How to better understand your customers by creating personas

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The success of any company directly hinges on how well it serves it customer base. One way to get a better handle on who, exactly, the product or service is targeting, is developing personas. Personas are a well-known tool for, as Wamda contributor George Elkhabbaz describes, making data more "human." The process of developing personas to represent client bases can also transform the way that companies think about and interact with their customers, hopefully bringing a startup towards better product-market fit.

A persona is virtual personality for each segment of a potential client base, meant to help a company establish more accurate parameters for the needs of different types of clients. Using personas can focus marketing decisions, minimizing effort wasted on less-important segments.

Assigning personas to each segment of a client base can allow companies to create products and marketing strategies that better target each segment of a client base, and increase interaction between company and customer on social media and elsewhere.

This strategy builds on an existing process known as ‘segmentation’, during which companies divide potential markets into different segments according to criteria such as age, cultural level, gender, income, and geographical location. Then, companies carefully target marketing, advertising, and development strategies according to the each segment’s needs and desires. 

How do you develop a persona? 

1) Define your targeted clients

Building personas makes sense if a company has clear client segments. For instance, if an entrepreneur were developing a mobile application for universities, the two main segments would be: students and teachers.

2) Ask the right questions

In the past, questions were confined to statistical information. When you create a persona that embodies certain human qualitites of a given user segment, you have to ask different questions, such as:

  • What is the age of my clients?
  • Where do they live?
  • What is their job? Where is their office?
  • What are their working hours?
  • What is their education level?
  • What are their hobbies?
  • What is their marital status?
  • What motivates them to buy?
  • Where do they get information and who do they trust?
  • Where do they spend their free time?

Website analytics that reveal demographics can help a lot with isolating who is interested in a certain product. Entrepreneurs can also use social media to keep in touch with their customer base, as well as keep tabs on that of their competitor.

3) Set personality models

After gathering relevant client information, entrepreneurs can set virtual personality groups that represent them according to the previously defined targeted segments. Choose names, pictures, and characteristics based on how someone in a particular segment might really look [Editor's note: the images in the photo above are examples; the fact that they are all men is not representative or suggested].  

A team coming to think of a client segment as a person rather than as an abstract bloc will allow them to think of the customer as a friend, and hence better predict what the client needs and wants. When carefully crafted, and revisited from time to time, personas can bring a company closer to its clients and better able to iterate and succeed.

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