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According to research, 61% of consumers say they feel better about, and are more likely to buy from, a company that delivers custom content. Creating a persona, and knowing how to interact with it will be an investment that will make your marketing more efficient and lead to better customer relations. So what are the steps to creating the right personas?

Research

The goal of your research is to find patterns in behaviors, expectations, motivations, interests and goals of your target audience. It is important to continue until you find a repeating pattern of responses. Surveys and interviews are essential. Because of their vested interest in both the business and the consumer, you should interview business stakeholders who frequently interact with users. You should also check existing market research and interview market research specialists for advice. Lastly, remember that informal conversations are also very useful. It may not be formal research, but the important thing is to gather information. Anything from 30 minutes to an hour should give you adequate information as long as you stay on topic.

What sort of questions should you ask? For building personas, a lot of the questions will likely be indirectly related to your product. Ask things such as “What aspects do you enjoy about your job? What sort of things frustrate you? What would make your job or life at home easier?” Since it all depends on the industry you’re in and the product you’re offering, the possibilities are endless. But it’s essential to remember that questions should be personal and tell you about behaviors, interests, etc while at the same time they should be able to relate to your product. Talking to your sales team can help because they know common objections and concerns that tell you what kind of people are generally interested in your products. Once you ask the same questions to enough people, you will begin to see clusters of attitudes that will help you create different personas.

Writing Personas

How many?

After defining clusters, create a person out of these with a brief label (two or three words) and use your demographic information to give her or him an identity with age, name, etc. The ideal personas is a fine balance between generalization and individualization. Anywhere from three to five personas should be adequate for most companies, but more can be added if your company is very large, international, and offers a plethora of products. If several departments within your company require the same persona, secondary personas can be created within the department in order to make it more useful for each, but beware of creating too many personas which destroys the aforementioned balance.

How much detail?

How much detail should go into these personas? Once again, it is important to be detailed and broad. Sometimes it is important to look at different ways to answer a question in order to derive details about a persona. For example, in asking someone about their goals, you can make a distinction between: end goals and process goals. Some people are goal oriented while others are detail-oriented, so if you ask a person about their goals they might say “I want to live until I’m 50” while another might say “I want to enjoy life.” Both people might ultimately want the same thing, but they have different ways of expressing it. Their answers will give you a clue as to how their goals relate to their interests, which will help build details into the personas.

Consider including localities

Another detail to consider is “localization/regionalization” which might help you relate to your audience simply by the way you communicate. For example, in most of the United States tissues are called “Kleenex” whereas in Austria they refer to them as “Tempo” (because of these brands’ marketpower in those regions). Knowing distinctions like this is important because it is part of the culture and shows the customer that you are an insider who is aware of theirlifestyle and needs.

After the right amount of personas have been created with the right amount of detail, they can be used and adapted for an endless array of tasks to help improve marketing and other aspects of your business. Website/intranet interface, content and functionality can be adapted to different personas. They can be used to speak with senior management about how the direction the company is headed in relates to customers needs and whether changes should be made. Other things such as usability tests and “frequently asked questions” can also be adapted by using these personas so the limits to their usage simply depends on your creativity. Taking the time to create the right personas and to come up with the right ways to use them is an investment that your company cannot afford to spare regardless of its size.