Even the best product in the world won’t sell successfully if it doesn’t reach its target audience. That’s Business 101. But how do you, as an entrepreneur, make sure that you cater to your targeted customers’ realistic needs and wants?
The answer is simple: conduct customer research. However, customer research can entail a plethora of different tools and approaches.
In this article, we will explore the so-called customer persona as a way to think about your target audience. We’ll discuss why it’s such a useful tool and how you can profit from creating a concise overview of a representative customer.
What Is a Persona?
The term persona essentially refers to a semi-fictional character that helps you determine and analyse your customers’ wants and needs. It’s representative of your target audience so you can consider feedback and how to improve your product or service for the best possible customer experience. Personae rely on qualitative and quantitative data that you collect beforehand. Based on that information, you will then create the persona and analyse your findings afterwards.
There are three main types of personae that people use for their business: buyer persona, user persona and customer persona. These terms can overlap to describe the same person in some cases and are sometimes even used interchangeably.
A buyer persona is centred around someone who buys a product or service. For example, you can create a buyer persona for a woman who buys a computer either for herself or someone else. It focuses on the purchasing aspect of your business.
A user persona describes someone who actually uses the product. If that woman buys a dozen computers for her employees, they would be used for user personae as the employees are the ones actually interacting with the product. A user persona and buyer persona can often describe the same person but our example illustrates how they can differ.
This article will primarily focus on the customer persona as a general persona template. This is an umbrella term that covers both the buyer and user persona. Depending on what you want your market research to focus on, you may choose a buyer or user persona to be more specific.
How Do Customer Personae Relate to Empathy Maps and the Business Model Canvas?
When you create customer personae, think about using empathy mapping as well. Empathy maps and personae essentially try to achieve the same thing, but go about it differently. While customer personae create specific semi-fictional characters based on data, empathy maps are a less time-consuming tool to think about how your customers feel about your product or service. Use one or the other or combine customer personae with empathy maps. The latter makes it possible to get both a visualisation of your target audience’s feelings and specific examples of customer experiences.
Both tools can also play a role with planning your future business in a business model canvas. The business model canvas contains several sections regarding your target audience. Use personae and empathy maps to reevaluate your business model. Considering your need for prior data with customer personae, empathy maps are more useful for this early development stage but personae can still help you paint a more complete picture.
To learn more about empathy maps, check out our blog entry “Empathy Maps and How to Use Them Effectively.”
What Does a Customer Persona Look Like?
The buyer persona below shows one example of what a persona can look like:
This is one example that covers some of the most important aspects. However, no matter what your template looks like exactly, a customer persona always has five key elements:
Profile and Background
Make sure to include all personal information about your character in your persona. This means defining an age group, gender, occupation, and education level. Go into even more detail and create a backstory based on the persona’s basic profile. Feel free to add income, a full resume, and any other helpful information. The more details, the more tangible and realistic the persona is.
Goals and Motivation
A customer persona also includes the customer’s short- and long-term goals and motivations. Those factors help you determine how your product could be useful for them. This section essentially addresses their needs. The example above is a basic, surface-level buyer persona. It’s still lacking in that area, as it only lists work-related needs. Depending on your product or service, you’ll want more details from their personal life as well.
This section is important as it addresses your customer’s needs differently than the goals section. Your product or service solves or aids in solving one of their challenges. Thus, this section is crucial in determining the exact ways in which your business fits into the market.
This aspect of a persona outlines their physical, social and technological environment. In our example, we listed social media platforms as part of this. However, there are many more details that can benefit you depending on your business. If you sell computers, you will conduct more prior research into what technology your target customers are currently using. Interview customers on how their social environment influences their buying tendencies through recommendations. Your customers may also have different ways of buying your computers which prompts research into their purchasing experiences as well.
A customer persona can also include a section about their values. Empathy mapping or surveys can help make informed assumptions about your customers’ values. The point of personae is to recognise the human factor in business, so this section can complete the semi-fictional character.
How Do You Create a Customer Persona?
We know what a customer persona is and why you would want to use it. But how do you actually create one for your company? Here is a simple guide that can help you reach your persona goals.
Step 1: Conduct Market Research
The foundation of your customer persona is qualitative and quantitative data from prior research. Qualitative information can originate from interviews, focus groups, or user feedback from a sample group of customers. Even empathy mapping can help you gather useful information for your customer personae.
Collect quantitative information from surveys for larger sample sizes or other quantifiable data from your website, for example.
After gathering your data, analyse it for usability and relevance. Ideally, you would then already sort the most relevant information into categories that you build your persona from. This step includes categories such as “goals” or “values” or even basic information regarding gender and age groups.
Step 2: Choose a Template
Unless you want to create a customer persona on your own, you can always refer to available templates. Miro has template boards for both user personae and buyer personae with additional sections to help you address your goals with the persona you want to create.
If you’re looking for a quick step-by-step creation process, Hubspot’s interactive “Make My Persona” tool can help you create a persona as well. The buyer persona example earlier in this article was designed in just a few minutes using their tool.
Step 3: Build Your Customer Persona(s)
Depending on your approach and goals with this customer persona, use the collected customer data to build your persona. Using the aforementioned templates or building your own, you will fill out each section of the persona until you complete it. Give your persona a fictional name and life, inspired by your previous research.
The more specific you are, the better. The persona is semi-fictional, consisting of factual data and the making up of a character that represents your target customer and their needs. When you have sufficiently addressed every segment, move onto the next step.
Step 4: Analyse and Take Advantage of Your Customer Persona
Once you’ve finished filling out your persona, you and your team can use it to pinpoint how you can improve your customers’ experience. This is a very individual case-by-case step that depends on your business and the personae themselves.
If you put time and resources into a customer persona, you will gain valuable insights into your customers’ desires and needs. Use this simple but effective tool to conduct meaningful customer research that can help you better reach your target audience and sell your product or service. Appreciating the human behind your customer and putting in the extra effort have the potential to significantly boost your sales and your customers’ experiences.