Persona Development: How to Create Your Customer Personas

Persona development is useful in nearly every phase of product development and sales, but takes on key importance during marketing. What is persona development? How can it help you reach more customers? Most importantly, how can you do it?

What Are Personas?

A persona is a fictional person developed to act as a representation of your business’s ideal customer. Gleaned from the information you gather about the users you’re reaching, as well as the users you want to reach, personas take the form of a composite of the features you want to target with your marketing efforts. Persona development provides friendly examples of the ideal customer to promote discussion, collaboration and insight in multiple ways throughout the stages of business.

During the development stage, designers use personas to identify common user needs to drive product design that addresses them. Later, marketers use marketing personas to target their decision making and provide content the ideal audience will find useful. Useful content geared toward the ideal customer greatly increases the prospects of that customer taking notice of your brand.

Where to Begin

Marketers describe these personas as composites, thumbnail sketches, and user profiles – all good ways to represent the value of the persona to a marketing team. However, how do you begin creating them? Your first step should be determining what information you need to fill out a persona profile.

Many services offer templates for persona development, but building your own is fairly simple and can help you gain deeper insight into the areas you’d like to target. A basic template for a marketing persona should include:

  • Name. The persona should feel like a real person, representing the needs and wants of a very real subset of your target market.
  • Occupation. Include information about the company’s size as well as the persona’s role and salary.
  • Demographics. The more details, the better. The deeper you get into your persona’s character, the more you can identify with and anticipate the needs of the population it represents.
    • Gender
    • Age
    • Location
    • Education level
    • Family information
  • Goals. What are your persona’s goals in business? While spending time online? When approaching your website? Imagining your persona’s goals can help you dig into addressing how your company can help them meet those goals.
  • Challenges. What problems does your persona have? How could your product, service, or website help meet those challenges?
  • Values. What traits of a business interaction does your persona value?
  • Turnoffs. What aspects of the sales process tend to push your persona away? How could you avoid those aspects?
  • Ideal marketing message. Based on all the above information, you’ll develop a short marketing blurb geared toward meeting your persona’s needs.

In addition to the essentials, consider other traits that may be useful to your industry that you may want to include across persona templates. Perhaps hobbies offer insight into a customer’s valuation of your product. Maybe political leanings affect the degree to which a customer would use your services. Include any additional details that may help provide insight.

After you’ve identified the information you need to fill out your persona template, you’ll need to decide how many personas to build. Insiders suggest anywhere from three to seven different personas. No matter which number you begin with, make sure you build personas for your most-reached group, your most-converted group, your ideal customer you’re not quite reaching, and any smaller segments of the population you feel you could reach more effectively.

Gather Your Information

You have free rein to make up your persona’s name. However, where do you gather all the other information to fill out your persona’s profile? The answer lies in multiple sources across your business’s network of resources.

  • Analytics. Your website analytics can provide a wealth of information regarding your customers. Demographic analytics can reveal the age groups, sex, income level, and more of both the users you’re converting successfully as well as those you desire to extend your reach. Google Analytics contains a great deal of demographic information in the “Audience” section.
  • Surveys and interviews. Surveys can reveal broad trends across your users to quickly glean information regarding user problems, values, and turnoffs. Many businesses choose to use brief surveys from services like Survey Monkey to gather data tricky to obtain through analytics. However, interviews that delve even more deeply into these issues can drive you to form personas that truly represent the goals of a segment of your user base. Performing interviews on multiple levels, including sales, customer service, and with the customers themselves, increases the breadth of your insights.
  • Social media. Aside from the analytics you can perform on your social media interactions, you can actively engage with your audience to determine their problems, goals, values, and turnoffs. Or, pay careful attention to interactions on your social media pages to gather information regarding these same aspects from the information your customers volunteer.
  • Use your team. As mentioned earlier, personas play a role in multiple stages of product development and sales. Gather team members from all stages, including customer service, sales, and development, and brainstorm about what makes your users unique.

Fill Out Your Persona’s Profile

Using trends you’ve noticed from your research into your audience, fill out your persona’s profile with information that fits the user type you’re targeting. Consider the common struggles, hopes, goals, and values specific to a middle-aged mother, a young businessman, or a senior using Medicare; your persona’s goals should make sense regarding the demographics you’ve chosen.

Again, use your team’s diversity when considering the details of each persona. Insight at various levels of the customer experience as well as insights gleaned from your team’s own experiences, can help you build realistic personas and engage your team in developing processes that address their needs. If team members at multiple levels feel invested in your marketing personas, it is a short step toward investment in engaging the personas at a later date.

Use Your Personas

Once you’ve developed your marketing personas, act on them. Provide content via social media and on your website designed to engage your personas and address key goals. Empathize with your customers as they proceed through the sales funnel and address common frustrations or optimize user values to increase conversions. Personas represent real people you are attempting to reach – use them to guide your decision making moving forward.