This how-to-guide will explain what a persona is; show you when they might be useful, and provides everything you need to create personas for your own business.
What is a Persona?
A persona is a constructed imagination of a potential consumer. A company will create personas to represent a section of a target market they wish to sell something to. These models of current and potential customers allow companies to sharpen images of their target markets and locate people who might wish to buy a product or service. Personas are often created during the design phase of a service or product. Nevertheless, they should be consistently referred back to, to make sure the brief is being hit.
Personas are usually built on a foundation of information. This information includes direct consumer observation; interviews with consumers; and general market research. They are a helpful tool that can help highlight why a customer might be interested in a product. It can also build a picture of where, when, and how a customer might engage with a product.
Personas are a detailed picture of someone. This person will not just be a name – they will have a personality. They will have considered individual problems, potential opportunities, likes, dislikes, desires, and requirements.
Types of Personas
There are two commonly used types of personas. Deciding which type of persona to use depends on the type of business the persona is created for.
A Buyer (or Customer) Persona:
Buyer personas define a company’s ideal customer. They allow for decisions to be made about marketing and sales processes. Through developing a solid buyer persona, a company can consistently ask, “Would this person like this?” This question can be applied constantly from the conception of a new product, to developing a marketing plan. A buyer persona helps to keep the considerations of the ideal customer at the forefront of all business decisions.
A User Persona:
User personas are only really significant for companies that produce products that are purchased by someone who is not the person that ends up using the product or service. A business that makes its own product would want to carefully consider developing a user persona for example. The idea is that if you design a product with a certain user in mind, that product will provide the user with what they desire and will help create products and services that will produce customers.
Let’s look at an example of the difference between the two commonly used types of personas;-
Who is the customer for a children’s book? The parent buying the book or the child reading it?
In many cases, the child will be the reader. Which means we can think of the child as the user persona for the book. The parent will be the buyer persona, the decision-maker who ultimately buys (or doesn’t buy) the book for the child.
So… who is the customer? If you were the product manager for this book, working for the children’s publishing company, you would need to consider both your user persona and your buyer persona in developing your strategy for the book.
For your user persona, the child, your priority might be to make the book’s spine and cover eye-catching, and the illustrations throughout the book big and colourful. At the same time, however, you need to consider your buyer persona, the parents, in developing the book’s strategy. For them, you might want to prioritise making sure the lessons and values contained in the book are aligned with those of a parent. (i)
Why Use a Persona?
Personas can help a business in many ways. Below is a list of some reasons a persona might be used.
- To increase focus
Personas help a company to focus on who will be engaging with a product or service which is often in the developmental stage. They can also be used oppositely and develop perspectives on consumers a company might not want to engage with. Through doing this, a persona provides a clearer image of who a company want to use or buy their product or service.
- To empathise
By creating a persona, a way of viewing consumers is developed. The process of constructing a persona humanises and personifies a target market. This added information can help companies better understand and empathise with their consumers.
- To measure effectiveness
Although perhaps a little less accurate than direct user testing, by juxtaposing personas with a product or service and comparing how well it suits that person, its effectiveness can be analysed. This can help identify features that might not be compatible with a section of the target market, or points of difficult usage.
- To establish a middle-ground
Personas are often very helpful when a team has different expertise, interests and perspectives. They can help communicate the specifics of a product or service, and they also help to form a consensus within teams on the desired target market. This added understanding of who will use and interact with a product is invaluable.
- To help decision-making
Personas allow companies to think about who to target their product or service at, and what to design for consumers. Coupled with the added empathy and consumer-understanding that personas provide, they are a helpful tool in initiating and protecting the decision-making process. If they are constructed correctly, with suitable statistics for support, personas are a logical defence and reassurance for decision-making process as they ground decision-making in consumer-focussed conclusions.
How to Create Personas?
The basic components:
Giving a persona a name is an important first step to making a persona real. Giving a persona a name makes it easier to relate it to a genuine person. It adds an element of realism and makes the persona easier to talk about when discussing marketing and development processes.
Any persona must have both a personal, and professional background. In terms of professional background, it’s important to define what a persona does as a career and what stage of their career they are at. To add extra value, all personas should also provide a quick outline of the hobbies, education level, likes and dislikes of the target consumer. This added element helps influence what the persona’s disposable income is likely to be. Moreover, it can help understand their brand choices better.
When explaining the age, gender, education, marital status and ethnicity of any persona, it is essential to be specific. As many precise details that help build a fictional character must be included. This helps build a greater understanding of consumers and how they might engage with a company.
All people have some form of a goal in their mind that they want to achieve. When creating a persona, this should be considered. These goals do not have to specifically fit the service or product a company offers. They should be realistic. For example, whilst a recruitment business might provide great employees, the persona’s goal might be to create a successful company.
- Previous Consumer Behaviour
A persona should ascertain the frequency, loyalty, and experience that a person might have had with a business in the past. Does the customer frequently, and repeatedly, engage with a business? Are they more likely to buy infrequently? Are they brand loyal? Which competitors might they have used? All these questions and more should be answered in a persona to help construct the most detailed image possible.
- Need / Want Statements
Make sure to outline what a persona wants and what they need from a business or product. This can be useful when compared with their defined goals.
What worries this fictional character? Do they think the business is secure and trustworthy? Might they want to talk to someone before using the business? Think about the concerns and queries any customer might have and add them to the persona.
- How Will They Engage with Your Business?
Will the persona engage with your business online? Are they going to be using a phone or a laptop? Are they more likely to meet with your business face to face? These factors are all important when creating a full picture of your persona and how they will interact with your business.
- A Quote
A persona should always be accompanied by a one or two sentence quote that sums up what they want most. This should encompass as many aspects of the persona as possible. For example:
“I want a simple training solution for my staff which will genuinely help their business development. I want it at a reasonable cost, and it needs to be flexible enough to fit around the demands of my business.”
- A Photograph
No persona can be complete without adding a photograph. This helps finalise the reality of the persona and helps make the fictional character relatable.
Action List to Create Personas
Using the headings below, create a persona for your business or any business you can think of. Make sure to keep the considerations mentioned above and the following other important mistakes to avoid when creating personas;-
Things to keep in mind when creating personas:
Primarily, don’t build your persona from a real customer. Any good persona will summarise a cross-section of all your core customers and will bring in elements from various real customer profiles.
Furthermore, don’t stereotype. Making vague assumptions about customer identity and their needs is not a helpful exercise. Base your personas on real research and let your customers influence your construction of personas.
Make sure your persona is as realistic as possible. Continually be considering whether the persona you have constructed has inconsistencies. Make sure you make every detail of your persona as accurate as possible.
Don’t be too general. Get the detail into your persona. Although this can be time-consuming, the process of building a persona that is jam-packed with detail will enhance your marketing and development efforts.