Notes on Personas
The Strategic Cornerstones
For me, stories have always been about the character-driven plot. I read long series that would grow these amazing characters over time; Perin from The Wheel of Time series was my favorite. Starting out as a shy gentle giant of a young man, over the 16 books he grew into a dynamic and amazing leader who balanced a primal understanding of the world against the careful and rational man he was at his core. When you were engrossed in those chapters you could feel how he’d react as he was doing it, becoming something more than a figment of Robert Jordan’s imagination. Did you ever read a book that had a character you understood so very well?
…”oh great, Donna’s on another of her tangent’s again.”
Nope… not really at least. You see, if you ever saw a book through the eyes of one of your favorite characters, well then, you can easily understand the vital role of personas.
In case you’re in need of a refresh, user personas are representations of the current or potential target customer based on both qualitative and quantitative research. Each persona speaks to the needs and motivations of the users in relationship to the company by looking beyond the demographics and painting a picture of a potentially real individual who would engage/become a customer of a given organization
Essentially, personas are the tool that let your marketing team know WHO you’re targeting and, more importantly WHY they care about your website/product/service… well, you get the idea.
…”Okay, we all knew that but we’re pressed for time and don’t have time to go back to look at those now. We’re under deadline.”
We’ve all been in that spot: Too busy for the full-on in-depth analysis but too tight on resources to move forward without that strategic information that ensures we’re not going to have to do it all over again. So maybe, instead of looking at these as the traditional undertaking we can trim this down to a smaller, faster deliverable that hits on the key aspects of the persona so that your team can make educated decisions within your time allotments.
Like all other deliverables, I try to break the persona research down to the bare-bones, “must have” list and grow it from there. Let’s touch on what you absolutely need to know about your personas.
Demographics: Now I get that in a truly inclusive internet, many of these wouldn’t matter but at this stage, we’re not strictly talking about the web. We are looking for who is most likely to become your customer.
- Probable household dynamics
- Geographic location
- Likelihood of disabilities
Tech Savviness: Just because we’re not strictly looking at the web doesn't mean we don’t need to understand how they are comfortable engaging your company.
- Preferred device (desktop, tablet, phone)
- How comfortable they are likely to be with their technology
Influencers: Through research, we can get a rough idea of who your target customer listens to. Online or off these influencers play a key role in the decision-making process.
Variances: Maybe your target customer that includes mothers ages 35-50 really has two distinct subgroups within that persona. The device and/or time of day the user looks at your website may be different between working and stay-at-home mothers. Note the important variances you’re seeing with the data you’re collecting.
Industry Specific Markers: No one knows an industry, a company and it’s customers like the people who work with them every day. Define what’s meaningful to you!
Next is the fun part! Research!
No really! I love this part! You get to start laying out all of the puzzle pieces. Grab data from various sources to start seeing the bigger picture! Some of my go-to resources include:
- Google Analytics
- US Census Bureau
- US Department of Labor
- Cornell University Disability Statistics
- Real Estate Websites (for city and regional data)
- Media Entities (NY Times, Huffington Post, etc)
- Industry-specific organizations and publications
… and by now you should have started seeing patterns. From this basic information, chances are, you’re already starting to seeing who is likely to be a customer and who’s the exception. Do you think you have a feel for who your three or four personas are? Great! Pull them out! Now let’s get to know those personas better!
Fine Tuning & Presentation
At this point, I typically start to get creative. I start to pull my deck together and give my personas a name. I look at stock photography sites and try to find imagery that is in alignment with the Juan, Dick or Henriettas I have been getting to know. I lay out demographic information and supplement it with an about section that tells a little about that persona’s life such as hobbies or other interests.
Over the following slides, I map out that personas goals, pain-points, influencers and other data relevant to the business.
Overall - tell their story! You are their voice, so share what you feel is relevant! Customize the slides and the information. Remember, by now these should be as familiar to you as a character from a beloved book. You should know how they’re going to act and react. You’re able to see what they’re looking for and how they want to see it. And most importantly - you need to understand and communicate why they care about the business! Or maybe they don’t yet, so communicate why they should care about your or your client’s offerings.
In the End, They Are the Customer
Even at an accelerated rate, you’ve made an investment into building these personas so get to know them on a first name basis! You’re not likely to get out and speak to every customer there is so talk to your personas and know how they’d react. In the end, they’ll be the cornerstone for many of your strategic initiatives, like:
- Content Analysis - how do they take in the copy
- Competitive Analysis - if they’re choosing between two companies, why choose one over another
- Editorial Calendar - what will resonate with them?
This can be a genuinely enjoyable process but if you get stuck, reach out to our team, we’d love to introduce you to your updated personas.