What You Need to Know About Customer Personas

Customer Persona

Have you ever had an idea and thought “This is the next Google!”. The answer is probably yes. The reality is most of these ideas will not grow to become a Google or Facebook. Many of these ideas won’t even get executed, but even the ones that are and do get materialized don’t have the odds in their favor. Of all the ideas that make it to some sort of traction, 90% will fail. Wow, right?

Did you know almost half of startups fail due to lack of product market-fit? Meaning the product is not solving the problem originally identified by the entrepreneur. Here is where customer personas come in handy. It will help identify whether your idea is targeting the right pain points. At the end of the day, you want to create a product with the right solutions for your specific market.

“Treat different people differently. Anything else is a compromise.” — Seth Godin

So what are customer personas?

Customer personas are human profiles representing a group of people with similar attributes.

You can begin creating customer personas by researching behavioral patterns. These commonalities should relate to people who would interact with your product. You can start with observing attitude of the user, their considerations, thoughts and emotions.

This persona will represent the “voice” of your customer. Don’t forget! It should be factual data. Avoid making erroneous assumptions that may result in an ineffective customer persona. Quite simply, go out and validate this profile by talking to these users.

The process usually starts with an interview. It can be in person, phone or a video chat. I would recommend recording your conversation for later review. Once you find these users, observe their behavioral patterns and categorize those similarities. Once you’ve completed your synthesization, you’ll have a concrete profile of your user.

Your customer persona should include answers to the following attributes:

  • Personal Background
  • A day in a life
  • Challenges and pains
  • Goals and motivations
  • Fears
  • Attitudes
  • Objections

What is the purpose of Customer Personas?

Naturally, you understand that it is important to have a target costumer.

In reality, your product cannot solve general problems. You’d be astonished by how most people generalize their target customer, such as “mothers”.  In the context of moms, we may want to know their demographic. Their economic status may play a role in how they decide to buy your product. Her decision may be affected by where she resides.  Meaning, does she live in a metropolitan, suburban, rural or urban area? Are you solving a city slicker problem that relates to moms?  Specificity is key. It will allow you to zero in on issues, and may in return help you with your product prioritization.

An example of what customer personas should look like5 key things to remember when developing customer personas:

  • Identify pain points: Focus on areas that cause your customer the most heartache
  • Create clarity and focus: Be specific with your persona’s attributes
  • Develop empathy: Put yourself in your customer shoes, and avoid self-referral
  • Set directionality: Define how your product will impact your customer
  • Create shared understanding: Share your customer feedback often and frequent with your team

“Personas are the single most powerful design tool that we use. They are the foundation for all subsequent goal-directed design. Personas allow us to see the scope and nature of the design problem… [They] are the bright light under which we do surgery.” — Alan Cooper

Are there any downsides to using a customer personas?

Not everyone agrees that personas are necessary. In fact, there are many critics who believe creating a persona is a waste of time. These individuals believe it is a waste of time and it will have no impact on the business.

There’s not a lot of research to prove the weight of personas. Frank Long, Director at Frontend (UX studio based in Dublin), had done a study with a group of 9 students from the National College of Art and Design. They conducted an experiment on the effects of personas. There were three groups Alpha, Beta, and Gamma. Beta and Gamma used personas to drive their design process. The team that used personas scored much higher on Neilsen’s Usability Heuristics. Furthermore, the teams that were more effective felt they comprehensively understood the user.

Other critics suggest that personas are used as empirical data. I believe what we know of personas are just assumptions that need continual validation. Your persona will have no positive effect when research is done carelessly. Quite simply, it could misguide you.

It is important to understand that creating a persona is a true investment. It takes research, experimentation and multiple iterations. When done well, it will save money and time. At the end, you build a deeper connection between you and the users you’re serving. How else would you improve your growth funnel? I couldn’t think of a better way to start. 🙂

“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology – not the other way around” — Steve Jobs

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