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Whether you're new to CX or looking to expand your current knowledge, it is important to learn about what, when, and how to develop personas so that you can serve your customers better. Knowing what personas are not is equally important to create desired outcomes versus hinder them. Let’s begin by defining:
What is a Customer Persona?
In basic terms, it is simply a semi-fictional model that includes characteristics and mental models of target buyers. When developing customer personas, you need to thoroughly research and document all insights about them so you can create experiences that enable them to accomplish their goals and choose your products over competitive offers.
Customer Personas are Not...
A Replacement For Market Segmentation. Think of market segmentation as a BROAD view. It is a way to divide customers into groups that can be targeted by demographics (i.e. age, race, religion, gender, ethnicity, income), psychographics (i.e. social class, personality characteristics), behavioral patterns (i.e. spending, usage) and geography (i.e. customer locations). Personas are formed by leveraging segmentation information, and are not based on a “one size fits all” mindset.
Buyer Journeys. Personas define WHO you are designing products, services, market messaging for. It is not about mapping out desired customer experiences across all channels and touchpoints.
Based on a single observation. Understanding a particular customer experience (what went wrong or well) can be useful to inform business decisions, however, it cannot be generalized for an entire group of buyers.
Documented one time. Customer needs and interactions with brands are changing as well as their expectations as technology advances. Persona development is an evolution that needs to be reviewed, updated (small tweaks, not necessarily a complete redo) and communicated throughout organizations periodically.
Based on assumptions. Research is an important part of making personas “real.” Interviewing and surveying customers are effective methods of learning what drives your target audience and appeals to them. There are more ways to gain customer insights, which I will share in upcoming articles.
Constructed for every customer. You can’t please everyone, so prioritize and focus on the top buyers who provide the highest revenue potential.
Based on one “right way.” There is no single correct method to developing personas. Yet, it does need to include certain components to help teams understand essential information about customers and target prospects. As a general rule, you want to keep your document to one page. If it’s too long, you likely did not focus on the most important points, and stakeholders may not read it. Key elements include:
- Who are typical customers? What do they do? Typical day?
- What are their frustrations, pain points and challenges?
- What are happy / satisfying moments? What does success looks like?
- What are their goals. What do they want to accomplish?
- What are they saying? (quotes/verbatims)
- Photographs to “humanize” customers
When to Create Personas?
Persona development typically occurs at very early stages of new product development and marketing launches. It needs to happen before journey mapping activities begin, as maps are created from persona documents. Personas need to be referenced throughout the project lifecycle so that decisions consistently address customer needs.
Why Develop Customer Personas?
- Help identify what problems to solve for when developing new products, services, and capabilities.
- Enable marketers to tailor content and messaging. A business executive, for example, relies on different sources of information for learning about brands and has different buying criteria than a technical IT Manager.
- Drive internal employee alignment. Including cross teams in the persona development process is an effective way to create a more customer-centric organization.
- Take a course at a prestigious institution, such as Rutgers University, who offers an affordable online and offline certification course. (Read about my experience here.)
- Observe and learn from companies who are DoingCXRight. Hubspot shares a great article about “7 Companies That Totally ‘Get’ Their Buyer Personas.”
- Watch informative videos. I especially like this one by Gregg Bernstein, as he visually shows what persona development is all about in a simple, creative way.
Stacy Sherman is Head of Customer Experience and Employee Engagement for Schindler Elevator. Learn more about Stacy here.