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Getting your Marketing Personas Right

As is the case with all elements of website design, problem shooting is a critical part of the process. You need to solve any issues before they manifest and end up rendering the personas you have created ineffective. Read on to discover how to make sure you have your personas right.

How many different personas to design?

The first problem area a lot of people tend to stumble over is when it comes to how many personas they need to create. If you create too few personas, you won’t have enough detail to test your website that you have built against, and thus you are not going to have a well-rounded view. This means that you will probably only deal with a percentage of the problems facing a section of your customer base. If you create too many personas, you can end up making the whole process confusing and complex, and you will waste a lot of time and resources too. It is a balancing act and, unfortunately, there is no set formula or figure for the amount of personas you should create.

This is because every business is different, and thus every consumer base is different. It is all about creating enough personas to represent all broad consumer types without there being any overlaps. So, how do you find this balance? The secret lies within the way you collate and analyse your data. A good idea is to start the process by compiling all of the data you know about your customers onto a spreadsheet. You can then group this based on a number of different factors that are relevant to your business. For example, if you run an app, one heading for the grouping of data could be the device used. Another option, instead of using a spreadsheet, is to grab yourself some post-it notes and create affinity diagrams. You should start to see some patterns when you do this, for example, your customers’ life goals or the industries they work in.

Of course, you need to conduct your research before you can have a marketing-driven website design created, and you have been provided with the various techniques you can use to acquire this. With every piece of research you conduct, you need to tag your findings on your affinity diagram or spreadsheet. From income level to office environment, tag all of the data you find. Once you have done this, you will be able to analyse the information to find shared attributes and predominant clusters. This will help you to create groups, and each group will represent a persona that needs to be created.

Once you have created your groups, this may not be the final number of personas you go ahead to create. Analyse them once again. Do any of your personas seem to share a fair amount of characteristics? If so, it would be a good idea to combine these. As mentioned earlier, you don’t want to have too many personas, as this can become too complex. Go over each group with scrutiny and make yourself justify why each one warrants its own persona so that you know you have the right amount.

How to validate your personas

The best way to validate your personas is to ensure they are effective and impressive to begin with. However, there may come a time when you need to increase confidence in your personas and validate their benefit to your business. With that being said, let’s take a look at some of the different ways you can do this: 

  Prove that your personas are relevant – You need to show that the personas you have created are relevant to your business and your objectives. The best way to do this is to review the research you gathered during the interview and survey phase. You can then match your personas with the answers you received. When matching these answers to the personas, if you find that some personas are not receiving any matches, you may want to consider ditching them, as they may not be relevant enough to be considered.

  Use quantitative data to validate your personas – Quantitative data is information that can be measured and written down in numbers. Therefore, it is not enough on its own to validate your personas. However, it can go a long way to helping. During the research phase, some of the information you gathered will have been quantitative. You can post validate the persona against the quantitative data you gathered.

  Keep everything simple – One of the biggest mistakes people make when creating personas is getting too specific. They end up creating a ‘person’ as opposed to a ‘representation’. Remember, personas are supposed to be vague. They are not supposed to be extremely accurate and contain huge amounts of information. They are to be seen as a guide so you can get a better understanding of your consumers. So, avoid overcomplicating things by being too specific with the data incorporated into each persona.

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  Acquire an expert opinion – As is the case with most things, an expert opinion can help to solidify the effectiveness of your persona. Once your persona has been created, you should get a number of domain experts to analyze it and give their opinion. You can then use this to showcase the worth of the personas you have created. It is important to ensure the domain experts you select are varied in terms of their expertise and their background, as this will help to create a more well-rounded view.

  Conduct more interviews – Last but not least, another approach is to interview a group of consumers again. Just like you did in the initial research phase! This time, you should choose a number of people that have already been interviewed as well as a number of people that you have never interviewed before. The purpose of this is to make sure your personas actually identify with your consumers. So, you should get the people you interview to identify with one. If the large majority of those interviewed cannot match themselves to any of your personas, you have a problem on your hands. However, don’t be alarmed if one or two of them cannot.

 Advocating for personas in your project

You now know how to validate the personas you have created, but the next thing you need to do is prove that personas are worthy of being used in your project. Simply showing that your personas are well researched and accurate is often not enough. You need to encourage the use of them and show that they are going to be effective in reaching your end goals. This can often be easier said than done in some organisations, as teams can be hesitant, with common replies to the suggestion including ‘we want to build a product for all users’, ‘designing for everyone is designing for no one’, as well as concerns about the personas being inaccurate. So, let’s take a look at some of the points you need to touch upon to advocate for personas in your project. 

  Viewing things from the consumers’ perspective – Explain how personas give you and your team the ability to view things from the eye of the consumer. Not only will you get an insight into the certain frustrations and pains of your user in regards to your website and your domain, but you will also get a glimpse into their lifestyle and their daily life, which is very important and somewhat impossible to achieve via other means.

  Focus on motivations and behaviors – One reason for resistance is that a lot of teams believe that personas are too specific and centered on characteristics. To deal with this, you need to show that your personas are going to be based on the motivations and behaviors of your consumers predominately. Explain that this is critical to understanding what your consumers want and their pain points so that you can improve your offering and reach your goals.

  Promoting a shared vision – One of the main benefits of creating personas is the fact that it creates a shared vision and ensures your team is working towards the same goals when it comes to user research. How is research conducted at your organization at the moment? It is likely that there is someone who conducts user research and then simply distributes it to all team members. Or, something along these lines? The issue with this is that different people can interpret data differently, which in turn means your team members could be viewing the project from a different perspective. There is no risk of this happening when creating personas.

  Address their concerns regarding catering to too many consumers / not enough consumers – One of the main reasons why teams are unenthusiastic about personas is because they believe it results in them either missing out on areas of their consumer base or being too broad. You need to prove that this will not be the case. Explain how personas are used as a representation of all sectors of your consumer base and that their creation is based on an extensive amount of research, which ensures their relevancy to your business.

 By taking into account these ideas you will be well on your way to getting your marketing personas right!

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