Kind of unbelievable that there could be one tool that can enhance every aspect of your business, right? Well there is, and it’s probably something you’ve considered before in a roundabout way, and never quite as thoroughly as you should have.

What I’m talking about are personas, i.e., well thought-out profiles of fictional customers. It’s often best to only create one persona for each of your most frequent business partners (usually no more than four or five personas). Each persona describes the wants, needs, motivations and challenges of each type of customer.

But how do personas help anything?

Excellent question, glad you asked!

These personas act almost like an on-call focus group for you to reference whenever you’re considering anything new—expanding your services; adding a new product line; creating or redesigning your website; starting a new ad campaign.

Personas can drive literally every decision you make as a top-level manager or business owner. They help you keep your focus on your customers at all times. Well-developed personas help you pinpoint your customer’s priorities and expectations, and how best to meet them.

Ready for a visual? Check out an example persona below to see what we’re talking about!

OK—so how do you create a persona?

Creating a persona involves a lot of brainstorming, interviewing and general research into your customer base.

  • Decide who your most frequent core customers are, including internal customers, business partners, etc. Think large-scale for this, and try not to surpass any more than four or five core customer types.
  • Brainstorm customer needs, motivations and challenges. Include a few key coworkers and ask questions for each customer type. Describe this customer’s demographics (age, race, gender, education level, household income, language, etc.), their goals and their challenges. Try to identify any questions they frequently ask.
  • Interview actual customers to verify your work. Speak with a handful of customers or business partners and ask them to answer your brainstorm questions themselves. Make sure to listen and note their responses—this is valuable feedback!
  • Identify solutions to customer challenges, or answers to their questions. Once you’re positive that you understand customer wants and needs, start thinking creatively to provide them with what they’re looking for.

Need somewhere to start? Check out our persona example and work with your team to create a set of similar personas to mimic each of your main customer types. Fill out as much detail as you can to develop the best personas possible for your business.

Put your personas to use

With your brand new, business-specific personas created, they’re ready to guide you and your team in any decision you may need. Think about ways you can use your personas throughout the customer journey, starting from the moment they first hear about your business (anticipate their questions to provide quick answers and promote a faster sale!). Refer back to your personas when you’re creating new ads (would your clients respond better to formal language or slang? Should you advertise in the newspaper or on Facebook?). Use them when you’re creating your company website, and make clear links to the information your customers request most often.

As business owners and managers, we get so engrained in our day-to-day work that it’s easy to forget some of our customers most basic questions. We’re so focused on the big picture that we miss the small details that bug our customers the most. Use your personas to influence your business decisions, and it’s like having a team of your most frequent customers on hand to keep your decisions customer-focused and continue providing the customer experience that they’re looking for!

Persona Example

Heather Homebuyer

  • Age: 34
  • Education: Some College
  • Income: $55,000/year

Biography: Heather just purchased her first home in the nearby historic district. Her home was originally built in 1912 and is in need of significant structural and functional repair. Heather has never been through any home renovation project and needs to find a trustworthy expert who can guide her through many types of project.

Needs:

Actions:

To verify that the contractor she chooses is an expert in home renovation

  • Feature list of previous successful projects on company website
  • Partner with local charities to provide services in exchange for promotion

To verify that the contractor she chooses is trustworthy

  • Feature prior clientele reviews on company website
  • Include short reviews in ads/marketing materials

Assistance in managing multiple home repair projects of various size/scope

  • Feature range of team members’ expertise on company website/marketing materials

To get project pricing/timeline estimates

  • Make contact information clear on all materials
  • Feature starting prices or price estimate calculator on website

Wants:

Actions:

Beautiful, functional and affordable home design/detail

  • Provide Heather with three product line recommendations.
  • Consider expanding product lines as necessary

Challenges:

Solutions:

Is wary about working with contractors (friends have been burned in the past)

  • Ensure all communications with Heather are clear and honest, and that Heather understands terminology
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