Personas – The Human Side of Business
The What Why & How
Know your customers better than he/she knows themselves - Philip Kotler
Before you even start designing a product/service or communicating to your potential customer, know who that person would be—better than he/she would know themselves. How? Personas.
Personas are more than a figment of your business imagination. Personas are a way of profiling and visualizing your potential consumer, user, and/or customer. Why do this? Whether you sell, share, or offer products or services, there is a human, a real person, on the other end, receiving your offerings—hence, it’s crucial and necessary to have persona(s) in your business strategy!
It’s like creating an imaginary friend for your firm, but not the childhood version where you had no real evidence except the affirmation of your imagination, no, but one developed through research, analysis, interpretation and logic. Persona is the core of a user-centric and customer-centric business strategy. Here's an example of a persona:
Think of your persona as you developed your brand personality, give the dimensions and depths of a person: What would they be like? What would they do? What and where do they shop? How do they use certain product/service? Are they early adopter or laggards? Where would they live? What would they wear? Who would they talk to if they went to a party (and what would they talk about)? (Strategic Brand Management by Pearson).
The 2 overarching personas in business that are popularly utilized are design-personas and marketing-personas. Design-personas are typically used for a customer-centric, design-driven innovation for a product/ service development; whereas, marketing-personas are used as part of the communication strategy and development by ideating the prominent figures shared by segment(s) into a profile.
How do you go about creating a persona? Here’s an overview guide:
First, look at the external areas of your business.
The market you’re in, the economic and technological factors, the competitors and players in that market, and the segments in that market, the target group you wish to focus on. This is where your research begins.
Remember, to be strategic in business (be successful), every component of your business is relative to one another! Don’t think of Persona(s) as a separate component or activity, but as part of your big business strategy.
Size of the segment (ensure volume of the market), growth rate of the segment, trends and hypes (what are these patterns and are they predictable), price sensitivity and elasticity, power of customers ( bargaining power of buyers—this allows you to see and understand the economical characteristics and power of your customers), and seasonality and cyclicality of demand (do the demands fluctuate by season or cycle, and if so, how do they affect the potential segment?)
Economic and Technological factors
Level of technology utilization (use and level of technology affects attractiveness of targets differently for different competitors), investment required (financial, time, energy efforts required),and margins available (price sensitivity of the segment and competitive rivalry)
The imperative for success is user-driven or user-centered innovation. According to these approaches, companies should begin an innovation project by analyzing market needs, looking closely at users - Roberto Verganti.
Competitive intensive (what are the numbers, how intense is the competition, is it dominated by a monopoly, oligopoly or none), quality of competition (are the competitors in it for the good intention—is their desire to better serve market), threat of substitution (can new offerings substitute current offerings and threaten the market’s current suppliers), and degree of differentiation (are the differentiations in offerings significant or not). (Read more on Marketing Strategy & Competitive Positioning by Hooley, Piercy & Nicoulaud 2012)
Now, dive into the segment: research the users and customers in the market.
Identify the different customer groups whose responses, behaviors and attitudes may vary from other groups to certain competitive offerings*. Who are the biggest customers? The most profitable? The most attractive potential customers? Do the customers fall into any logical groups based on needs, motivations or characteristics? (*Source: Strategic Market Management, 2007)
Remember, you can have more than one segment in your targeting, in which differentiated marketing may be utilized. Here, you may need to create more than one persona. If the product or service caters to a wider and different characteristics, create a primary persona, then a secondary persona.
What elements of the product/ service do customers value the most? What are the customers’ objectives? What are they really buying? How do segments differ in their motivation priorities? What changes are occurring in customer motivation? In customer priorities?
Why are some customers dissatisfied? Why are some changing brands or suppliers? What are the severity and incidence of consumer problems? What are the unmet needs that customers can identify? Are there some of which consumers are unaware? Do these unmet needs represent leverage point for competitors?
Time for Customer Analysis. This is where you want to understand how the market is segmented, analyze customer motivations, and explore unmet needs (those that have yet to be satisfied). Hence, data gathered to create and develop personas must be clustered and the most prominent data/information is the ideal representation of that specific segment.
Yes, interpretation is a phase—this is where you start to make sense of the analysis—because, remember, though your persona profile is fictitious and a creation, the data gathered is and should be from real people to give you the closest identification to the market, which represents a larger pool of the target segment your firm wishes to target. Hence, interpretation of the market.
People use things for profound emotional, logical and sociocultural reasons as well as utilitarian ones*, so make sure to go beyond ticking the list of demographic and psychographic boxes, and dive into the qualitative data and utilize, focus groups, in-person interviews, phone interviews, observation of customers using products and services, and online surveys to ensure the evidence of these profound reasoning.
(*Source: Design Driven Innovation by Roberto Verganti, 2009)
Along with this, see what kind of Marketing Strategy fits best:
Undifferentiated Marketing: offering one product designed to appeal across the board to all segments—treat the market as a whole and offer one standard product or service to satisfy all customers
Differentiated Marketing: offering a different product to each of the different segments—offer distinct product or service to specified segment of the market (i.e. range of skin care)
Concentrated marketing: offerings dedicated to just one or a few specific segments—most ideal for companies with limited resources
(Source: Marketing Strategy & Competitive Positioning, 2012)
No one strategy is more effective over another—the most effective strategy is to implement with respect to the target market selection based on the market your business is in.
When all is aligned, make sure that there is the perfect fit between segment characteristics and strengths (competitive advantage(s)) of your brand, products/services, and firm.
Remember, don’t just target your market, be part of it, and know your customers better than he/she knows themselves. This is how you will succeed!
Author & Editor-in-Chief: Diana Lee
Contributing author and researcher: Axelle Holemans
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