While personas are a tool that have been used by businesses for many years, their popularity has increased of late as organisations are facing growing demands for more personalised and tailored services.
With customers expecting brands to have much greater understanding of their preferences, wants and needs, personas are increasingly being embraced as a way to see the world through the customer’s eyes.
Customer journey mapping is a case in point – by applying the insights gleaned from developing customer personas, organisations are able to understand how and why consumers interact with the company in the way they do, which in turn should enable brands to make refinements in their operations to improve the customer’s path to purchase and beyond.
“Personas of all kinds (user, customer, buyer, partner, etc.) are critical inputs to any customer-focused exercise, including customer journey mapping,” says Michael Hinshaw, CX strategist and president of MCorpCX. “Because they’re based on customer research, they help to enable the outside-in vs inside out view of what it’s like to do business with a company. Ideally, they’re also linked back to segmentation models built on value, behavioural and psychographic data.
“Most importantly, personas are actionable in ways that traditional segmentation-only models aren’t: because persona help organisations better understand who their customers are, they can design more relevant and more personalised services, experiences and products. They can better target sales and marketing messaging. Bottom line, personas help companies design solutions that solve customer problems vs solutions that solve the businesses problems.”
This of course means that buyer personas represent an important precursor to the customer journey mapping process.
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“They help to focus and define the scope of a customer journey mapping project and consequently assist to ensure a business maps the journey in the relevant customer mindset and emotional state,” notes Vicky Smith, executive advisor, customer experience design, at KPMG Nunwood. “They also work to enable a business to tailor experiences to key customer types or groups and leverage opportunities to better meet and exceed the needs of their customers. This consequently drives loyalty and advocacy across their customer base.”
With that in mind, take a look at some real buyer persona examples, and what we can learn from them to apply to our own persona building efforts.
Base personas on key customer groups
“When planning and scoping out a project, a business should have identified the key customer groups or segments that are relevant to their customer journey,” recommends Smith.
“Firstly, you should collate all of the most up-to-date insight into these customer groups or segments. Your local insight or customer experience team can point you in the direction. A business should then create at least one customer persona for each customer group or segment. This persona should reflect a ‘typical’ person from that customer group or segment. For example, if segment one is predominantly comprised of ‘professional males in their 40s,’ the persona should reflect this.”
The example below, from The UX Design Guy, for example, profiles a customer that is a daily user of the service.
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Bring the personas to life
Pull-out quotes and photos will make the persona more visual, but importantly will also bring the persona to life. Simon Spyer, cofounder and insight partner at Conduit Data Services, explains: “Make your personas real. Everyone in your organisation that will be working with the personas needs to relate to them so they need to feel like real people and be grounded in fact. It’s important that they are stereotypes that feel real so give them a name, add comments captured through research and photos of what they look like.”
This persona, designed by Stan & Stacy, is a good example of how to make a persona feel like a real person, rather than just a bunch of data.
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Round out the persona with detail
Personas should contain enough information in them to round out the person beyond merely their buyer journey and interactions with the company.
Jeannie Walters, CEO of 360Connext, explains: “I appreciate when personas have enough information to help round out the person. Many personas focus on the title and spending power of a specific segment. Well-crafted personas offer insights into who someone is and why they might believe certain things. Personas should offer insights into what communities the customer identifies with, what priorities are most important to them, and why they leave a customer journey. Too often, personas are focused solely on the buying journey. “
The following persona from UX designer James Donovan is a great example of fleshing out details and characteristics of a person so that you have a holistic understanding of a person and their behaviour.
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Ensure the personas are well-designed
The final design needs to look professional, as in all likelihood it will be viewed by senior members of the organisation. They also need to be created in accordance with basic information design principles, ensuring that they can be scanned quickly to learn the basics, or delved into for more comprehensive detail.
This persona from Brightspark Social Media demonstrates how impactful a clear and visual layout can be, enabling the reader to quickly absorb the information.
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About Neil Davey
Neil Davey is the managing editor of MyCustomer. An experienced business journalist and editor, Neil has worked on a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites over the past 15 years, including Internet Works, CXO magazine and Business Management. He joined Sift Media in 2007.