To deliver outstanding user-oriented products, you need to understand your product’s actual users. The more you talk with your customers, more you’ll notice how their needs, behaviours and goals can differ. And, usually, you try to delight all of them. But do you have enough resources to reconsider all their opinions after launching a new feature or ad campaign? If the answer is “Definitely no”, you should look at the methodology described in this article.
The idea of segmenting a target audience isn’t new. Marketers often divide their customers by demographics, geography or income level. But this doesn’t necessarily provide marketers with insights into what these people are looking for or how to deliver the right marketing messages. Quantitative methods are criticized for creating unrealistic, Frankenstein-like images of customers.
So, what can you do when you have enough data, but the puzzle still isn’t solved? The best thing to do is to define your customers’ behaviour patterns and key characteristics.
What Is a Persona
A persona represents a significant behavior in a group of people in the real world, but itself it is not a real individual. It is a fictional character that personifies your clients. It is a collective image that describes a specific mode of interaction with your product or brand.
Marketing a tech company has much in common with movie production. Any great movie starts with a great script, but all pieces of the story will work in harmony only if the characters are compelling. In the same way, any business starts with complete knowledge a of the clients it has and wants to attract.
These descriptions mirror your various market segments, with avatars to match the type of customer.
There are three main types of persona:
General or basic portraits are not validated with actual research. As a rule, they are based on one’s own perceptions or collective brainstorming. So-called “proto-personas” are suitable for making basic decisions or as the first steps in a user-centric approach.
Marketing personas focus on customer goals, needs, and interest in your product. They cover buying preferences, media consumption habits and purchase decision contexts. They are good for determining market potential, messaging or top priorities for the product pitch.
At the most basic level, personas allow you to personalize or target your marketing for different segments of your audience. Personas provide you with insight into how to make offerings and marketing messaging relevant and successful as a result. Personas allow you to map out and create highly-targeted content, that’s why it’s highly recommended to define personas while building communication strategy for your product.
Design personas define a product or service – what it is or isn’t, how it will solve the customer’s problem, and how it will be used. Based on UX research, such a profile covers the current behavior and pain points of those using the product. The role of the designer is to model the behavior of a synthesized character. It helps them to focus on design for a limited type of user.
Creating a User Persona, Step by Step
The are four main stages in developing a persona:
- Identify target groups and select representatives to research
The strongest personas are based on insights gathered from actual customers through surveys and interviews. Good research involves a mix of customers, prospects, and people outside of your contact database who might align with your target audience.
- Conduct interviews and surveys. Collect extra information to fill blind spots about the participants
Designing for oneself rather than for the audience is never a good idea. Beware of a self-referential approach in decision-making. You are never a typical user, because of your savviness and familiarity with the field, so you should listen to those who are not like you.
- Organize insights and findings into patterns, prepare a portrait
The analysis stage is the hardest part, because you must compare multiple combinations of behaviors and attitudes. Usually, a persona is a one-page slide showing a summary of the observed research trends and patterns.
- Compare outcomes to generalize or in opposite to cluster profiles. Make a segment map
The insights from the persona’s document provide a specialist with clear understanding of what’s important to your customers. Product people use this document for presentations, internal discussions and conceptualization.
How to Collect Data
The number of research participants should be sufficient to confirm or reject a hypothesis. Experts recommend starting with between 5 and around 30 participants per role.
Interview customers either in person or over the phone to discover what they like about your product or service. Create forms on your website or give away content for free to collect more important persona information. Tools like Survey Monkey offer best practices and suggestions on collecting data. To ensure you get the most accurate responses and avoid any confusion, check out the best practices.
To make interviews more insightful, ask open-ended questions, focus on specific situations or ask the customers about their previous experiences. To learn in-depth how to talk to customers, read more about customer development.
Also, don’t forget to do interviews to confirm the findings with your colleagues. Share your insights with those who communicate with your clients on daily basis. It could be someone from sales, customer success or the customer support team.
Similar responses and actions should be grouped, so you can design archetypical models. They can be designed by combining two or more of the following elements:
- Geographic: country, region, city, city area, climate
- Demographic: age, gender, income, education, family size, nationality
- Psychographic: beliefs, values, attitudes, social position, lifestyle
- Behavioral: occasions, perception, buyer’s readiness to act
Add another data layer from your site analytics. Check where these users came from, what keywords they used to find you, and what actions they took during their visit. Google Analytics or Facebook insights help with demographics like age, gender and the technology they use.
A secondary source of data is contextual research, which can be easily conducted online. Insights can be found by scanning social media profiles or posts that mention you or competitors. Don’t forget to scan personal blogs and media. By surfing web, you are investigating only the typical environment and activities of your customers. Other assumptions based on online research alone are disjointed, broken or incomplete. Don’t be an amateur.
Creating a Persona Profile
There is no one right way to create a persona, but a number of essential elements need to be included.
An effective persona document consists of the following basic information:
- Fictional name and photo
- Demographic: age, gender, income, location, education, family
- descriptive title
- role or job description, with key information about their company (size, vertical type)
- a day-in-the-life narrative
- goals and challenges
A persona is a psychological portrait of the individual and their environment. A persona is a social phenomenon, interactions with other people or society, that defines behavior. Social norms, common opinions or even reputation explain the origins of an action. Values and fears also help determine the customer’s emotional connection with the product. Specific attitudes and perception often explain common objections to getting the customer engaged.
A good practice is to include a marketing message and elevator pitch. The message describes the way product solves a specific need for each persona. The elevator pitch articulates a brief, consistent idea on how to explain and sell the product to the customer.
Specific business needs specific information to be included into the profile. Also, as we discussed before, depending on the purpose of their use, personas may vary. A persona built for a blog looks different than the personas describing the actual users of your product.
When you’re done with the profile, develop a map for the customer journey.
Example of the customer journey
How Many Personas Do You Need
It’s recommended that you start with 3-5 personas to represent the majority of your customers. However, there is no limit till the value of specificity is tangible. Depending on your business, you could have a few personas or as many as 10-15. There is no general rule.
Also, don’t focus only on a portrait of your ideal customer. Understanding which clients you actually don’t want – for example, those who require too much support or who are just too expensive to get – can significantly save acquisition and retention costs. Cutting the “bad apples” from your client base can help you achieve a lower CAC. Profiling can give you more accurate insights for your next marketing campaign.
When you have finished with describing your personas, don’t forget to divide them into primary and secondary levels in terms of the specific goal. If we are talking about acquisition, the primary personas are the decision-makers. If the goal is to decrease your churn rate — your primary personas are those who are regular users of your product.
What Are The Characteristics of a Good Persona
First of all, your personas are realistic. It means they are based on your current situation, as observed in research with real people. Describing ideal clients are only good for setting up future goals and targets.
Pay attention to psychological details to make the persona functional. You’re doing well if you can answer questions from her or his specific point of view. It should have a character, and this is why you need to design a person with a name and bio.
Second, well-done personas reflect patterns that uncover or validate customer needs. To do that, you need to understand their context, attitudes and motivations.
Good personas can be used to validate or disprove decisions. Keep in mind the primary profiles you have while generating ideas or critiquing. Finally, personas help boost the effectiveness in the early stages of product implementation. Various combinations can be pre-tested by pairing a persona with a scenario – in the same way we test scenarios with real users. If someone who is play-acting a persona gets frustrated, then the whole group will probably have difficulties.
Example of a Completed Persona
Who needs it
Diving deep into a persona provides you with more insight into what actions to take to meet the specific needs, behaviors, and concerns of different target groups. Personas help everyone involved throughout the entire product development process. Personas are a starting point for sales and marketing – so actually, they’re for everyone.
To create excellent products, the team should focus on two components: end goals and scenarios. End goals are for the customer’s problem or need that the product solves. Each feature stands for a certain task. A scenario is a short story describing a user’s interaction with the solution in a particular context.
Product managers use scenarios to develop use cases to design a roadmap. Understanding which features or changes have a significant impact on your customers determines priorities.
You might think you need to expand the functionality of the core product to address the needs of the wider audience. As practice shows, it doesn’t work like that. The reason is that the features introduced to satisfy Bob may be useless or even annoying to John. If you design for everyone, you delight no one. User-focused reasoning saves you from developing features that never get used.
In the Design Thinking process, designers often use personas. Personas answer the question, “Who are we designing for?” and they help to align strategy and goals to specific user groups.
Smart marketers know that clearly defining your ideal customer is the key to high conversions. With the shift to digital channels, new segment options became more in demand: targeting by interests and behavior became a must.
Understanding personas improve your marketing communications and save budget dollars by optimizing the customer journey. Researching personas can help you find out which target groups aren’t well covered or where to find new audiences and directions to expand your market.
Developing products is challenging, as we don’t always know what is in the best customer’s interests. The purpose of creating a persona is to get clarity the individuals you are working for. To design a perfect product, its features, positioning and promotion, you need to know your customers. But what’s more important is that it provides us with an understanding of what we have in common with our audience. Because empathy is mankind’s most powerful weapon.
There are tons of persona templates and generators available on the web for free. You can find a great example of a template to create UX persona here. Buyer persona templates are easy to download on Hubspot or Marketo.