Building personas for the longer term

Building personas by metrics of success can help you think more holistically about the priorities, language and long-term needs of different audience segments. This post helps you understand how to build such personas.

Building personas for the longer term
Photo by Max Williams / Unsplash

Written by Dr. Taapsi Ramchandani


No doubt, observing and unpacking how a consumer actually uses a tool, service or application can go a long way in fine-tuning business strategy and product roadmaps.

But let’s take a step back.

Understanding, also, who these people are can provide answers to questions that are bigger than usage.

"Who" gets to underlying motivations and triggers that are mightier than trends. They can signal social, cultural, political and environmental influences that move more slowly and have deeper repercussions. Knowing this can help you plan for the longer run.

The personas exercise I'd like to suggest to you builds on Jobs Theory. This is my process in a nutshell:

  • Uncover the "job" a customer wants your product to do for them ("job-t0-be-done")
  • Think of how that customer would measure a job well done ("metric of success")  
  • Repeat this exercise for a small, representative subset of your customer list
  • You should be sitting on 2-5 different segments based on their different metrics of success. These are your personas.  
By doing this activity you will find that building personas by metrics of success can help you think more holistically about the priorities, language and long-term needs of different audience segments.

Now you can start thinking about practical as well as blue-sky solutions because you’re transcending fast fashion, if you may, and instead addressing needs that are personal, meaningful and deeply ingrained.

Building personas using primary interviews

One way of collecting personas data is by running primary interviews with your customers.

What you will need:

  • An interview questionnaire
  • A list of 10-20 customers to recruit
  • Personas template

Steps:

  1. Set up interviews with your customers. Some types of questions you might ask in your interviews are:
  • Tell me a little about yourself (family, hobbies)
  • Why are you interested in this product?
  • What do you find challenging using this product?
  • What would make you happier about your experience using/buying this product?

2. Identify the primary job the customer wants your product to do for them. Use this information to identify their metric of success. Fill in the information in this template.

Personas Template

3. Now fill in other boxes to add more context and color for each interviewee.  

You will quickly find that from even from a small representative sample size of your customer base, there will be some large overlaps in customer JTBDs and challenges.

Ultimately, you should have not more than 2-5 different metrics of success across all your interviews.

Metrics of success are the criteria by which customers are judging their product/service experience from all brands in your category, including yours.

Building personas internally

If you don’t have time for primary interviews, you can segment your audience by yourself. Don’t worry. This method is not meant to be perfect but rather give you a simple way to organize your audience so you can start thinking about them differently. The more you learn about them, the more your personas will evolve (this is a good place to be in!).

What you will need:

  • Excel/Google sheets

Steps:

  1. Open an excel file.
  2. Copy paste a list of 20 of your customers. If you have a lot to choose from, pick a diverse bunch. This is column A.
  3. In column B, complete this sentence for each customer. “If I could ….. by using/buying this product, the job would be done.” Ideally you should be sitting on 2-5 different types of jobs customers might want your product to accomplish for them.
  4. In column C, rephrase jobs as metrics of success. In other words, how would a person measure a job well done? (You can get creative here!). Each metric of success is a different persona type.
  5. Now use Poocho’s personas template (see section above) to fill in details to build out each persona type.

I've used Lenskart as an example to show you how some of this might pan out in practice:  

Make-believe JTBDs for Lenskart customers

One important thing to keep in mind as you do these exercises: If you are still figuring out your product/market fitness, it’s best to not ask questions about your brand while building personas and instead focus solely on experiences around the product category.

From my example above, you will see that for Lenskart, the product category is eyewear. “If I could save myself money while buying glasses, I would be happier than before.” This way you are separating brand perception from real consumer pain points. And it’s the latter that you want to discover/confirm at this juncture of your business journey.

Exercise

After you do this activity, think about how you can nuance your marketing/product/business development strategies for different personas. The more personalized your offerings and communication, the higher will be your conversion rate.

Try answering some of these questions after you have tried out this personas exercise. Alternatively, here is an example of a few personas I came up with for a study Poocho did with students enrolled in test prep classes. You can use them for reference too.

  1. Write down examples of 3 instagram posts targeting each of the groups.
  2. How would your acquisition strategy be different for each of the groups? Think: Where might you find each type of persona?
  3. What service can you offer each group that is closest to their defined metric of success?

Good luck!