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The power of user personas

If you’re a business owner, then you know there is a massive difference between starting a business and growing a business. And the gap between a novel idea and a successful business is a tough one to close. 

It’s not enough to create a product or service. No matter how innovative, beautiful or extraordinary, if it’s not marketed in the right way to the right person, it’s never going to get off the ground. But how can you imagine what your ideal customer truly wants when you don’t live in their head? Even if you’re a naturally gifted empath, it’s difficult to get into the minds of your clientele, since we’re all more or less limited to our own worldview. This is where the “user persona” strategy comes into play – the creation of fictional characters to personify a business’ target audience. Much like how children act out real-life narratives through play, creating user personas allows marketers to visualize their customer’s lifestyle, mindset, wants and needs. It’s a key step you must take to elevate your business strategy and create raving fan customers for life.

What is a user persona?

User personas are detailed composites of your customers that allow you to understand them on a deeper, more meaningful level. In turn, creating user personas allows you to design a clearer, more productive and more successful marketing strategy. User personas allow you to reach your target audience in the most impactful way possible. This is why you should focus on learning how to write user personas before focusing on creating content, designing your website – or on anything, really. Because how much sense does it make to try to appeal to everybody when you should be trying to target a specific somebody? It’s like writing your speech before you know who you are addressing. Or packing a suitcase without knowing your destination.

The science behind creating user personas

The user persona strategy of customer engagement is backed by science, which acknowledges the human element of any sales interaction. Unlike traditional product design techniques, which base a product’s concept, design and marketing on the preferences of the manufacturer, the user persona approach bases production on the customer’s psychology. By adding a human touch to what would otherwise be a mechanical sale of cold, hard facts (i.e. what your product is and does), creating user personas generates warmth to stimulate consumer engagement. By revealing how your customers form their opinions, user personas allow you to measure your development processes against consumer response.

Why is creating user personas important?

Using a user persona to understand your ideal customer gives you the confidence and direction you need to make targeted decisions for your business. With a clear concept of your audience, you’re able to strategize competently and comprehensively. You’re able to create compelling content that pulls at the heart strings of your customer. With user personas, you’re able to shape what you want your buyers to believe about your organization and its values. Your customers become eager to refer their friends, so creating user personas provides a pipeline of future customers. And you will be able to connect with your audience on a more fundamental, more powerful level than ever before, creating connections and relationships that stand the test of time.

How to write user personas

Now that you have a user persona definition to work from, it’s time to get down to brass tacks: How do you go about creating user personas? How do you really get to know your audience? To help you better understand how to write user personas, we break the process down into four key steps:

Step 1: Start with the demographics

This is where you start. It’s a high-level look at your audience, where you are putting your audience into buckets based on quantitative factors like age, location and socioeconomic status. Are your customers millennials? What is their income range? Are they primarily situated on the coastal regions? As you drill down on the details that define your clientele, you’ll be able to create a user persona definition tailored to your brand. 

Why is this important? Because speaking to a millennial who lives in Los Angeles is night-and-day different than speaking to a baby boomer living in the Midwest. And speaking to someone with immense amounts of disposable income is vastly different than addressing someone whose primary intent is to be frugal and even thrifty with their money. 

What is a user persona going to accomplish if it doesn’t help you speak your customer’s language? You must adjust your tone, your language and even your approach to connect with your audience on a fundamental level. And that will vary quite substantially based on the demographic you are trying to reach. Remember, the key is to let go of your own jargon and vernacular, and adopt that to which your audience speaks and relates. And the demographic data will be your first signal for which direction to take. This is the beauty of creating user personasthey remove communication barriers between you and your client so you can nurture those relationships seamlessly. 

Step 2: Create a character 

The second step in creating user personas is giving each of your customers a face. Each user persona you create is a character with its own unique background. Ask yourself: Are they married? Single? Do they have children? What is their education? What is their job?

By painting a clear picture of who your customer is, you will be able to get down to what really fulfills them, what inspires them. Because what drives a customer is much more emotional than a price point. Take an individual who is in the market for a high-end luxury automobile. What do you think drives this person? Is it the quality of the car? Perhaps. But odds are it is more likely the emotions the car evokes. The significance. The validation. Or what about someone who is buying a sportier, more outdoorsy car? Chances are this individual is more concerned about the environment and being eco-conscious than anything else.

By understanding what drives your customer, you will be better equipped to understand how your product fits into their goals and how to address their behavior patterns.

Step 3: Find their pain points

Now it’s time to flesh out your user personas by learning what your customers’ problems are. What are their needs? Where are their pain points? By understanding what their issues are, you’re able to develop a better understanding of whether or not your product or service is a solution. And a better understanding of how your product fits into their lives.

People are driven by their needs and their desires. They don’t just buy things because they are nice to havethey are focused on filling the gaps in their lives. And if you can help fill that gap, then it’s a no-brainer.

So as you’re in the process of creating user personas, ask yourself: What is my customer’s pain point? What keeps them up at night? Because every problem your customer has is an opportunity for you to provide the solution. But if you don’t leverage this opportunity to show them that your product or service is not just something that would be nice-to-have, but rather is something that they really need, then you won’t be able to make an impactful, effective sales pitch.

Step 4: Discover the spheres of influence

Asking“What is a user persona?” is virtually synonymous with asking “What are your customers’ spheres of influence?’” That is, on any given week, what are the ways your customers consume media? Do they watch television or scroll through a mobile newsfeed? Are they more apt to rely on Facebook and Twitter, or do they prefer CNN? Do they read The New York Times, The Huffington Post or The Wall Street Journal?

By understanding how your audience consumes their information, you can make a more informed decision about how to write user personas and your marketing content. If your audience prefers BuzzFeed and Facebook, then you will be more successful if you create photo stories, videos and lists. If your audience prefers The Atlantic and The New Yorker, then long-form, journalistic content pieces with a more formal tone will serve you best.

Completing a comprehensive media study of your audience will also help you determine your PR strategy. You will know what influencers to get in touch with, and what outlets to focus on advertising with in order to target and to connect with your customer.

A case study on user persona effectiveness

Aten Design Group, a research, design and technology firm, brands its products as being “designed for humans.” The firm recognized its limitations in understanding the typical technology user, since its staff is comprised of technology experts. To overcome this, Aten created user personas to conceptualize its clients. 

The company took on an innovative project: creating a tool to facilitate professional development for early childhood education teachers. Aten created two user persona profiles to mirror the teachers and their students. By digging into the lives, mentality and needs of each target audience, the design team was able to overcome its own biases, such as having vastly different childhoods and careers from today’s kids and teachers, respectively. The user persona process helped Aten understand how its target audiences interacted with each other, which was a key component of the desired end result. The final product was user-friendly, engaging and on-target for the customer’s needs.

Creating user personas is a powerful tool for making your business vision a reality. Empower yourself with Tony Robbins’ 7 Forces of Business Mastery, a free content series designed to help you take your business to the next level.

Header image © Shutterstock / Tsyhun

Team Tony

Team Tony cultivates, curates and shares Tony Robbins’ stories and core principles, to help others achieve an extraordinary life.

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