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Personas’ Value in Use: “Personas + x”

Hello,

with this post, I want to draw your attention to one important thing:

personas, without ‘x’, are useless.

What does ‘x’ mean? The ‘x’ is the thing or activity you couple personas with.

If you just create personas, but don’t use them with a scenario, goal, or mission, they are useless. You have then achieved so-called desk-drawer personas; nice to look at, but utterly useless to the company you’re working with.

Therefore, the recipe to success with personas is:

personas + x,

where x =

{scenarios
jobs to be done (JTBD)
user/customer stories
workshops}

The above things in curly brackets are UX techniques that help deepen user/customer understanding. Through enhanced user/customer understanding, personas become valuable.

But it’s not enough.

You can understand personas having value only in use; that is, when they are being used towards achieving a goal.

Defined like this, the formula is

personas + x,

where x =

{grow sales
improve ad click-through rates
collect cheaper leads
collect more leads}

For these objectives, you create first user segments, then enrich them to persona profiles, then create campaigns and programs, and finally you measure the performance-per-persona to see how well each segment works.

Customer understanding is part of the path towards achieving business objectives. Personas are an instrument for enhanced customer understanding. Therefore, they only have value when put into action, not when they hang on the wall as posters.

Some Value Use Cases for Personas

  1. Support sales. Validate sales people’s conceptualization of buyer segments. Produce additional information for sales (pain points, objections). Make tacit sales knowledge in the organization concrete. Bottom line => what do we know about our buyers and is this information current?
  2. Analyze buyer segments. Compare customer segments (personas) in different countries, industries, and job titles. Bottom line => how are the buyers different?
  3. Create content strategy for digital channels. Bottom line => what are the channels our buyers frequent and what kind of questions / information needs they have?
  4. Manage advertising. Create different messages for different buyer segments, test messages / campaigns per buyer persona (CPC/CPL). Bottom line => how should we address different buyers? What is the advertising ROI of different segments?

Bottom line

Personas don’t have any value per se. The value of personas is only in their use.

See personas in action for a user targeting task!

Salminen, J., Jung, S.G., Chowdhury, S. Şengün, S., and Jansen, B. J.  (2020) Personas and Analytics: A Comparative User Study of Efficiency and Effectiveness for a User Identification Task. ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI’20), Honolulu, HI, USA. 25–30 April, 1-13.

By Joni Salminen

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

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