As marketers, our key role is to create and develop long-lasting relationships with our customers. While we provide the sales team with leads, launch creative ad campaigns, plan events, and so much more, our strategic purpose is to solve real business problems, including how to:

  • acquire new customers, faster
  • keep profitable customers
  • ensure your customers buy more from your company
  • leverage your customers’ advocates

In order to solve these problems we need to affect the behavior of the prospects and customers with whom we engage. This means we need to know exactly who to target, understand and anticipate customer behavior. This requires in-depth understanding of our customers and prospects. Personas are a tool that demonstrates Marketing has this in-depth knowledge and knows how to use it.

The Value of Personas

Various studies connect the use of personas to improved engagement and revenue.  Companies have found a variety of ways to use personas. With personas we can improve efforts such as (but not limited to)

  • Identifying the features, functionality for a new product
  • Guiding positioning, messaging and strategy
  • Making pricing decisions
  • Developing scenarios for usability testing
  • Improving customer experience and engagement
  • Identifying customers’ motivations, expectations, and goals
  • Serving as a vehicle for helping develop an initial set of market requirements
  • Improving your understanding of what  customers will truly use and buy rather than what customers may say they want
  • Providing a process for prioritizing development efforts

Personas are typically defined as archetypal users that represent the needs of larger groups of customers, in terms of their goals and personal characteristics. They act as ‘stand-ins’ for real customers and help guide decisions about product functionality and design, positioning and messaging and overall Marketing. Personas are not the same as roles and profiles.  A role indicates a job function, the role someone plays within the organization.  IT Manager is a role.

Profiles describe key demographics of a function; such as typical education, years of experience, and job responsibilities. For example an IT Manager would have several years of experience; education is typically a degree in information management, computer science, and/or information technology;  and typically run regular checks on network and data security, improve and update systems,develop and implement policies and best practices, oversee and implement IT projects, etc.

Personas bring customers to life by giving them a name and/or title, personality and in some instances even a photo. Personas can go across roles and profiles or reflect the nuances of a role. For example, you may have one IT Manager persona based on people who prefer mainstream proven platforms but another person for IT Managers who are quick to embrace and experiment with new technology.  Two different personas even though they have the same profile and role. These nuances help you frame your interactions. When done well, the potential value and impact of personas is significant.

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Take These 3 Steps

There is both an art and science to creating personas. Although personas are fictitious, they are based on knowledge of real customers. Therefore, we strongly advise conducting customer research before writing a persona to ensure the persona actually represents the customer rather than reflects  internal opinion. A well crafted persona enables you to stand in your customer’s shoes and take a more customer-centric view.

Focus your research on identifying trends or patterns in user and buyer behaviors, expectations and motivations to form the basis of the personas. One of the best ways to gather this data is to interview real customers. Take these three steps to start crafting your customers’ personas.

Step 1: Decide who to interview. You will want to include both current customers and well as potential customers in your research. Plan on conducting at least 15-20 1- hour interviews for each title type. Focus the interview to gather information about the following:

  • Basic demographics such as age, job title, length of time in position, and length of time with the organization
  • Job responsibilities and what a typical day looks like
  • Tasks that take the longest, are the most critical or are performed most often
  • Major frustrations with the job and the organization
  • What the person likes best about their job
  • What teams or people within the organization the person interacts with most
  • Skill levels relating to the job as well as technology
  • How time poor or rich the person is
  • Goals, attitudes, beliefs (conscious and subconscious)

Your goal is to uncover customer attitudes and behaviors. Common questions include ‘What things frustrate you the most?’, ‘What makes a good working day?’, and ‘What will help you to do your job better?’

If actual interviews are not possible, consider a combination of the following:

  • Interview business stakeholders have frequent and regular interaction with the customer segments. You want to select people who can provide insight into behavioral patters.
  • Review all market research that can provide insight into attitudes and behaviors.
  • Conduct a survey of customers and business stakeholders using quantitative methods to gather large amounts of demographic data and to identify trends in skill levels and tasks performed.

Step 2: Analyze and synthesize your findings. Once you complete all of the interviews, you will need to review all the data with an eye toward looking for patterns and clusters of attitudes and behaviors. The value of personas is that they help you to identify discrete sets of customers and to create a typical customer to represent each group. The idea is that if you create products/services for the personas customers with similar goals and needs that real consumers will also be satisfied.Look for clusters of attitudes and behaviors.  One you have the clusters you can starting writing the personas by adding details around the behavioral traits. Select details from your research, such as working environment, frustrations, relationships with others, skill level, and some demographics.

Step 3: Craft your personas. Give each persona a brief description. There is no ideal number of personas, however try to keep the set small, perhaps for or five primary personas (you can have secondary personas as well).

Persona’s can be written in either narrative or bullet format. Your goal should be to capture information about the customer’s goals, needs, behaviors, concerns, experiences, likes, dislikes, etc.

Here are some tips to follow regardless of whether you write your personas as narrative or bullet points:

  • Give each persona a name and a photo.
  • Keep your personas to one page.
  • Add personal details but don’t go overboard.
  • Include goals for each persona.


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Deriving Value from Your Personas Along the Customer Journey

Once you have created personas, you are ready define your customer buying purchase, journey lifecycle. Forrester defines the customer lifecycle as, “The customers’ relationship with a brand as they continue to discover new options, explore their needs, make purchases, and engage with the product experience and their peers.”

At VisionEdge Marketing, we advocate that there are Six C’s associated with this process:
1. Contact
2. Connection
3. Conversation
4. Consideration
5. Consumption
6. Community

The purpose of your customer lifecycle should be to capture potential and existing customers’ attention, preference, purchase and loyalty.

Now that you have defined the personas, their journey and lifecycle it is time to map the process, channels and touchpoints your customers will go though as they analyze your products and services.  Mapping the buying journey may be a heavy-lifting process; however, the effort pays off. With a clearly defined mapping process you and your sales team can engage with your customers more efficiently via messaging crafted specifically to the channel, touchpoint and buying stage. 

It is essential that you have mapped the customer journey before you launch content creation efforts. If you have not mapped it, your content will be less effective and you will struggle to engage your customers. Mapping the customer journey will give focus to your content efforts. Eventually, your content will help you create a stronger community with your customers and ideally they will be spreading the word about your wonderful your products and services.

Figuring this out and mastering this process takes a customer-centric and an analytical approach. This work is among our core capabilities. Let’s talk about how we can help. 

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