Personas are fictional descriptions of people. People with needs. People such as target customers or information seekers. Personas have a hidden power widely untapped by marketing.
Personas enhance the impersonal user requirements lists that typically drive technology projects. User requirements lists work for simple products with few functional goals. Websites on the other hand are complex interactive experiences that have to satisfy a myriad of visitors and visitor goals. In designing online Web experiences, personas have been most widely accepted and used to improve usability. However, personas can also be used to strengthen marketing and make marketing more accountable for results.
Using personas should not be completely new to marketing. Profiles are used widely in marketing to craft brand messages for specific market segments. Take these profiles to a more granular level and create personas. Then use these personas to help prioritize marketing initiatives, define success measures and hone in on how the Web can help us boost an organization’s competitive advantage.
When personas are created so that they bring the most important prospects and customers to life, personas can help you and your organization:
- Agree quickly on Web visitor wants and needs. By representing your target audience as individual personas and understanding what each needs to satisfy their goals, a multitude of people will be satisfied. Online features are less likely to overbuilt or underbuilt, although there’s always room for improvement.
- Help identify the measures of success that matter. Rather than collect data on everything possible, collect the data that will help you track indicators that tell you whether you’re succeeding in serving target personas or need to take action by redirecting your efforts.
- Strengthen your competitive advantage. Don’t just follow what appears to be “current practice” on the Web, regardless of whether you sell on the Web or use it for lead generation or building credibility. How do you want to set your organization apart from your competition? By understanding your customers, why they go to the Web, and your site specifically, you’ll quickly hone in on how you can out-service and out-perform your competition.
The only way to appreciate how this is different from working from a long list of “user requirements” is to try this process in your organization. Create personas and use them. Compare the outcome to previous efforts created to satisfy the “average user”. (If you do try it, we’d love to hear about your experience.)
We have some tips on persona design on our website. If you need more, I highly recommend the book Waiting for Your Cat to Bark? Persuading Customers When They Ignore Marketing (see on Amazon), by Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg with Lisa T. Davis.
What’s your experience? Has designing for personas improved results and marketing accountability?