Understanding your customers’ attitudes, opinions and behaviours can be tricky and it may often be tempting to group them together under obvious market demographics such as age, gender or education. Don’t – there’s a better way! We at The Lane Agency aim, where possible to spend time with our clients and where possible, their customers, building user personas; and if we can get our heads around it, you can too.
So, what is a Persona?
In layman’s terms: a cluster of customers who show the same behavioural patterns. See? Simple! Whether it be similar purchasing decisions, use of technology or products, customer service preferences or just lifestyle choices, each trend can be defined as a persona. And all of these are separate from ‘standard’ customer demographics.
How do we identify these personas then?
Research, research, research – specifically, one-on-one interviews that target a wide range of people. Let’s say you have one brand or product and you want to gauge attitudes towards it: conduct interviews from a wide targeted audience across different demographics – and make sure your subjects are relaxed so best to do these at their home, place of work or take advantage of a break from the office and pop down to their favourite coffee shop. Engage in a broader conversation and gradually get down to the nitty gritty, slipping in questions about the use of that specific product or service.
Then, we analyse the data you gather. Identify the extremes and the similarities to establish patterns of behaviour for each persona type. Gradually, we reveal trends and as a result you will gain insight into users’ behaviours, motivations and attitudes. We’ll probably identify more than 1 persona type for each product, this is normal and will help you define distinct messaging for each persona.
Once you have identified your user personas, we aim to conduct another round of interviews, recruiting people from within these persona types to validate the initial research you’ve done and fill in any gaps.
What’s it worth?
Making sense of all this data might seem overwhelming but the benefits are great –by putting a fictional face to the abstract information you will be able to present it, and more importantly stakeholders will be able to absorb it, in an approachable and palatable way. Once every person involved in the marketing and design teams fully understands the attitudes, motivations and goals of your customers, you will create a better brand or product, and be more effective in reaching your audience.
So, personas allow your team to gain a shared understanding of the real users. And don’t forget to give them a name too, and a photograph if possible. This understanding leads to the development of great products/services and messaging based on understanding your customer’s motivations. If you’ve got a marketing team, stick the pen pictures all around the room for an at-a-glance reminder of who you’re targeting, and the same for your agency too.
Shoe-string or a bit more budget?
When creating personas there is no short cut – they are an investment – and a worthwhile one. If you conduct persona development as a standalone project you will gain a deeper understanding of why customers do what they do and what they expect from your company or product. This, in turn, will allow you to address problems that arise and come up with better solutions so that you ultimately create a great customer experience from start to finish.
So, the long and short of it – spend time and some budget on this process. Personas done on the cheap, that are purely based on demographic data and do not relate to one another lack substance and specificity. Avoid redesigns or increased customer support as good understanding of customer personas make the difference between getting it right the first time and going back to the drawing board.
Each department, then, should be able to use your personas: from design and product development to marketing and sales to customer support – get everyone involved! This is how you optimise your investment in personas. Reserving such valuable customer information for just one department is a waste, so make sure everyone in the office is on board with the project.
Anything else? Oh – update your personas frequently. Be aware that the market is always changing and you must change your customer personas with it. Innovation and competition could significantly change user behavioural patterns so keep talking to your customers! Think of your personas as living, breathing documents and look after them.
You should know your customer personas like you know your best friends – loved for their idiosyncrasies.