6 helpful hints… for creating Personas

6 helpful hints… for creating Personas

By Scott Lee · 20 May 2019 · 5 minute read


Creating and developing customer Personas requires creativity, system 2 thinking, and frankly, a fair bit of hard work. So, it’s important there’s impact to the business at the end of it. Here’s our view on how you can make sure you get the impact you’re looking for:

#1 - Engage the internal stakeholders early in the process

Customer Personas are a means to an end (not an end in themselves). It’s therefore critical to engage internal stakeholders and explore how Personas may be applied and in what situations. One way you can do this is to create a ‘mock’ Persona or two and ask yourself & stakeholders how these would be used if it was the end outcome of the process. Personas can be used in a variety of ways, so here are some of the most common applications:

  • To build future-state customer journeys
  • To develop value propositions for new products
  • To assist in UX development (e.g. apps, websites and other interfaces)
  • To help design new services or experiences (service design)
  • To lift pre-existing segments with a richer qualitative picture animating their personality and values
  • To bring customers to life generally and rally the organization around customer centricity

#2 - Look to integrate customer data for deeper context

We typically create Personas from a handful of qualitative interviews, but business users may question their validity. Whilst a ‘Persona’ is essentially a qualitative description of a customer (as opposed to a ‘segment’), it’s easy to understand why stakeholders will ask “How many people are in this Persona?”, or “How valuable is this Persona?”. So, during the qualitative stage, consider going directly to your database. You can draw Personas from specific data sources, segments or pre-profiled groups. Whilst not everyone in a segment will be exactly like the same Persona, they will share common characteristics that can be related back at a quantitative level. If you relate to transactional segments in your CRM database, you may even be able to link changes in revenue for segments because of Persona driven innovation or marketing initiatives. 

#3 - Triangulate to go both deep and broad

Qualitative interviews help you go deep, which is essential for unearthing the rich motivational insights. But there’s a role for breadth too. Advancement in technology within research (e.g. insight communities) enable agile and iterative approaches to go deep and broad, without breaking the bank or taking forever.

  • Quick surveys can be used to profile groups or segments for further investigation – or to validate characteristics identified previously at a qualitative level
  • Diaries can draw in real life context and help bring your segments and Personas to life in different key situations
  • Video or in-person interviews can be targeted with well profiled customers from the CRM database

#4 – Don’t wait until the ‘Ta-Da’ moment to reveal your Personas, build them collaboratively

Creating Personas requires connection making and the synthesis of observations from multiple data sources, qualitative, quantitative, internal or external to the client. You’re unlikely to get it right the first time. So, why not get your stakeholders involved in the creation of the Personas, ideally in a workshop? Use tools like Empathy Maps. You may also consider collaborative online tools such as UXPressia if it’s not possible to bring teams together in a workshop.

It’s not just about buy-in, your stakeholders will test your hypotheses and thinking as well as help generate ideas along the way.

#5 - Bring Personas stories to life visually

A significant part of a Persona project can be the output creation. The pressure usually stems from having to create a visual story of each Persona, as well as highlighting the opportunities they represent for the business.  This can be through a combination of booklets, posters, videos and so forth.

Booklets usually require careful curation of the story and evidence, so allow plenty of time. Videos are always useful, and whilst costly to put together, they nonetheless serve the needs of our YouTube generation.

Or, another option is to bring your stakeholders face to face with real life Personas. It takes careful selection and there needs to be a process behind it, but it’s hard to argue against meeting real customers.

#6 - Keep your Personas alive and relevant 

It’s important to recognize that whilst creating the first picture of the Persona is valuable, it’s easy for them to appear static and perhaps out of date.

Consider creating a long-term relationship with a group of customers, for example via an insight community (please excuse the not so subtle plug). An insight community allows you to immerse with target customers (and tagged Personas) at any time. As ideas get developed you can reach out to customer Personas to see if the propositions are appealing.

Over time, you can develop a multi-dimensional view of your customers (profiles, seasonal factors, shifting attitudes etc.) which can be linked to actual behaviour through your CRM database.