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Marketing

What Are User Personas and Why Do You Need Them?

Andrew Adams

Do you know your ideal customer and the characteristics that make them hire your business? User personas — aka buyer or marketing personas — help you pinpoint how to communicate with your target audience more effectively. The goal of a user persona is to help you market your services with customers' pain points in mind. 

The term "user persona" is widespread in the marketing world but may not be commonplace for small business owners like yourself. It refers to a hypothetical user or buyer of your services. Developing one for your brand allows you to create services around a specific user. This article will explain why a user persona is important and how you can apply it to your small business.
 

What Is a User Persona?

In a nutshell, a persona is a fictional character that represents the different usage types of a product, service, site, and brand. Developing a user persona requires some research efforts on your end to ensure it's accurately based on your ideal customer. By personifying this information, you can better understand your users' wants and needs, as well as their experiences, behaviors, and goals. 

Creating a buyer persona is the best way to step out of your head as a business owner. It lets you recognize what the different people that stumble upon your services might think of them. By walking in your ideal customer's shoes, you can better understand their expectations and act accordingly.

User personas are an excellent tool to:

  • Simplify the creation of a new service
  • Achieve your marketing goals
  • Create a top-notch user experience

Creating a marketing persona is all about humanizing the data from your user research. It's important to note that personas do not describe real people, but the information you've collected on a group of individuals — those you're looking to appeal to. When done right, constructing personas should help you ask yourself the right questions to align your offering to your customer's needs or wants. 

A persona is often presented in a short document — typically, one to two pages. Your user persona file should include your ideal customer's skills, behavior patterns, background information, and any data that may reveal how your clientele operates. It's always a good idea to follow a user persona template to ensure you're not missing any details. 

The Importance of User Personas

As mentioned above, a user persona will give you a thorough understanding of your audience. This information is essential when creating outstanding services that will beat your competitors. Not only do personas allow you to design your offerings with a specific target in mind, but they also give you information to help market your services. This will ultimately translate into new customers, more sales, and higher revenue. 

By developing a marketing persona, you can expect the following outcomes:

  • Gain a perspective that's similar to the users
  • Identify who you're working for
  • Make better marketing decisions for your specific services
  • Prioritize special customer requests
  • Streamline the brainstorming process when developing a new service
  • Prevent common pitfalls once the service has been launched
  • Avoid self-referential service development
  • Prevent your brand from becoming generic

A buyer persona can also help you communicate research findings better to your business partners and employees. This is particularly useful when working with multiple teams to ensure everyone's on the same page. 

The Main Characteristics of a User Persona

Creating a useful marketing persona is not only about gathering random user attributes. You also need to develop an accurate buyer profile that will help you achieve your business goals. Here is a list of our suggested "do's" and "don'ts": 

Do

  • Tie your description to real observed and researched data
  • Reflect real user patterns
  • Focus on how users currently interact with your brand
  • Focus on user behavior and goals related to your services

Don't

  • Make a fictional guess
  • Reflect user roles
  • Focus on how they will interact with your services in the future
  • Forget the context

To ensure your user persona adds the most value to your brand, you could focus on one of the following perspectives:

User Persona Perspectives 

1. The Goal-Directed Persona

This perspective focuses on what your typical user wants to do with your services. The ultimate purpose of using a goal-directed persona is to assess the steps your customer would take to achieve their objectives when interacting with your offering. Regardless of how much research you've done to recognize your businesses’ added value, you can always benefit from examining your user's goals.  

2. The Role-Based Persona

While this point of view is also goal-directed, it gives more importance to user behavior. It incorporates data from qualitative and quantitative sources to identify the user's role in their everyday life. This information can help you determine how your services help them perform their day-to-day duties and how it impacts the end result. The role-based perspective helps you answer the following questions:

  • Where will your services be used?
  • What's the ultimate purpose of your user's role?
  • Who's impacted by it?

3. The Engaging Persona

This last perspective can incorporate the two described above with the more traditional rounded persona. Your organization can use this approach to determine how to engage your ideal customer. It provides a tridimensional understanding of your target audience's character and stories for a more vivid personification. Mixing all persona-related perspectives lets you examine user emotion, psychology, and background at a much deeper level. 

Considerations When Creating a User Persona

Even though they're paying for the same services, your customers may have different uses for them. Keep in mind that not all customers have the same needs or are drawn to the same things. A user persona helps you identify all possible scenarios. At surface level, it will paint a clearer picture by answering the following questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What's your main goal?
  • What's your main obstacle to achieving this goal?

Determining your target customer will help you sum up what their perspective is when choosing and using your services. Answering this question will give you valuable insights you might be overlooking. 

Next, defining how your offering fits into your user's life will let you better understand why they're buying from you. Identifying their goals or the problems they're trying to solve with your services is vital to your persona-related research. 

Lastly, you need to learn what's stopping potential customers from purchasing your services and taking advantage of them. This way, you can provide them with more information on how they can use your services to achieve their goals. 

A user persona will help you grow and improve your business. That's why you must be very careful to craft yours right. Some tips you should take into account before getting started are:

1. Understand the Difference Between Demographics and Persona

While some persona examples paint a clear picture of the user demographics, a user persona cannot be reduced to simply doing that. It should also help you identify the consumer's fears, motivations, and concerns. 

2. Keep It Simple at First

You might have seen some user persona templates online that answer multiple questions. It could be tempting to use one of them, especially when you're just getting the hang of the user persona concept. However, it's best to create your very own customized template to adapt to your specific needs. Start small by incorporating a few user attributes. You can continually expand as you go if you feel the need to add more information. 

3. Base Your Personas on Real People

Coming up with a fictional character you think could be interested in your services is not helpful at all. If you develop your customer profile on assumptions, you won't get near to understanding your market. Your buyer persona would then be heavily based on your own bias and miss the mark. Ask real questions to your real user base to properly create a useful persona that will work for your brand. 

4. Take Your Real User Into Account

When possible, you need to talk to your users about their needs and expectations. Set up a simple, short survey to learn first-hand information that will help you create your persona. You can later expand on this research by including more questions. 

5. Keep an Open Mind

Sometimes the answers your research reveals may not be exactly what you want to hear, and that's okay. It can even be great!  Real answers give you real growth opportunities and could make you notice factors you hadn't seen before. Keeping an open mind will allow you to steer away from your old business narrative and implement new ideas that sell more. 

How to Craft a User Persona

Persona development should be one of the first things you do when starting a new project. Developing your user persona sooner than later is essential to uncover gaps and highlight new opportunities to meet your customers' needs. The ultimate goal of your user persona is to represent the audience you're addressing and help you focus on their pain points and how to solve them. Your buyer persona should cover the following elements:

  • Persona group. Further defines who your user is
  • Fictional name. Gives your persona a more human touch
  • Job titles and major responsibilities. Identifies how and why your clients use your services
  • Demographics. Age, education, ethnicity, and family status of your ideal customer
  • User context. Their physical, social, and technological environment
  • Persona quote. Summarizes what matters most to the persona regarding your services
  • Casual pictures. Further represents your user group

Before You Begin

To make sure your buyer persona is an authentic representation of your ideal customer, you need to:

  1. Conduct user research. Answer essential questions that will support the development of your marketing persona
  2. Condense your results. Look for recurrent themes and characteristics that represent your specific user group
  3. Organize your persona elements. Name and classify groups that represent your target user
  4. Make realistic descriptions. Use the relevant data to create a serious description of your ideal user's background, motivation, and expectations

Creating a User Persona Step by Step

Now that you understand the basics behind developing a user persona, you can get down to work. Here are the steps you need to follow to successfully create your buyer persona: 

1. Create a Survey for Your Ideal Customer

Choose relevant questions that will allow you to get to know your target audience better. As mentioned above, forget about the demographics for a while. Focus on more important aspects that will define your user's relationship with your services. Remember to highlight their key goals, concerns, and obstacles. Keep your survey simple and short. You want to ensure your users complete it, and asking tons of questions could have the opposite effect. 

The answers to these questions will give you a proper sense of how your clients use your services and what issues could be potential deal-breakers. The goal is to learn what matters to your customers. 

2. Post the Survey Where Your Customers Can See It 

There's no point in having a survey nobody will answer. In order to get the answers you need to create your user persona, you need to actually reach your clients. Set up your survey on the most visited page on your website or post it on your social media. 

3. Analyze the Gathered Data

Once your customers have provided you with valuable information about their goals and expectations regarding your services, you can start using the data in your favor. To identify the persona, you need to focus on and improve user experience, organize the collected answers, and look for recurrent themes. 

4. Start Building Your Persona

Based on the results of your user research, create a simple user persona that represents the majority of your user base. Remember to include your user's key demographics as well as their objectives, concerns, and pre-purchase obstacles. 

How Can a Small Business Benefit from User Personas?

User personas are not exclusive to big corporations. Small businesses can also benefit from creating an archetype of their ideal user. In fact, user personas are one of the most important building blocks in product development and marketing strategy. They help small businesses identify their target audience and cater to it. Without a user persona, marketing efforts can be flawed, as they speak to a generic and biased version of the target clientele. Speaking to the wrong crowd is a no-go if you want to increase your sales. 

Need help?

We have helped thousands of small businesses just like yours to do market research on their ideal customer. We will do all the research , develop a great website, and create all of the marketing you need to capture your ideal customer. Get started with Scorpion. 

If you need help building your user persona or crafting a winning marketing strategy, contact us today.