At its heart, business is about people. Interacting with people, showing them why your product or service is the best, and using that product or service to improve their lives. But when you think of your customers as a faceless group, it’s difficult to make decisions. That’s where user and customer personas come in.
These personas can help you stay focused, without getting overwhelmed by masses of data. There are two types of personas that come in handy for business:
- Customer personas
- User personas
A customer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer. If your customers can be divided into multiple types or groups, then you’ll have a customer persona for each type of customer. Customer personas are created based on some combination of raw data, educated guesses, personal experience, and testing. You can use them for everything from designing your website, to adjusting your copywriting, to informing your marketing strategy.
If you’ve been reading about online businesses, you’ve probably seen the term “user persona” being thrown around. A user persona represents the person who will be using your product and is often used to guide product creation and development. It’s especially common to see the term when talking about app development or the software-as-a-service (SaaS) industry.
Important note: users and customers are not necessarily the same thing
For example, a caretaker may purchase something for one of their patients to use. If you sell software, a manager may sign off on a purchase, even if they won’t be the one using it. Be clear about who is actually using your product and who spends money on it, and if those are the same person.
Having detailed, accurate personas for users and customers is one of the most important things you can do for your business. They can be used to guide everything about your business, from sales and marketing to product development.
Getting started can be difficult, though. With that in mind, we’ve created a list of questions to help you jumpstart the process. When answering them, keep in mind that you’ll have different answers for different personas. Also, some of these details are more important for B2B businesses than B2C (or vice versa).
- How old are they?
- What gender do they identify as?
- Where do they live? Is it rural, suburban, urban?
- What’s their educational level, and what subjects did they study?
- Do they own their homes or rent apartments?
- Where do they work?
- Do they travel to an office or telecommute?
- What’s their relationship status?
- What language/s do they speak?
- Do they have kids or any other dependents?
- Do they have pets?
- What’s their salary/total household income?
- Do they own their own business or work for someone else?
- What industry are they in?
- What’s their title?
- How did they wind up in this role/industry? What’s the career path that led them there?
- How big is the company (employees and revenue)?
- What does a typical day at work look like?
- What does a productive day at work look like?
- What skills, knowledge, tools, and experience does their job require?
- Which of those required tools do they love to use? Which ones frustrate them?
- What are their biggest work challenges? How are they currently handling them? How would they ideally be handling them?
- What does “busy work” look like for them?
- How do they define job “success”?
- What metrics are they responsible for?
- What do they ultimately want out of their career?
Personal attitudes, goals, values, fears, and challenges
- What are their biggest challenges outside of work (home, family, health, etc)?
- What stresses them out on a daily basis?
- How is daily life affected by these challenges and stressors?
- What’s their deepest fear?
- What are their life goals?
- What causes are they passionate about?
- What motivates them to take action? Fear, growth, power, achievement?
- How do they go about making changes in their lives?
- What prevents them from achieving their goals?
- How do they define “fun”?
- What are their hobbies and interests outside of work?
- Who in their life matters most?
- How do they spend the weekends?
- Where do they get their news?
- Where do they turn for advice or information?
- What are their favorite websites?
- What blogs or publications do they read?
- How do they prefer to consume this information (online newspapers/television/podcasts)?
- What social media platforms do they use (and how actively)?
- How tech-savvy are they?
- How do they prefer to communicate (phone/email/text)?
- What kind of cars do they drive?
- What associations, forums, or social networks do they participate in?
- Where do they spend their money? Do they tend to shop in person or online? What stores do they frequent?
- What are their common hesitations, doubts, or objections?
- How do they research what to buy? Google, review sites, word of mouth, thought leaders?
- What keywords do they use to search for answers?
- How long does their evaluation process take?
- What criteria do they consider? Price, features, appearance, ease of use, etc.?
- What emotional buttons trigger their purchases?
- Do they prefer to purchase online, over the phone, or in person?
- How do they want to feel when they’re using it?
- What are their favorite and most often used brands?
- Why do they choose these brands over others?
Product- or service-specific characteristics
These questions relate to your persona’s relationship with your business.
- What are their reasons for buying your product or hiring your service?
- Is this their first time purchasing from your business?
- How can your business, specifically, help them overcome their challenges?
- How does your solution fit their life?
- What do they ultimately achieve by using your product or service?
What are their most noteworthy personality traits? Name 3-5. For example:
- Influencer or follower?
- A self-starter or someone who needs external motivation?
- Outgoing or reserved?
- Methodical or disorganized?
You don’t have to answer all of these questions. You might even come up with others we haven’t listed here, depending on your product or service. Just remember that the strongest persona is one you can empathize with…which means the more of these questions you can answer, the better.