If you start researching your target group, sooner or later you'll come across the terms persona, avatar, user persona, buyer persona or customer persona. In this article, I'll show you what a customer persona is and how you can identify and better understand your target group with one.
What is a customer persona?
A persona is a fictional person who represents a very specific target group. This group contains people with similar or identical characteristics that are relevant to your business and represent your ideal customer.
You're no longer talking about a general target group, e.g. self-employed people, but about the persona Mona. She is a freelance copywriter, 28 years old and has very specific goals, doubts, frustrations and problems.
With a customer persona, it's much easier to put yourself in the shoes of your customers and understand their needs.
What's the difference between customer personas and target groups?
A target group is a group of people grouped together by certain characteristics e.g. gender, age, job, first-time buyer, repeat buyer etc.
A target group definition is in itself very broad and usually quite imprecise, as in this example:
- Gender: female
- Marital status: married
- Age: 20 - 35 years
- Education: Degree level
- Job: Freelancer
- Employment relationship: Employed
There are many different customers within this target group. Some are really great, others aren't. A customer persona represents the ideal customer from this subset of people.
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What are the advantages of a persona?
With a customer persona you can better understand:
- who your customers are
- what they want
- what drives them
- what problems they have
- what frustrates them
- what prevents them from buying
- and where to find them
Once you've developed your persona(s), you'll no longer be creating your content and products for an intangible target group, but instead for a very specific, ideal customer. If you know exactly who you want to address with your content, you'll be able to write texts more easily and plan campaigns better.
When should I create a persona?
Whether you're starting a new business or want to grow with your current business, your persona will be a great help for all your future decisions and marketing. That's why right now is the right time to start.
How do I create a customer persona?
There's nothing to stop you creating a persona today. You should, however, remember one important thing before you start:
A persona should always be created or at least verified on the basis of real data. Real data means customer interviews and surveys. If you skip this step, you'll end up with a bullshit persona based on your assumptions.
You can, of course, start with a bullshit persona, but be sure to validate your persona through customer/user interviews.
Find your target groups with these questions
If you haven't thought about your target group yet, sit down alone or even better with your team and answer the following questions:
- How would you describe your target group?
- What are the most important characteristics of this target group?
- Are there different groups of people in this target group?
- How do these groups differ from each other?
- Is there a particular group that is more important than the others?
- Is there a particular group you want to learn more about? Why?
- Who are your clients? What are their features and characteristics?
By asking these questions, you'll probably find several target groups that you can convert into personas.
Segment your target groups
If you've identified a lot of target groups, you should try to reduce the total. The best way to do this is segmentation where a segment contains target groups with certain commonalities.
Example of segmentation
You can segment your target groups by demographic and psychographic characteristics.
- Demographic characteristics are e.g.
- Psychographic characteristics, e.g.
- Goals (motivation or reason for purchase)
Or you can even combine demographic and psychographic segments.
Psychographic segment example: Problems
- Target groups: Freelancers, small businesses
- Problems: Too little turnover, poor payment, dependence on a few clients
- Age: 24 to 45 years
This segment includes, for example, people from different target groups and of different ages. But all the people in this target group have the same problems. You could now transform this target group segment into a persona.
You can also segment your target groups according to demographic characteristics, if the target groups have different problems, needs or goals.
Demographic segment example: Age
- Target group: Freelancers
- Age: 24
- Problems: Has no clients yet and no turnover
- Target group: Freelancers
- Age: 37
- Problem: Has clients but turnover doesn't scale
Depending on their age, these two target groups have completely different problems. You could create two personas from these two target groups.
Goal: Find the smallest possible target group
As you can see, there are many ways to find your target group. Ultimately, you should find as small a group as possible and turn it into a persona.
Fill in the customer persona template
You can enter your target group or target group segment in the following customer persona template and thus convert it into a persona:
- Name of the persona
- Picture (this is what the persona looks like)
- Demographic data
- What does your persona do in their free time?
- What problems does the persona have in their professional/personal life that you solve with your business?
- What frustrates or annoys the persona about your industry?
- What stops the persona from contacting you or buying your products?
- Are there any hurdles, objections or fears that need to be overcome?
- What drove the persona to buy your product/service?
- Where do you find the persona?
- On which social networks or forums do you find them?
- At which events do you meet them?
- What other brands does your persona like?
- What other brands/companies does your persona often come into contact with?
- What does your persona like about these other brands and companies?
That's it. Congratulations, you've created your first bullshit persona!
Visualize your persona
Personas often disappear deep into storage or a Word document and never see the light of day again. Out of sight, out of mind!
To avoid this, you should prepare your persona graphically and create a nice document or poster from it.
Print out your persona, set it as wallpaper for your team or project it on the wall in a visible place. The main thing is that the persona stays in the mind of you and your team.
How do I use a persona?
Your persona is a communication tool. When writing headlines, for example, you should check whether your headlines address your persona's needs, problems, goals or frustrations.
When talking to team members, you can use your persona as an argument to support or criticize decisions.
When you create designs, for example, they should fit your persona and not your personal taste.
A persona helps you focus on your customers and make better decisions for them.
I created the bullshit persona – now what?
At this point, most people would stop and consider the topic of user research done and dusted.
But this is where the exciting part of personas starts, because the term "bullshit persona" alone should make you think at this point at the latest.
Conduct customer interviews
To get the bullshit out of your persona, you need to verify it through interviews. Find out if your persona is based on assumptions or actual facts.
If you've never interviewed your clients before, now is the time to do it. Before you shrink back and think, "I don't have the time or money for this," remember this:
- How much time and money will you waste if you make decisions based on pure guesswork?
- Your content will work much better if you know what your customers are looking for and how they speak.
Clarity is king/queen and that's what customer interviews will give you. The answers recorded in the bullshit persona should overlap with the statements from the interviews. Otherwise, your personas are and will remain bullshit.
Who should I interview?
Different groups are suitable for the interviews:
- Competitors' customers
The easiest way is to interview your current customers. Because current customers (hopefully) already know and like you, represent your target group and are more likely to agree to an unpaid interview.
Choose customers you have a good relationship with and with whom you can chat on the phone for a while. It's easy to conduct customer interviews with these customers because they already trust you and will talk openly with you.
How many interviews should I conduct?
The best is 5 to 10, but every interview counts. Do one instead of none. Each interview will improve your marketing as well as your communication and understanding of your clients.
How long does an interview take?
Depending on how talkative your interview partner is, an interview will take between 20 and 60 minutes. The follow-up usually takes an additional hour or so.
How do you conduct customer interviews?
You should make some preparations for your customer interview. Don't surprise your customers with a spontaneous interview, but book an appointment with them and take your time.
Tip: Record the interview.
Without a recording, you'll miss the important things and the whole interview will have been for nothing. Just ask briefly before you start the interview if you can record the conversation. If you can't, you should spend time taking enough notes during the interview.
What questions should I ask?
You already answered some questions in your bullshit persona; you can transform these questions for your interview.
What you should look out for in the questions and the interview
- Ask open questions. So no questions that can be answered with "yes" or "no".
- Don't suggest answers, e.g. by giving examples. If you suggest answers, your interviewee will almost certainly choose from these answers.
- Ask for concrete cases from the past and not for general opinions or ideas about the future. Statements about the future are usually not accurate. People aren't, unfortunately, fortune tellers.
- You should listen a lot, ask a lot of questions and not deliver a monologue.
In general, you should have as natural a conversation as possible. If you think of a few more questions during the interview or if something is unclear to you, follow up with a question.
After the interview
Immediately after the interview, you should compare the interviewees' answers with your bullshit persona and supplement or adjust them if necessary.
Conclusion on customer personas
Customer personas help you get a better understanding of your customers and are relatively easy to create. You should, however, always check your customer personas with interviews to make sure they really correspond to reality and not to your dreams.
Start with your first bullshit persona and dare to conduct interviews with your customers. Your sales figures will thank you.