A Guide to Creating Personas

A simple guide to creating personas quickly and cost-effectively for your business



Introduction

A persona creation exercise can be quite overwhelming. Most likely it will span days and take many hours to complete.

However consider this - you have probably already built your first buyer persona. Think of your most archetypal customer whom you kept in mind when you built a product, designed UI, wrote marketing content, or sent out email newsletters - you have already done it before!

With the approach described below, you will be able to create buyer personas in less than 15-20 hours of work and minimal budget, and that too all by yourself.

Methodology

The persona creation exercise comprises 6 steps.

  1. Defining Goals and Sample Personas
  2. Recruiting and Segmenting Customers
  3. Conducting Customer Interviews
  4. Analysing the Interviews
  5. Creating the Personas
  6. Feedback Loop and Continuous Improvement


Step 1. Defining Goals and Sample Personas

Before embarking on a persona creation exercise we need to outline the benefits we intend to derive from it. Typically buyer personas can be used to achieve one or more of the following:

  1. Devising a Product strategy
    1. Feature Architecture
  2. Designing Information Architecture for your Website
  3. Formulating a Marketing Strategy (segmentation, outreach, channels etc.)
  4. Devising Content Strategy

Defining, and then keeping in mind the expected outcome, will help us stay on course as we progress through the various stages of this exercise.

To illustrate this step, let’s take the example of a small fictional software company called TeleShift. TeleShift sells its software online. It also attracts all its customers online, through outbound marketing, SEO and social media marketing.

The management of this company has decided to conduct a persona creation exercise and have defined the following objectives for it.

Personas of Paying customers

  1. Attract new customers by creating new blog content and modifying existing content that speak to my persona in a more personal manner
  2. Attract new customers by discovering the right incentives that will convince my persona to refer her peers to my product
  3. Attract new customers by improving my product’s presence in my persona’s watering holes
  4. Convert potential customers by rearranging information on my website, around my persona’s needs
  5. Convert potential customers by presenting testimonials from my persona

Similar to this, define objectives for your business using the following template:

[Business objective] by [actions] that [make use of] the persona.



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Step 2. Recruiting and Segmenting Customers

You can effectively approach this step using Fathom. Fathom is an end-to-end solution for conducting customer feedback interviews on phone. It has features that allow you to easily segment your website visitors on attributes such as pages visited, traffic source, geo-location, actions performed etc., and recruit these visitors for phone interviews with you. Interviews are initiated by customers and can be conducted by your team.

In our example above with TeleShift, lets assume paying customers of TeleShift are taken to a “Thank You” page after they complete a purchase. TeleShift can target these customers by creating a campaign on Fathom and applying a URL filter matching that of the Thank You page. Thus customers who have visited this page at least once, will be prompted to participate in TeleShift’s persona creation interviews.

Note that if your website does not have substantial traffic then, it might take longer to complete the interviews. The typical conversion ratio is around 0.5-1% though you can substantially increase the conversion rate by offering a higher reward to participants.

Note: There are many proxy ways recommended for this step, such as looking at data from Google Analytics or studying Facebook and Twitter profiles of your buyers. However we highly recommend talking to your customers, either face-to-face or at least on phone, while building your personas.



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Step 3. Conducting Customer Interviews

Mode

The best customer interviews are the ones done face-to-face. However using Fathom you can conduct interviews remotely on phone. Phone interviews cost much lesser compared to face-to-face interviews, and take much lesser time to conclude.

What to ask

We have provided you with a generic framework of questions you can ask during your interviews. Please take a look at the list below.

  1. Personal Background / Demographics
    1. What is your age? What is your annual income? Are you married? Do you have any children?
    2. What is your educational background?
    3. Describe your current job and jobs that you have previously held.
  2. Company details
    1. Which industry does your company work in?
    2. What is the size of your company, in terms of annual revenues and number of employees?
    3. Which other locations does your company have a presence in?
  3. More about their Job
    1. What is your current job title?
    2. Whom do you report to? Who reports to you?
    3. What are the performance metrics for your job?
    4. What does your typical work-day look like?
    5. What skills do you use at your job?
    6. What tools do you use to effectively complete your job?
  4. Goals in the job
    1. What are you responsible for?
    2. What does success mean to you in your role?
  5. Challenges
    1. What are your biggest challenges
  6. Professional News
    1. How do you learn new information that helps you in your job?
    2. What publications or blogs do you refer?
    3. What social networks, associations, or groups are you a part of?
  7. Shopping Habits
    1. How do you interact with vendors in your job?
    2. How do you research vendors and their products?
    3. Describe a recent purchase. What was your evaluation process?

*Interview questions mentioned above are from this Hubspot post.

Length of Interviews

With requisite probing and follow-up questions an hour-long interview is good enough time to gather the requisite information from a participant.

Number of Interviews

10 interviews should be a good place to begin, while 15 interviews can put in a comfortable spot. You can keep taking interviews as long as the incremental information being yielded by an interview contributes to the persona building exercise. You can also refer this sample size calculator to see the required sample size for such a study.

When

Mornings of working days are ideal as visitors are more likely to be well-rested, energetic and engage in deep and thoughtful discussion.

Best practices

Fathom has a few inbuilt tools that you can use to make the interviews and collating information from them later, easier.

  1. Live Annotations - While the call is ongoing, you can add annotations which will later show up in the call recordings. This will make finding information easier when you are looking at several hour-long recordings. Learn more about Live Annotations here.
  2. Calendar - Set designated time slots when you want your recruiter popup to be shown to visitors. That way you do not have to worry about receiving a call when you are unavailable to take it.

Learn more about conducting interviews using Fathom.



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Step 4. Analysing the Interviews

For each interview conducted, gather information from the interview recording and fill up the persona template you had created in Step 1. You can create copies of the persona template in a spreadsheet (Microsoft Excel, Numbers etc.)

Implementing this step will be easy if you had live annotated the telephone interviews while conducting them. You can simply click on the annotation markers and look at the recording transcript to locate the information you are looking for.

Once you have compiled all the information, it is time to see if any pattern has emerged.




Step 5. Creating the Personas

It is now time for the most interesting part of the exercise - creating personas

How many personas should you create

Typically one should create 2-3 personas and not more than that. Thus try to see if the information you have collected starts converging towards 2-3 distinct groups.

Important grouping criteria

Certain information carry more weight than others. Creating personas is concerned more with how your customers perceive and use your product. Thus it is possible that people in vastly different age groups, ethnic backgrounds, locations etc. to have similar attitudes towards your product. For example a software tool that finds its main customer group in journalists, will have profession as a the primary underlying factor when creating personas.

Thus don't be surprised if you do not see a pattern where you were expecting to see one; while you see one in other customer attributes.



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Step 6. Feedback Loop and Continuous Improvement

Personas are not static - they change when you change your product or pricing or selling channels. They also change with external factors such as the emergence of a new content consumption channel. Thus it is necessary to keep doing this exercise at least once a year and possibly more if you think the situation demands it.

Incorporating into Company Culture

The value of creating personas matter to the extent they are used in your business. Beginning to use personas is a shift in the company’s business strategy that has to be incorporated into the day-to-day workings of your employees.

Read this interesting post about keeping personas alive in your company.



Conclusion

To truly understand your buyers you need to talk to them. Creating personas is a way of formalising this process and making the findings easier to understand and refer to.


Create Personas with Fathom