Common Questions About Personas (We’ve Got the Answers!)

Hi!

In this blog post, we’ve gathered some commonly asked questions about personas. Got more questions about personas? Just send us a message and we’ll address your question!

Frequently Asked Persona Questions:

***

What is a persona?
A persona is an imaginary person that represents a segment of users, audience members, or customers. A persona is typically presented in a persona profile that presents characteristics of the persona such as a photo, name, and other attributes.

There are many domains that can employ a persona, including system design, marketing, content creation, and advertising. There are many notable benefits for an organization that uses personas.

***
What is a “persona profile”?

A persona profile is the end product of the persona creation process. A common layout of a persona profile that is usually 1 page containing a textual description and typically one photo. The textual description will include, along with humanizing elements such as name, demographic information (e.g., education, job, age, etc.) and behavioral information (e.g., interests, goals, purchases, etc.).

***
What is a data-driven persona?

A data-driven persona is derived from verifiable facts about the represented segment of the target population in sufficient amount for quantitative analysis.

An ideal persona is a proxy for a person. The person is the targeted user group, audience, or customer segment. An ideal persona is both describes a segment and predicts the segment behavior.

Data-driven personas come the closest to the ideal persona.

***
How to create a persona?
Creating a persona involves five steps, which are:

  • Step 1 Identify: Categorize the population of customers, users, or audience members
  • Step 2 Collect: Gather data about the Identified populations specifically concerning behaviors (or goals, pain points, etc.) and demographics.
  • Step 3 Segment: Group the population into unique segments based on unique behaviors, goals, pain points, etc.
  • Step 4 Generate: Produce identifiable complete segments with combined behavioral and demographic data
  • Step 5 Enrich: Augment each complete segment with individual characteristics, such as photo, name, etc. to create a complete persona profile for each segment. The set of persona profiles that represents the population is the end product of the process.

***
How to use a persona?

Here are some of the many ways to use a persona:

  • Brand Discovery: Uncover how your core customers feel about your product or service and how they rationalize the purchase decision.
  • Channel and Offering Alignment: Align every piece of offerings and marketing activity to a persona and purchase stage, identifying new channels and needs where opportunities exist.
  • Communication: Personas are also great for communication among team members and across departments. Personas are GREAT for meetings! They keep folks focused on the BIG picture.
  • Content Creators: Content creators can leverage personas for the delivery of content that will be most relevant and useful to their audience. When planning for content, we might ask “Would Bridget understand this?” or “Would Bridget be attracted by this?”
  • Executives: can keep personas in mind while making strategic decisions. In fact, a persona can become a “silent member in the boardroom”.
  • Experimentation and Optimization: Carry out well-thought experiments to produce statistically significant business insights and apply the results to optimize performance.
  • Journey Mapping: Plot the stages and paths of the persona lifecycle, documenting each persona’s unique state of mind, needs, and concerns at each stage
  • Marketing: When you understand where your core customers spend their time online, you are able to focus your marketing spend on these channels.
  • Persona Discovery: Document the individuals involved in the purchase process in a way that allows decision makers to empathize with them in a consistent way.
  • Product Managers: can use the information to design a product that meets the needs or desires of core customers, and marketing can use personas to craft messages that resonate.
  • Product Offerings: Personas can be extremely helpful in product development. With the help of personas, you can more easily build the features that suit your customers’ needs. Forrester Research reports a 20% productivity improvement with teams that use personas.
  • Reporting and Feedback: Report and review data and insights to drive strategic decisions, as well as provide information to the organization as a whole.
  • Sales: Targeted offerings can help you convert more potential customers to subscribers, followers, and customers. You can also use persona description to tailor lead generation which is likely to improve your lead quality and satisfaction.

***
How can I use a persona for UX design?
Using personas for UX design means considering the needs of the users that the persona represents to design products (e.g., websites) such that their user experience for those users is optimized. For example, a persona can be someone who is technically sophisticated, elderly or has disabilities, which means that the design needs to consider accessibility from the persona’s point of view.

***
How can I use a persona for marketing?
When it comes to marketing, personas are most often used in targeting, i.e., selecting people who are to receive the company’s marketing messages. However, personas can also be used for copywriting – ideally, personas result in more personal ad copy texts that are better resonating with the target audience that the persona represents. Finally, personas can be used for market research, so that you segment the overall market (or customer base) not as nameless, faceless target groups but as personas with names and individualized attributes. This can improve the customer-centric decision making of your company.

***
How can I use a persona for online analytics?
Personas provide alternative to numbers. Therefore, you can use personas to present your online analytics data as people instead of nameless, faceless target groups. This can help decision makers to “get into the shoes” of customers, offering a more immersive understanding of the customers than the “cold”, raw numbers.

***
How can I use a persona for advertising?
Advertising is often considered to have four main functions: (a) targeting, i.e., selecting whom the marketing messages are sent to, (b) message creation, i.e., copywriting, which referes to creating ads and other marketing communications that are customized for the selected target group(s), (c) channel selection, i.e., deciding which mediums to use in order to reach the target group(s), and (d) reporting, i.e., analyzing the results of an advertising campaign.

When it comes to advertising, personas can help in all of the above advertising functions. For example, you can use personas in targeting, to select the customers who receive your company’s marketing messages. Moreover, personas can also be used for message creation – ideally, personas result in more personal ad copy texts that are resonating well with the target audience that the persona represents. Similarly, by knowing in which channels the persona most spends his or her time, you can choose the appropriate channels for advertising strategy. Finally, you can report the results by persona, e.g., “Mary was the most recipient to our new campaign on Dinner in the Dark products, while David most enjoyed the Flight experience campaign”.

***
How are personas and market segments different?
Personas and market segments are higly similar in the sense that they both are based on real data about the customers. However, the main difference is that personas individualize that data in a representation that has a name, face, and human attributes. In conclusion:

  • Personas = humanlike representations of customer groups
  • Market segments = nameless, faceless descriptions of customer groups

***
How can I use a persona for customer segmentation?
Personas are humanlike descriptions of customer segments. Just like customer segments, you can use the persona technique to divide your overall market into smaller subset that you can then examine individually.

In practice, the best way of using personas for customer segmentation is to apply a technique of data-driven persona creation, such as automatic persona generation. Using this approach, you can create an arbitrary number of personas from your source data; e.g., 5, 10, 50, or 100 personas.

If you are interested in learning more, just contact the persona team!

Thanks for reading.

Author: Joni Salminen

Dr. Joni Salminen works as a postdoctoral researcher at Qatar Computing Research Institute and Turku School of Economics. His current research interests are heavily focused on personas, including automatic persona generation from social media data (YouTube, Facebook, Google Analytics), persona perceptions, biases in data-driven personas, optimal number of personas, etc.