How do You Create Customer Personas?

This week we explore the best way of creating customer personas.

You can download the empathy map template here.


Hi, Welcome to UniquiTV. I am Laura Janes. Every week we answer your questions on Financial Services Brands and Marketing. Today we answer a question from Jason Butler he asked: “How do I devise customer personas and how do I use them in marketing strategy and content?”

I think customer personas are a brilliant tool for getting into a customer mindset. For me, a customer persona is a representation of your ideal customer or customer group. It provides useful information about who they are, where they come from and what they truly believe in. To create really great customer personas it involves a high level of work. I have created customer personas for building websites, for building content and all sorts of things. If I was going to go as in-depth as I wanted to on customer personas, this is the process I would follow:

Firstly I would start with quantitive analysis, by looking at the data that I hold on a companies customer base, it would involve downloading all the information the company has on its customers from a database and probably using software such as Excel to go through and analyse the information. I will be looking for trends on particular customer groups, but I would also be looking for things like who are the most profitable customer segments, how has that changed over time and things similar to that. Once I have that quantitive information, I’d move into more of a qualitative stage.

Qualitative research tends to involve speaking to end customers, this really is the best way of understanding who your customers are. In an ideal situation that would mean going out, interviewing your customers and finding out what their true drivers are, what they are about and what is meaningful for them in the context of your business.

Once I have that quantitative and qualitative information together, there would be a period of analysis where I would be pulling all of that information together to make it into something meaningful. I tend to try and do a manageable number of customer personas so I would say around three to five. Ideally three to keep it simple! Then I will be looking to represent those personas in a relevant document.

This is one we did a while ago for a financial planning firm, around retirees. In particular, a segment of retirees that had particularly high flying careers, and looking at that point where they are about to retire. The representation of the research we did including the analysis does contain some demographic information on their age, where they live and how much they are worth. All of those sorts of things which makes targeting them in advertising more easier but it also contains a lot of emotive information, like what do they truly desire and what are their key drivers, because this will help me shape marketing messages that are really going to appeal to them. One thing that came out in this particular group of retirees was the importance of health and fitness and the sorts of things they do around that. Another nice thing we have included here is the types of brands that they are really into. So these particular ones love Mercedes, John Lewis, Waitrose and British Airways. We got that from talking to the customers direct.

I can understand that doing this amount of research for a customer persona is very in-depth. They are absolutely brilliant and can be used in every single piece of marketing, proposition design or service design that we do for the customer.

If you are just looking to start somewhere, there are templates for personas online but a lot of them just use the demographic information and don’t go that much into the emotional drivers of customers. So I think the best approach if you just want to start somewhere and do something basic is to do an empathy map, here is a copy of the template we use for empathy mapping.

Empathy mapping is similar to a persona but it involves more thinking about what the customers really think and feel and their pain points. It’s a simplified version, there is a copy of this you can download on our website. What I would do is try and think about your priority customer segments that you have. Think about three or four customer segments that you have within your business and then create one of these for each of those segments and ask the following questions:

What do they think and feel?
What really matters to those customers? What major preoccupations do they have? What worries and aspirations?

What do they see?
What’s the environment they are working in or living in? What other competitors are offering to them? What they might use to find financial information?

What do they say and do?
Things like what brands do they buy? What are their attitudes? Where do they live?

And then also who are they influenced by?
Do they listen to their friends? Their boss and whatever that might be.

And then perhaps the most important part is this bit down the bottom which is pains and gains.

So what are their fears, frustrations and obstacles and specifically in the context of their finances.

And then what are the gains? Their wants and needs and their measures of success.

And this is the bit where you can think about what is it that you can offer to them. And I think you can make it the starting point with these, without having to do the end customer research. Of course, if you want to make them really in-depth, then some end customer research can be really really useful.

The other little basic thing that you can do, this is a representation of it just behind me here. At the moment we are working on a financial website for an online advice service and one of their key target segments is women between the ages of thirty and forty and so we have started just creating what I call a mood board for those kinds of customers. I literally have gone through magazines, looking for things that might appeal to this customer segment. We have started, by thinking about what is important to them such as healthy food, family, a lovely home, being outdoors and then picking out some words that are relevant in the context for them. This is a nice way of starting to try and get inspired and to visualise the mindset of a customer.

Hopefully, those three things give you some idea of where to start. Obviously, if you can and have the time and the money, absolutely do detailed researched personas with quantitive and qualitative information. If you just want to start somewhere then the empathy map or a mood board is a fantastic way to start and then you can use that mood board or the empathy map to start creating ideas for your marketing and start structuring your marketing plan.

I look forward to seeing you next week. Don’t forget if you have any questions, you can tweet me at @uniquity_co.

I look forward to seeing you then.

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