Customer Persona Fundamentals

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All brands and businesses have customers. Teams across all organisations use data about customers to create projects and make decisions. Sometimes this information is uncentralised or inferred. Let’s change that. A customer persona is an effective tool for organisations and teams to consolidate data, create alignment and better develop customer experiences. You can get started today with building a customer persona and getting the right people onboard.

What we’ll cover:

Uses for a customer persona

Brands and businesses from retail to banking use customer personas. Customer personas (or profiles) are a snapshot of a semi-fictional customer. This includes information such as demographics, goals and motivations, and usually a photo. Depending on the project, process phase or organisational team, additional information is included, such as preferred brands, media outlets, frustrations or a quote. We want to create a lifestyle around that customer, so whatever product or service we are offering speaks to and fits within their lifestyle.

Customer personas are used on multiple levels of an organisation. They are used to create products, services and customer experiences. Teams use customer personas to sell-in ideas, as well as develop those ideas. An overall organisation also uses these to priortise projects, improvements and offerings. And if your organisation finds it knows its customer only ‘kind of’, they help to develop a deeper understanding of their customer(s). Thus, customer personas are both tools and end products.

Customer persona vs other persona

Welcome to wwwland - we have lots of terms for similar thing. Buyer personas, marketing personas and consumer personas function alike. The names differ depending on the brand, team, project and the term’s origins. Furthermore, a brand or business might prefer one over the other for tone reasons. Consumer can sound more personable than buyer, for instance. User personas, however, can be different. For example, if your company buys a new project management software, your company (or the head of project management) is the customer and project managers are the user.

Customer persona research & process

Like most customer experience work, this is collaborative and time-consuming. Creating an effective customer persona is a cross-functional or cross-team effort. Everyone needs to agree that this is the customer we are targeting, and this is how we envision them. If a baseline alignment is missing, any work referencing the customer persona will be questioned. Now, many companies have a customer in mind, but don’t necessarily have a persona. At some point, like when the organisation gets too big or inconsistencies arise, it’s time to create customer persona(s).

Getting started with a customer persona requires data. This can be both internal and external, qualitative and quantitative. Brand and businesses might have all the data they need to build one or more customer personas, and others might require additional research. The latter includes customer interviews, surveys or focus groups. You might end up with a lot of data to work from, and a lot of data to condense.

In order to inform newbies to your (hopefully) cross-organisation persona creation, it’s helpful to have a longer presentation referencing research sources and key points. With this additional tool, you also have more confidence editing information out of the final customer persona, as this can be referenced by others if there are further questions.

Designing a customer persona

As mentioned earlier, a persona is a snapshot, which means it should be immediate, compelling and attention-grabbing. You will take all of that data mentioned above and make it into a one-pager. The two main parts to get right with a customer persona is the content and the graphic design. It might take a few rounds to get full alignment on both. If you work within a brand, having the customer persona look like a branded collateral will make it even more persuasive. Don’t underestimate the power of a graphic designer in customer persona development.

There are many templates online for customer personas, but don’t be afraid to get super creative. I know - I’ve been blah-blahing about making a one-pager. But if you feel like a short video could also be effective, then go for it. Ultimately the format, whatever you choose, should unite the brand with the customer’s personality and lifestyle.

Within customer journey mapping

A customer persona is like a character in a movie, and we are the director. In order to shape a more convincing and resonating storyline, we build a customer persona. This customer should feel like a real person who could walk into your office, with a distinct personality and needs. Now, your movie might include one or more characters. Building multiple, relevant personas is also normal. But don’t go overboard, as too many personas (over four or five) can get difficult to manage, and too broad.

The director-movie part of a customer experience is imagining a journey for these semi-fictional customers. Our ‘storyboard’ is a customer journey map. A customer journey maps visualises a journey for a specific customer persona. It includes the phases of their journey, touchpoints, painpoints and potential ideas. If you have multiple customer personas, there will be multiple journeys. Thus, customer personas are the basis for customer journey mapping done by teams such as design and marketing.

Let’s summarise

  • Customer personas (or profiles) are a snapshot of a semi-fictional customer
  • Buyer personas, marketing personas and consumer personas function alike
  • A customer journey maps visualises a journey for a specific customer persona
  • Getting started with a customer persona requires data
  • Don’t underestimate the power of a graphic designer in customer persona development