy wine connoisseur. My beer of choice is Miller Lite and I have no shame in grabbing Chipotle three days in a row. However, my trips to Whole Foods are routine. They don’t just occur on work days when location proves convenient. I drive past other grocery and liquor stores to get there.

What has Whole Foods done? 

They have given me a persona. Along with brother, son, friend, and college football fanatic, my “Wine Guy” persona is important to me and it keeps me coming back for more.

Neuroscientists recognize that humans create these personas in order to build a desired self-image. They help us understand the world. They help us understand each other. They motivate us. Ask yourself, what is your professional persona?

I recently read the book How to be a High School Superstar by Cal Newport. It’s a little bizarre that a grown man with no kids read a book about how high schoolers can get into the best colleges, but there was big picture reason. Newport sees a trend where students with average grades are getting into these top tier schools because they have a persona. 

These students identify a passion, become an expert, and develop a persona. They don’t sign up for every single academic honor society and pointless club. That model has lost its luster. Instead they become heavily involved in things like marine biology, work to find alternative energy, or start small tech companies.  Their genuine interests create personas. They have fascinating stories to tell curious college admissions counselors. They have a professional persona before they can buy cigarettes.

We can learn a lot from these young superstars. I again ask you, what’s your professional persona?

Are you THE go to person for at your dealership, company, or in the industry?  If you left your position today, what would the work environment instantly lose and miss greatly?  What story will you have to tell in your next job interview?

Personas are all around us.  Some are more serious than others. Some happen naturally. Some occur over time. All take a little effort and creativity. Your persona gives your professional life personality and value. Selfishly, it makes you irreplaceable. It gives you a personal brand. Not just a stereotype, but a legitimate actionable work role and function:

– The person who is a whiz at reputation management
– The person who handles all the marketing vendor relationships
– The person who completely owns a certain big time client relationship
– The person who consistently owns and rocks phone ups
– The person who hits the outbound phones are harder than anyone else
– The person who organizes office happy hours or company outings
– The person who is active in the online automotive community

Look around our industry. Maybe without even realizing it, intelligent people and companies work hard to create personas:

  • Jeff Kershner = DealerRefresh.
  • Alex Snyder and Joe Pistell are Mr. Product
  • Jerry Thibeau is THE Phone Ninja.
  • Ryan Thompson and Mitch Gallant are our Friends to the North
  • Malinda Terreri is THE newsletter resource
  • Ryan Leslie OWNS reputation management

I ask you again, what’s your professional persona?

Feel free to ad to my list industry professional personas in the comments.

Mike Haeg is an industry guru in the call analytics and technology sector. He has a deep passion for helping dealers measure their marketing ROI and i...
  • J
  • March 15, 2013
Great article Mike! Wow, I am honored to be in that list...
Mike, this is my favorite article you've written to date. And that's saying a lot because you've written some great articles.
It was years ago when I attended a business seminar hosted by the one and only Tony Robbins. The theme of this conference was geared around personal branding. Find out who you are going to be and brand yourself. Eat sleep and breath YOUR BRAND / persona.
At that time I was selling Volkswagens at the local Volkswagen Mazda Subaru dealership. The conference encourage me to build a brand around myself - a Volkswagen sales professional and enthusiast. Prior to the conference I already had my website but after, I realize the importance of building a persona. I was the go-to sales representative for a Volkswagen.
What's so unique between now and 10 years ago when I attended this conference, (and built my first persona in the automotive industry), is the ability for just about anyone to quickly build their own persona leveraging online Social mediums. But yet, still so few take advantage of this wide open opportunity.
Why is that?
One of the Mr. Products!  Ha ha.  Never thought about it like that.
This is a great article Mike and I, like Joe (I think I can speak for him), really appreciate the call out.
  • M
  • March 15, 2013
Great article Mike! Thanks for the mention, made my weekend! Cheers.
  • J
  • March 15, 2013
Thanks for the mention Mike!  I always enjoy your articles!
  • A
    Aaron Wirtz
  • March 15, 2013
dealerrefresh Where I think a lot of professionals fall short is that they use social media specifically for persona building, forgetting that a persona is not an end in itself. Others might struggle with the idea that their whole being should be summed up in a single phrase, when humans are more complex than that. I'm not suggesting that personal branding is the same as becoming a one-trick pony, but I think that misperception is what keeps a lot of people from doing it.
That's what I like so much about the Google+ Circles feature--it seems to be built around the idea that people should be able to share all the different parts of themselves with the segments of their network whom the content is relevant to. Perhaps, then, the problem so far has in part been with the social media platforms that seem to reduce people to one idea or another.
Great article, Mike!
  • J
  • March 16, 2013
Thoughtful post Mike, TY.
My $0.02.  It all starts with knowing your strengths.   If you don't know your strengths, listen to your heart AND look at those around you.  When you wander into a conversation that fits your "authority zone" people will react to you differently because you act differently. 
When you find that special place that you enjoy, OWN IT.  No excuses.  Mike called me  Mr. Products.  Lots of people love bright and shiny products, they're fun. Loving something is easy, becoming an authority requires a depth of commitment that is mountains higher than the casual observer.  
Once you commit to your "persona", find opportunities for it to shine. This connects to an ol' Uncle Joe saying: "avoid opportunities that don't play to your strengths".  

Feed your persona... its hungry ;-)
  • R
  • March 16, 2013
Thanks for including me Mike. Articles like this is what makes DealerRefresh my main stop for auto marketing content.
  • M
    Mike Haeg
  • March 18, 2013
Great points Joe.   Entering that authority zone is fun but does indeed require commitment untouched by a casual observer.  It's not easy.  Ideally, you're seeking that next step because of your heart and honest desire.  The good news is that if you are, the ride to build your persona is fun, not a burden.
  • K
  • March 19, 2013
Well done Mike. Now I might identify your persona to be the "Psychologist of Automotive" :) 
I lean towards Aaron's comments. If you aggressively move to create a persona to market yourself, it is important that you can back up that persona with actual skills and strengths. Unfortunately (and I likely will not be popular for saying this), I think it is easier now more than ever with modern technology to create a persona that you are an "expert" in our industry or others, while not truly having the substance to back that up. How? With a few clicks and forms, I can build an astronomical Klout score in a specific area to identify myself as the expert, while also leveraging social media to do the same -  BUT my only true skills are how to game the system... Ouch! My persona probably just took a hit for saying what a lot of people think, but won't come out and say...
I do embrace the idea of focusing your efforts in areas you excel and enjoy, and then can share with others to benefit them as well, WHILE not limiting yourself to just one area. For me, I would hope that any persona I have came as a result from natural effort, and not artificial effort.
Keep up the great writing Mike, I enjoy it!