Customer Persona: What Is It & How to Create One

Posted on February 26, 2017 by in Resources | 15 comments

Customer Persona: What Is It & How to Create One

One of the most catastrophic mistakes you can make is design a website based on what you think your clients want vs. what they really want. Too often, website owners make assumptions about the needs and preferences of their customers instead of basing their decisions on real data. If you truly want to make your website successful, you first have to understand customer persona.

A customer persona is a research based representation of your target audience. It’s not just assumptions and opinions about people who you want to sell to. Customer personas share all of your idle customers’ distinct characteristics, including pain points, wants, irritants, psychographics and demographics. Ultimately, this degree of understanding enables you to influence audience behavior.

Here’s what a persona looks like:

What Is Customer Persona

Source: Pinterest

Personas were first leveraged by web design firms to create a great user experience for their customers across all touch points. It turns out that personas significantly help in building a customer-centric website. According to HubSpot, the use of personas led to a 2-5 times increase in the effectiveness of websites and ease of use by the target audience.

Tips To Create the Right Customer Persona

There’s no limit to the number of personas you can create. It can be as few as a single customer persona, or as many as 50 or 100. But if you are new to the concept, it is best to create a few, as you can add more personas later if required. To that end, this post highlights the key aspects involved in the creation of customer personas, along with tips that have been tried and tested to work.

1. Ask The Right Questions

Persona creation begins with asking questions that help you get a feel of customers’ expectations about your website. The questions can vary from being demographic related to what customers are looking for in terms of navigation. All things considered, make sure that you also explore the “why” and “how” instead of just the “what” of things.

For instance, you can ask questions like:

  • What is your name, age, occupation, salary, and personal background?
  • What websites do you visit frequently? Why do you visit them?
  • What kind of an experience do you expect your favorite website to deliver? Does the design influence your experience?
  • Does the site’s navigation make it easy for you to research things or does it take long for you to find what you’re looking for? Is the font easy to read?
  • What has been your biggest frustration as a website visitor? How do you want the website to address it?

You’ll find a lot of suggested customer persona questions on the web, but what you ask should be relevant. In essence, your questions should be based on the nature of your site’s design (flat, minimalist, typography, etc.) and the industry you’re operating in, whether b2c or b2b.

2. Obtain Information about Your Target Audience

There are a myriad of ways to go about it, but you’re recommended to leverage the following:

Conduct Surveys

You don’t just want to assume the answers to the questions you’re going to ask. Effective persona creation requires you to talk to actual customers. To that end, create a question-based survey and send it to customers who are subscribed to your email list.

With this intention, place a link to your survey in one of your triggered emails. It should appear something like this:

Getting persona details via email

Source: Pinterest

Tools like Survey Monkey and Google Forms will allow you to create a survey with ease.

Equally important, website owners can use Qualaroo pop ups for surveying their website visitors. It allows users to create a single pop up for their website at a particular time. With this in mind, place the pop-up on a poorly-performing landing page to know why visitors are facing friction.

Interview People

Arguably, persona interviews are important to understand the motivations and opinions of your customers. Start interviewing prospects and existing customers to gather qualitative information to inject into your personas.

Associate the interview with actual situations by focusing on past behaviors of customers. Also, treat it like a real-life conversation. Indeed, you’ll be surprised to see the openness of customers to give feedback when you request an interview.

When requesting an interview, call / email your customers. Next, introduce yourself and give a background on why they’re being approached for an interview. Provide extra information in the follow-up. As a rule of thumb, speak to your customers whenever you can instead of emailing. Not to mention, you can leverage communication tools like Google Hangouts to support your purpose.

Indeed, interviewing personas is a smart strategy

Source: Groove

To emphasize, see how Groove’s founder approaches his target audience.

3. Put Your Findings to Good Use

Without doubt, you’ll have a smorgasbord of information at hand about each persona. Summarize it and create a one-pager. Also, give each persona a face to be able to picture the customer, even if it leads to a semi-fictional character. Doing this will make associating website changes with persona profiles much easier.

Want to use an existing persona structure? Check out the Buyer Persona Profile template by Epic Content Marketing and Up Close & Persona. Furthermore, keep in mind that personas should be updated every year as the consumer preferences, competitors and markets evolve.

Next, put the created personas into use by basing your design choices on customer data. If there are stakeholders involved, defend the decisions you’re planning to make by showcasing research on users (as demonstrated by the persona). Uniquely, this is a way to give user-focused reasoning for your choice.

Practical Example

For instance, Aamplify developed an optimized digital strategy for Deloitte Private by understanding their customer personas. In summary, they found that potential customers were motivated by the following to approach Deloitte:

  1. Assistance in capitalizing global business development opportunities.
  2. Heavy lifting for solving specific challenges.
  3. Tech-solutions to optimize business processes.

For this purpose, the promises were moved to front and center.

Persona implementation web design

Source: Aamplify

The company stated that customer persona research removed the guess work. In other words, it gave clarity to website functionality and design requirements.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, as you dive deep into your customer persona profiles, it becomes easier to spot opportunities that can potentially increase the time visitors spend on your website, as well as conversions. Take action, and continue to monitor the impact of persona-based decisions over time. Ultimately, you should be able to deliver a better website experience to your core customers.

Article thumbnail image by Sviatlana Sheina / shutterstock.com

15 Comments

  1. Really great and informative article – thank you! Will definitely apply all you’ve said to my next project and client

    • Dan Virgillito

      You’re welcome Arielle.

  2. gracias

  3. Is there a particular software that I can use for the interview part?

    • Nathan B. Weller

      You could use a form builder to place a questionnaire on your website. You could also take advantage of free tools like Google Survey.

  4. Love this example with Deloitte to show how they applied their persona findings. Also thanks for the list of questions to ask! I’ve been having trouble coming up with a good list.

  5. Excellent article. I have an issue calling the personas “avatars”, to me that is something totally different. Personas work, this article outlines what you need to know to reach and talk to your audience. Thank you.

    • Dan Virgillito

      Glad you liked it Karen. I’m a big fan of persona research myself. It gives you the nitty gritty about your audience.

  6. Dan,
    Great article! I was first introduced to personas using Hubspot Inbound methodology. My biggest challenge continues to be staff involvement and adoption in creating and using persons…any suggestions?

    • Nathan B. Weller

      One exercise I’ve had success with personally is writing a first person account of interacting with your business from the perspective of the persona you’ve created. Perhaps you could have your staff do this exercise to get in the mindset of your ideal customer(s)?

  7. As an absolute and utter newbie and solo practitioner, this article was very insightful and not too techie. Thank you!!!

  8. Can I set up a Customer persona on my travel website? I have added a testimonial in the index page. Is it enough?

    • Nathan B. Weller

      Sorry if I’m misunderstanding your questions, but customer personas aren’t necessarily meant to be displayed on your website. They’re more for you to reference as you create your product/service and marketing strategy. But if you wanted to, yes, you could easily display a customer persona on your website as a simple page. With Divi you can even achieve a unique layout like Dan showed in the article.

  9. Hey, Dan!
    Nice article. Really loved the practical example of Deloitte Private. Customer persona helps businesses to develop more customer-oriented policies and strategies. Liked the tips and going to follow them to create a persona of my customers.

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