Mistakes People Make When Building a Persona

Many companies construct fictional personas to better understand their customers, who they are, what they want, what they need, and how they want it done. These personas are used within your marketing strategy to ensure the content and value you provide meets your customer’s expectations.  

Unfortunately, many companies don’t utilize personas properly and end up missing out on the full potential of the strategy.  

Most companies spend the majority of their time creating positive personas — the customers you want to attract. Not enough companies detail negative personas, or the customers you want to avoid, which can lead to your company spending valuable time and money marketing to people not interested in your product or service.  

Another common mistake with personas is only using them for marketing purposes. Personas can be utilized by your entire team, whether it be your customer service team, sales team, product or service development, management, etc.   

Don’t be scared to implement your buyer personas in any way possible and experiment to find ways of improving them. Keep in mind, you will have to update your personas from time to time. 

9 tips to using personas to deliver best-in-class digital customer experiences 

Design thinking is a great methodology for engaging your stakeholders and rapidly forging a path to launch a Minimal Viable Product (MVP).  But we’ve found that many leaders running the design thinking workshops haven’t given their teams the tools they need to design compelling customer journeys based on each persona.   

Why is it important to build digital customer journeys at the persona level? 

Because the product and service attributes of your offering will appeal differently to each persona.  Don’t make the mistake of using a one-size-fits-all approach to developing your digital experiences.  As you collect more data with your customers, you will be better able to meet them where and when they want to be met.  And you’ll be able to engage them with personalized messaging that will help them do the job they want to do in the first place. 

So here are 9 tips that we teach our consultants here at LCG, perhaps they can accelerate your next initiative for building effective digital personas: 

 

  1. Begin by mapping your customer segments 
  2. Understand the job that the customer intends to perform using your product or service 
  3. Use a template to build your personas (don’t reinvent the wheel) 
  4. Identify and fit the attributes to your marketplace 
  5. Use the collective knowledge of your internal teams and partners before paying for or conducting primary research 
  6. Leverage psychographic research from other industries 
  7. Use the personas to build customer journeys 
  8. Build segments from the customer data you can collect (OCEAN) 
  9. Test and Learn  

 

A note on B2B vs B2C vs government persona building.

1. Begin by mapping your customer segments and # no more than 3 personas to start 

While it’s easy to look internally at your product segments as the way to segment your market, look out beyond the organizing principles of your product catalog and seek to understand the various ways that you can segment your customer base.  Consider segmenting by psychographic profiling and behavioral profiling and see what needs you can address in your messaging and in the construct of the digital experience your team will design.   

Don’t be bashful to list out a good number of ways to segment, be creative and include anything that comes to mind in this stage because you’ll narrow these attributes down in the following step. 

There are lots of hidden gems you’ll be able to identify if you spend the time to list the identifiers and triggers that might initiate their search for your product or service.  We’ll address more on how to cluster these attributes in your personas in just a minute. 

So how many personas are too many?  Later, you will cluster the segments together and develop a bundle of attributes that your persona workshop will complete.  But for now, consider the number of customer journeys you will be building and that each customer journey needs to be built for each persona.  So 3 is a good starting point. 

2. Understand the job that the customer intends to perform using your product or service 

Think in terms of the outcome that your customer intends.  Sometimes, marketers call that the “job” that wishes to accomplish, product owners (as defined by the design thinking methodology) might similarly call it the “business outcome”.  However you think of the task, the more your team can understand the context and mind-space of the customer, the better they can build the customer journey. 

3. Use a template to build your personas (don’t reinvent the wheel) 

If you don’t already have a PowerPoint template, consider using our digital personas template downloadable below.  Here at LCG we’ve developed a template that can accommodate any number of attributes, but that has core elements common to any persona.  You’ll want to select a picture (we use stock.adobe.com), write a narrative, and then build attributes.   

When writing the narrative, consider the problem that leads to the trigger of the purchasing intent, the context of the persona, and finish the persona by lathering up the sales context.  In other words, (assuming you have a direct sales model) a salesperson who reads the final part of the persona should be salivating to talk to them as a qualified lead. 

Remember that you are building composite characters the way writers of a screenplay combine many character profiles.  Never use a customer’s real name, and be sure to build the persona using characteristics of the segment, and not of a single customer, no matter how tempting it may be to hold a single customer up to as the representative sample for the persona’s segment.   

4. Identify and fit the attributes to your marketplace 

Going back to all of the potential dimensions you could use, select those that might help marketers identify look-alike profiles.  Build attributes for any combination of geographics, demographics, household information, transportation graphics, technographics, firmographics (for B2B), psychographics and behavioral data.  Consider the personas background, identifiers, purchasing triggers, online profile characteristics, financial attributes, home characteristics, content and entertainment choices, and affinities, political and policy preferences, and occupational attributes.   

From there, document what the “job” is from the perception of the customer, the Goals, Challenges and make up some common quotes and common objections.   

Include a section for your unique value proposition, what you can do to help, your marketing messages and elevator pitch.  

This process works in B2B, and B2C.   

5. Use the collective knowledge of your internal teams and partners before paying for or conducting primary research 

Conduct a workshop of a small group of people who are deeply knowledgeable about the persona you wish to build.  Complete the template and fill in the bullets using the guidelines that if the bullet is not actionable by a marketer or salesperson, then it doesn’t belong.  Can a marketer use that attribute to infer an attribute, to target an ad, to identify a facebook interest, to enrich a database using 3rd party data brokers, or take another action to identify a user or personalize a message? 

Who should you include in the persona workshop? 

They may be customer service reps, sales reps, marketers, partners, and of course, selected customers.  But don’t feel obligated at this juncture to spend a lot of money or energy in hiring focus group facilitators or conducting primary research.  I’m sure I’ll get my fair share of “dissenting opinions” on this point, but out of the gate, you need to design your offering based on the value that your teams perceive as fulfilling the “job”.  Besides, most organizations have neither the time or money to spend in doing the research before going to market.  It’s better to launch and learn and bring in the research in parallel to the product development.   

Digital experiences are more easily manageable to adjust as you learn than outfitting a micro-electronics factory.  But if you’re placing big bets on which multi-million-dollar feature or ERP integration you should adopt, then you’ll want to slow down and conduct an appropriate level of market research prior to placing big bets. 

6. Leverage psychographic research from other industries 

There are so many psychographic profiles that can be useful across industries.  We find that when used, the ads and marketing dollars based on psychographic profiles outperform.   

Here are three for example that we often consider: 

Often used in political campaigning and public opinion polling:  

OCEAN – Openness, ConscientiousnessExtraversionAgreeablenessNeuroticism 

There are a lot of creative ways to begin building your database to use the OCEAN profiling, such as using quizzes and 3rd party data brokers. 

Financial Services 

Risk Averse, Risk Neutral, Risk Seeking 

Financial Services, Home Improvement Stores & Professional Services 

Delegator, Validator, Do it Yourselfer  

There are 5 generally accepted dimensions that marketers can use when building psychographic profiles: Personality, Lifestyle, Social Status, AIO (Activities, Interests, Opinions) and Attitudes.   

7. Use the personas to build customer journeys 

Conduct the design thinking workshop and be sure to build the customer journey by persona.  That means that each persona will have their own customer journey to accomplish the same task.  You will find a lot of value in repeating the journey for each persona as you go through the process. 

8. Build segments from the customer data you can collect (OCEAN) 

Once you’re collecting data, or using robust data sets, you can bring data science to the table and begin to build customer segments based on the data.  Take this opportunity to use look-alike modeling to profile your customer segment and identify potential customers.  This exercise can pay off handsomely if you start from a robust data set and have experienced data scientists helping you along the way. 

9. Test and Learn 

The only promise that you can give at the beginning of the journey is that the persona and the designs for the customer journeys will be “wrong”. While they are probably directionally correct, it’s the organizations that are committed to optimizing performance using data that will design the best customer experiences, and essentially earn the highest Net Promoter Scores and customer loyalty.   

What would you add to the list of tips on how best to use personas to build winning digital customer experiences? 

 

Download LCG's Persona Template

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