Persona is a profile of a typical brand audience that helps to conduct more effective marketing and sales activities. A company may use one or more, but each of them must exist on purpose – but more on that later. There is no shortage of guides on how to create personas. I would even risk saying that the internet is saturated with them. So why does the world need another article about creating personas of potential customers? For example, to draw attention to many issues that have not been discussed so far or have only been roughly touched on – which means that when creating personas based on information found on the web, it is very easy to stumble over mistakes that are relatively easy to eliminate.
For what? How personas affect marketing, sales and understanding of the target group
If you’re reading this, chances are you already know that it’s worth taking the time to create a persona. However, let me briefly recall some of the advantages of this tool.
Well-designed personas help in:
- changing the perspective from “we, the company” to the customer’s perspective, transition to the customer centric model,
- better understanding of the target group and what customers consider when choosing a supplier,
- better segmentation of recipients,
- choosing the right direction of development,
- obtaining more consistent and adequate communication,
- conducting more conscious marketing activities,
- learning where to allocate resources,
- planning what content to create.
Who should participate in creating personas?
A common mistake is to invite anyone who finds a free moment to create a persona, according to the principle “because maybe they will tell us something”. Unfortunately, the more people attending a meeting, the greater the chance of diverging views and goals. On the one hand, it’s worth getting to know different perspectives, on the other – be careful not to lose sight of the big picture. The Golden mean? Involve representatives of various departments (more about which ones specifically) instead of all their members in creating personas.
The talks should be attended by:
Someone who will decide which way to go in the event of an impasse. Otherwise, you can endlessly be consumed by disputes over the smallest details. Needless to say, the decision-maker should know the company well and be associated with it for longer. This may be, for example, the CEO, a board member.
Someone working closely with the clients
It is impossible to describe the representatives of the target group in a meaningful way without contacting the said group. When creating personas, be sure to listen to what Customer Success Managers and customer service representatives have to say.
An important note here: it is not worth engaging low-level salespeople to create personas. It is best to invite a department manager – someone who is rich in knowledge about customers, provided to him on a daily basis by the team, and who can look at the issue from the business side.
Last but not least: you also need someone on your side who has already checked what works and what doesn’t work from the marketing side, and also knows this and that about communication. As with sales: don’t invite the entire department, the manager is enough.
Finally, one more important note: your dream team to create personas should not exceed 5-8 people.
Persona creation workshops – are they worth it?
It is good to know that there is also an alternative to independently working out a persona inside the company – workshops with an external company. How are such workshops carried out?
In the case of Casbeg, we start by sending the participants a list of questions that will be asked at the meeting, incl. about what the business talks in their company look like and with whom they have conducted the last hundred of them. Thanks to this, the workshop participants are better prepared for them, woringk on the persona is more efficient and we gain more time to discuss possible problematic issues.
And what do the workshops themselves look like? From the section above, you already know who you should invite. On our side, you can expect one or two people – an experienced moderator always takes part in the workshop, sometimes they are also accompanied by a person taking notes. What are the advantages of such a solution?
Firstly, the external moderator will ensure the team focuses on the aim and business context. He / She will also guard the group’s tendency of wishful thinking. Thanks to the properly run external moderation, the participants will use facts more often than opinions.
Sometimes the relations in the company prevent some employees from having a say – a good moderator will make sure that everyone is heard. It will also prevent situations such as “the CEO is always right” – as an outsider, they will strive for specific effects of the meeting, without taking the side of any of the participants.
The moderator will also catch errors and inaccuracies. An example from the life of Casbeg: in one of the companies we supported in creating a persona, we were told that their company’s model client is a real evangelist willing to share knowledge at conferences and in trade magazines. And it would not be surprising, if not for the fact that earlier, when we discussed their character traits, the participants, without stuttering, gave… introversion. An experienced moderator can spot such contradictions.
Another argument for involving an external company to conduct the workshop is that it will share its business experience with you. At Casbeg, we work with various industries on a daily basis. We have extensive experience in B2B, e-commerce and technology companies. We understand these markets, we know the competition, we know what works and what doesn’t. And we share this knowledge during workshops.
The last argument: you will put less effort into creating your persona if you do it yourself. We all know how it is: there is always something to be done at work. The meeting is chasing the meeting, Slack is blinking orange, and unread emails are piled up in the mailbox. Just gathering all the employees involved in creating personas can be a challenge. It is also good that they come to the meeting prepared and not strive to end it as soon as possible and get back to their business (Have you ever tried to convince a salesperson to spend time with you creating personas, when at that time they could make a deal with a potential client? It’s not that simple.).
When it comes to workshops with a consulting company, the situation is a bit different. First of all, your shoulders will be free from the need to prepare the workshops in terms of content (what to ask about) and technicalities (in which program you will create personas, what templates to use). Secondly, the appointment of specific hours of the meeting and the awareness that you are paying for this time can significantly change the level of commitment – and this, in turn, will translate directly into the results you will get.
Creating personas. What should be included in the persona’s description?
The web is teeming with various persona templates. Below you will find a short list of the most important information that must not be missing:
- basic information (name, age, gender),
- personal data (company, position, industry),
- personality (Are they an introvert or an extrovert? Do they analyze or go with their gut? And so on),
- character traits (for example: hard-working, pragmatic, talkative, etc.),
- contact points with the company,
- preferred channels and services,
- where are they looking for solutions,
- which prompts them to choose,
- who advises them.
At Casbeg, we add to this list a bio – short summary, which is enough to have a glance to immediately understand the most important issues related to a given persona. It facilitates daily work based on the persona and the onboarding of new employees.
Tools for creating personas
On the Internet you will find many ready-made templates and tools for creating personas. The ones you choose should present the persona in an aesthetic, eye-catching way. Contrary to appearances, this is not only a whim, but a business-related requirement – in order for it to make sense, the created persona must be used later. By presenting the effects of your work in an unattractive way, you risk that they will end up in a drawer. On the other hand, you will be happy to put the aesthetically presented persona in view, where it will be a reminder all the time. It may be a trifle, but how important it is!
Creating personas. The most common mistakes.
It’s one thing to create a persona. Doing it right is something else. Of course, according to the good old principle of garbage in garbage out, an incorrectly created persona is unlikely to bring you tangible benefits. Therefore, we have prepared for you a list of the most common mistakes that companies make when creating personas – you can find it below.
Creating more personas than you can take on
It’s easy to get overly excited about a new tool and start using it without any inhibitions. It is also not a good approach in the case of personas – here the growth should be gradual, and each subsequent persona should be justified.
For starters, create one persona that will represent 80% of your current customers, or a customer responsible for 80% of your income. Plan marketing and sales activities with its participation, check its effectiveness. Only when you are sure it works, start thinking about creating more, if of course you need even more precision when segmenting your clients.
There was a bit about it in the previous parts of the article, but just to remind you – personas are not a place for wishful thinking. Many CEOs mistakenly assume that a persona is the epitome of an ideal customer; the one they would like to have. Meanwhile, it is about a customer that you already have and who brings you profit. We work based on facts, not dreams.
Not talking to salespeople
Creating personas cannot be “another marketing game.” If you want to develop an effective tool, you need to get to know the perspective of more than one department. If this tool is to define your customers, it would be foolish not to invite those who have the most to do with your customers to create it. Salespeople, customer service employees, installers or project managers operating on the first line of contact with the client are inseparable elements of the workshop in this subject.
Reading tea leaves
It is not a good idea to act on predictions like “I think …”. Work on data. Search Google Analytics and CRM for the information you need.
Not humanizing all the way
Creating a character from scratch, like in a computer game, giving it a name, character traits, assigning a position – all this makes some people treat personas as a not too serious tool and defend themselves against humanizing them too much, for example by not assigning their persona a name.
Meanwhile, the point is not to focus on details, but to make the created persona resemble a living person. This makes it easier to plan activities for it later. The perfect situation? When the description of the persona brings to mind the association with a specific customer: “He’s a typical John Doe from Exemplary Company!”. Then you know you’ve nailed it.
Creating caricatured personas
This, in turn, is the other side of the coin described above. It happens that the people who create the persona approach the topic too creatively and describe someone who does not exist – they exaggerate their character traits, fall into stereotypes, even mock their persona. This is the wrong way. First, it’s hard to plan activities for someone who doesn’t really exist. Second, it’s not worth making fun of your customers – even if they never find out about it. If you want to keep them with you, you have to do a good job for them – and no one works well for someone they despise.
Focusing solely on character while avoiding business issues
Of course, recording the character of the persona is important – it will be useful, for example, for designing communication with customers. Even more important, however, is its business background:
- How do they make decisions?
- Who advises them?
- What are they afraid of in the professional context?
- What challenges are they facing?
- What are the contact points between them and your company?
These are just some of the questions that you and your team need to answer.
Lack of plans for how to reach the persona
This is, in a way, an extension of the previous point. Let’s not forget that personas are to support the achievement of business goals. Not only do you want to understand who your client is, but also plan how to effectively reach them. Do not create a persona for the sake of creation – their creation must entail specific actions.
Hiding personas in your drawers
Persona must live – period. Its creation is just the beginning. The next step is to plan activities with their participation and verify that the character we have created actually corresponds to the client’s image. Meanwhile, in many companies, the descriptions of personas are forgotten in desk drawers. Not recommended… Even the best unused tool will not work.
We have a persona! What next?
In the design thinking process, creating personas is only the first phase – empathizing. Then comes the time to define problems, generate ideas, prototype solutions and test them.
Following this lead, once you have your persona ready, you can move on to:
- mapping the customer path, i.e. Customer Journey Map,
- selecting the framework of the problems you plan to solve,
- Value Proposition Canvas studies,
- creating a Business Model Canvas.
Regardless of which path you choose, I encourage you to do one more, extremely important thing – verify the created personas.
How to verify a persona?
You will not know the answers to some questions at the stage of creating the persona – then there is nothing else than to make an assumption that seems right and then verify it in practice. That is why it is so important to regularly return to personas and update their descriptions with the acquired knowledge. Example? Sometimes we conduct business talks with someone who perfectly embodies our persona. When such a person suddenly behaves differently than expected, it is also worth correcting the description of the persona.
Persona is a great tool, but just like any tool, it won’t work if:
- it will be used incorrectly,
- or it won’t be used at all, it will just collect dust somewhere on the bottom of the drawer.
I hope our experience will help you make the most of a persona. If you have any questions, feel free to use the “Contact” tab, and if you are hungry for another portion of marketing knowledge – subscribe to our newsletter.