A customer persona is an archetype of an individual fictional character, preferably based on research, not just intuition. They encourage businesses to relate to customers as human beings and create products and services from a customer-centric perspective.
Why are they important?
A customer personas can help in many ways:
- Narrowing down your target audience
- Realising that social identification and other environmental and contextual needs can be key motivators
- Understanding the entire buying journey process rather than just the purchasing stage, and their real needs at every stage.
- Attracting customers with messages and designs that are appropriate to them specifically
Customer personas allow you to understand your current and hoped-for customers on a deeper level. You can craft advertising copy, marketing messages, and your company blog to the beliefs and behaviours of your intended customer.
You may have many different types of personas using your products/services, but it’s better to start with just a handful of the most important customer segments in terms of size and/or spend.
How to Create Buyer Personas – Market Research
Customer personas should preferably be based on market research.
There are two types of research that are usually used to gain insights into customer personas: qualitative research and quantitative research.
Quantitative research data will offer statistical insights into your audience and can be carried out through surveys and interviews of your target audience. Qualitative research will include talking to customers, setting up focus groups, and even asking people to post videos talking about the product or service experience freely.
Start with qualitative research.
The goal is to encourage participants to open us as much as possible about their lives. Hearing them talk about the context and reasons they need to acquire the product/service, how they make up their minds what to buy, what puts them off during the purchasing process, what they find good and bad about the whole experience of buying the product, using it and getting support from the provider – it’s all hugely valuable to you as a business.
Do be aware that qualitative research is a complex process that can be easily done wrong. There is nothing easier for business owners than asking questions in certain ways that are sure to produce the answers they want to hear, rather than the truth.
So do use a professional researcher, or at least take some time to learn more about how to conduct qualitative research properly! Here’s a link to an interesting post.
Once qualitative research is complete, it’s time to test the conclusions you have come to from this research with a bigger data set by moving onto quantitative research and carrying out surveys. The questions crafted for the survey will be based on the insights discovered during the interview stage.
If you’d like to read more about how to write survey questions, we suggest reading this blog.
Here are a few other methods with examples of what you could do to build up quantitative and qualitative market research data:
- Perhaps the team responding to customer enquiries about holidays have picked up common things that potential customers like / don’t like. This information is relevant to customer personas.
- Analyse data from company newsletters. Do more people open and click through on emails related to a certain travel topic or offer?
- Conduct focus groups and hear the thoughts and opinions of a variety of people
How to Use Your Research to Create Your Persona
After you’ve finished the research, you’re left with plenty of data about current and potential customers. Now it’s time to analyse the research, find patterns from the interviews, and work on creating your first customer persona.
Below, we have used an example persona from a travel agency.
As you can see in the example above, we have given this persona the name, Ellen, as well as an image to help our team imagine this woman. We’ve added key characteristics and goals to show her aspirations. On the right-hand side, we have covered her behaviour around booking holidays. It’s important to be as detailed as possible when creating your fictional persona.
You also want to include real quotes from your interviews to show what your personas are concerned about. It’s wise to add in notes about objections and issues they could raise about your product as this can help the sales and marketing team construct the content and design of your website and other communications.
For the persona profile, this is the general model that we recommend following. By focussing on these four areas, you’ll be able to create a detailed persona.
|–Easy to get but not insightful–Where, how old, family status, job type, income etc.||–Hard to get but powerful–Aspirations, problems, fears, their expectations of the service|
|Behavioural||How they prefer to consume “story telling”|
|–Device usage– Shopping habits–When do they make decisions?–What makes them share?||–Long articles?–Short videos?–Audio?–Picture stories?–Do they use social media?–Do they participate in conversations?|
For our Travel Agency example, we are going to use a slightly modified table:
|1. Demographics||2. Needs – what are they looking for?|
|3. Travel habits – selecting a holiday||4. Why buy from a travel agent rather than book it themselves directly?|
|5. Technology habits||6. Social sharing habits|
In this section, we’ll be trying to discover the answers to these questions. The are important questions because it will help to tailor marketing to specific personas.
- Male / female
- Family status
Needs – what are they looking for?
How do these needs fit your customer persona? Is your persona an 18 year old male looking to take risks and go on an adventure holiday? Or is your persona a family group taking their annual trip and keen to go somewhere convenient with plenty of activities to do?
In this section you can include psychographic information from your qualitative research.
What keeps your persona up at night? What do they want to do? What are their aspirations?
|•Adventure•Risk•Safety•Socialising•Somewhere new or familiar?•Family activities•Convenience•Social responsibility
•Accomplishment / ego
•Appetite to explore
•Comfort / roughing it?
|•How many trips per year?•How long do they stay?•What makes them jump for joy?•What’s their biggest travel pain?•Sees themselves as experts or novices?•What specific type of holidays do they love / hate?|
Travel Habits – selecting a holiday
|How do they select a holiday?
||What are they looking for in an agent?
|•Smartphone/tablet user?•Avid / addicted / somewhat interested?•Computer only?•Do not own smartphone?•Uninterested in technology?|
Social Sharing Habits
Discovering how active your customers are on social media is essential for your marketing strategy.
- Mildly/wildly addicted to social media?
- Likely to comment on other’s post or post reviews etc themselves?
- Active / obsessed / not at all active on:
- Travel forums
- Do they email pictures to friends?
- How frequently post reviews?
- Reads blogs?
- Publishes a blog?
- Takes part in rating?
- What kind of info do they like to publish if they’re a proud traveler? Pictures, comments, videos, original writing blog etc?
We encourage you to experiment, research, and develop your own customer persona. Businesses that are using customer personas supported by market research have a significant edge over those who aren’t as it allows for improved decision-making. It will take time to complete, but the outcome will be that you have a super focussed audience that your whole team can target.