Product Management 101: Customer/User Persona

A customer persona – also known as a user persona or buyer person – is a profile of the type of customer you want to understand and sell to; the “persona” is developed based on real user research that you or your team need to do.

The characteristics of the users are combined into a composite of a “persona” that represents the major attributes of the customer. It creates a realistic representation of your target customer. A persona gives insight into the way a target customer is thinking and doing as they consider how to solve their problem.

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A customer persona is like a fictional character in a novel to make the customer “come alive” on the screen, but it gives a composite of real people with goals, values, backgrounds. It depicts the target user’s real behavior patterns, attitudes, motivations, priorities and expectations as they relate to a product.

Rather than have the target customer seem like a formless entity somewhere out there, the customer persona “personalizes” the customer type, helping teams to be aligned on how to communicate to the customer.

There are different types of personas:

  • Goal-directed persona – common goal of customers consolidated into one “persona”
  • Role-based persona – the role of the people in an organization
  • Engaging persona – common emotions, psychology and/or background
  • Fictional persona – emerges from the experience of the UX design team

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The steps you can take to design your personas are as follows:

  1. Collect data
  2. Establish hypotheses with support of your team
  3. Describe each persona
  4. Create scenarios or situations for your personas
  5. Continually refine and update your personas

You can give a name to each persona. One of your personas could be “Barry the IT guy.” You can build a story around him. His qualities represent the qualities of the people you want to sell to. Build his persona based on your research of users. Use your imagination to think about the likes and dislikes of Barry the IT guy. Make the persona as realistic as possible.  

This use of customer personas is common among top marketing professionals across the world, and it is also prevalent across startups of all stages. As you narrow in on your target customer, apply this knowledge to develop the specific customer and user personas for your idea. 

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