Whether you are talking about product (or service) development or your marketing strategy or sales tactics it is important to understand who your customer is.

This is where personas can help you.

You start by creating a specific and detailed profile of the people you want to reach. Then create characters (or personas) to represent those people. I really like the idea of treating them as real people as long as you can remember they aren't.

Harry Potter is a character in a popular series of books and movies. When you mention his name, you can immediately bring up a picture of him, what he is like, what issues he has (Lord Voldemort is trying to kill him) and therefore what solutions you could sell him (a better wand).

In the case of our forthcoming product we are going through this exercise. We've identified two main categories of people who would be interested in our product:

  • Those who already get it and would like a tool to help them increase efficiencies,
  • Those who are in a business (or personal) crisis and now open to changing their mindset, coaching and tools.

If we were to focus on the business owner in some crisis our profile might look like:

  • Small business owner,
  • In business for 2-5 years,
  • Grown to 5-10 employees and hit wall,
  • Owner is spending all their time working in the business,
  • They are working 60-70 hours per week,
  • Quality and customer satisfaction are starting to slip,
  • Without them there, key functions like sales will come to a halt.
  • Etc.

Let's now make it personal and name the persona and apply some demographics.

Judy Calson

Background – Judy worked for 15 years for a company doing accounting and bookkeeping. She was laid off during a merger and decided to start her own business. Things went well for a while and then Judy started hiring additional staff. Customers were impressed with Judy's quality work when she could oversee everything. Now, 3 years into it she just doesn't have time to check everything and employees are not living up to her standards. Customers are starting to be unhappy.

Then you create personas for several of your other types of potential customers.

You get the added bonus of being able to talk about Judy Calson by name which adds some reality to the profile. Protip: Don't use a real person as your persona name.

Now you can ask and answer specific questions like:

  • How do I find Judy Calson?
    • Targeted marketing,
    • Search engine optimization,
    • Networking,
  • What pain point could I solve for Judy that would be an easy sell and of immediate benefit to her?
  • How do I get that message in front of Judy?
  • How do I make my product even better for the Judy's in the world?
  • Etc.

This is just a sample of the power of personas and how they can be used.

Keep in mind that you have to treat each real person as an individual, not a generality. Everyone and every situation is unique. However, by using personas you make your market segments real and are less likely to treat them like a revenue target and more like real people (yes, treat your customers as real people).

We are just getting into this ourselves and it seems like a great approach. Is anyone using personas effectively in product development, marketing, sales or customer service?