March 29, 2018

What Are Personas and Why You Need Them

Personas are fictional representations of your users/customers that lay the foundation for understanding users as people. They represent relevant behavior patterns and visualize customer research in context of your business. By talking to real people, personas are documents that can be a helpful framework used to make business decisions that replace assumptions about what people need and why, with feedback from real people.

Questioning assumptions about your users is the first step in ensuring that your bias does not affect the validity of your information.

Types of Personas

  • Anecdotal – Untested beliefs about what an ideal user looks like. Historical, statistical and secondary research may be leveraged in the creation of these personas.
  • Provisional – Provisional personas are constructed from input from key internal stakeholders.
  • Validated – Personas based on both qualitative and quantitative research, as well as interviews with real users to accurately reflect their demographics, behaviors and motivations.

Personas are living documents and should be visited frequently. If you only have time for anecdotal personas, that’s okay – just make sure you don’t leave them that way without talking to real users.

What do your customers need and/or expect from you? What can your business provide them? Personas can help bridge any gaps, and highlight opportunities for business growth.

Why do you need personas?

Without really understanding who you’re marketing to – your strategy might be off, which means your plans, advertising campaigns and business strategy may not be as effective.

From delivering meaningful content, reaching your audiences on platforms they frequent, to understanding how they prefer to interact with you – validated personas are a helpful framework used to make business decisions.

Creating personas allows you to:

  • understand customer needs, priorities, pain points and how they currently interact with your business
  • discover what influences their behavior patterns
  • identify what they need and expect from you, and why they choose or do not choose to do business with you

Customer Research

Doing customer research leading up to your personas is an important first step. Understand how they behave, what they need from your business and visualize how your persona perceives things in context to your business.

How many personas?

After confirming your customer segments and defining your value proposition – you’ll be well equipped to start your persona development! You might be surprised that the number of personas for your business will likely range from 2 – 5.

How do you decide who should be your primary persona?

You may find a lot of crossover between your audiences, and that’s a good thing – it may mean that you can create one persona because their jobs, pains and gains are very similar. However, this depends on why you’re developing the persona. For example, if you are developing a set of personas to create a digital strategy, then you may want to factor in where in the conversion funnel jobs, pains and gain are. Interviewing real people will help you identify what they’re looking for as they interact with your organization throughout the conversion funnel and helps you get a sense of what they care about, what frustrates them, why they choose your organization, and what kind of role the organization plays in their life.

Once you have customer segments that are drastically different – that’s when you know you’ll need a separate persona. Beware of making assumptions though, you might automatically think that your personas are very different, but once you start brainstorming the types of customers you are trying to reach you might see similarities.

Qualitative and Quantitative Research

Qualitative research is just as important as quantitative. We pair qualitative and quantitative research to ensure relevant data is leveraged with interviews – quantitative research will tell us us what’s happening and qualitative research tell us why. Personas validated through interviews can be further validated through quantitative data from Google Analytics or Hot Jar.

It’s All About Context 

What are you planning to do with your personas? Create or update your marketing plans and/or advertising campaigns, or to use them to inform what type of information you should have on your website? The types of questions you ask real people should be impacted by this.

Interested in learning more about personas? Let us know! 

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