Your Guide to Building a User Persona

Growth Hacking

Your Guide to Building a User Persona

Jess Walrack
Jess is a writer and content strategist at Brightscout. She is passionate about innovative and disruptive ideas in marketing, tech, and design.

Have you ever wished you could read the minds of your customers? If only you could understand what makes them tick, you would know how to best build your product. Unfortunately, trying to design without that insight is like shooting an arrow at a target you can’t see. But, there is a solution. A user persona gives you the target, enabling you to aim and hit the bullseye.

In this guide, we’ll cover what a user persona is, how it can help you, and how to build one for your business.

What is a user persona?

First things first, a user persona is a research-based, fictional character that represents a key segment of a business’s customer base. It outlines who the buyer is, what they want, how they behave, and many other granular details (which we will give examples of a little later).

All of this information is found by studying a company’s current customer base and performing market research. Then, the data is analyzed to identify patterns, create segments, and, eventually, build the persona.

While some large businesses have up to 20 user personas, three to five is generally recommended.

Negative user personas

In addition to user personas, there are also negative user personas which represent a segment of a business’s customer base that they don’t want to target.

Now that you know what user personas are, let’s look at why you should build one.

How can a user persona help you?

When building a user persona, you are learning about who uses your product or service. It is not just making up a character based on a whim, but using qualitative and quantitative data to uncover common traits amongst the users that bring you the highest ROI. There are already patterns; this process is merely revealing them.

By doing so, you will understand your ideal users in great depth. This empowers you to tailor your products and their features to the user’s specific needs, concerns, and behaviors. The more you understand who you are building for, the better.

As for the negative user personas, by identifying the users you don’t want, you can eliminate features you don’t need.

So how do you get started?

5 steps to building a user persona

There are five main parts to building user personas: Figuring out what information you need, collecting it, analyzing it, building the persona, and designing for the persona. Here, we will walk through each step of the process.

1. Identify the information you need

When researching your customer base, you will want to ask questions to better understand them. The questions you ask will depend on what’s important to your company. Here are some examples:

Professional information

  • What is their job role/title?
  • Which industry do they work in?
  • How big is their organization?
  • What are their job responsibilities?
  • How do they measure success?
  • What does a typical workday look like?
  • What tools are needed for business?
  • Who do they report to?
  • Who reports to them?
  • What values are most important to them at work?
  • How did they get the job they have today?
  • What is their biggest fear at work?

Demographics

  • Are they male or female?
  • How old are they?
  • What income bracket are they in?
  • Where do they live?
  • Are they married?
  • Do they have children?
  • What is their highest level of education?
  • What are their favorite hobbies?

Behaviors

  • How would they describe their demeanor and personality?
  • What inspires them to take action?
  • How do they gain new information about their job?
  • Which social media networks and associations are they part of?
  • Which communication channels do they prefer?
  • Do they search for products online?
  • Ask them to describe a recent purchase, why did they consider it, what steps did they take that led up to their decision?
  • What is something they say often (a catchphrase)?

Goals

  • What are their primary and secondary goals in their current position?
  • What is a primary life goal outside of work they are pursuing?

Challenges

  • What are the biggest challenges they face in their current position?
  • What is a challenge outside of work they are battling?

Objections

  • Do they think your product or service is a good fit for their company/life? Why or why not?

It will be up to you to identify what you want to know and which questions will get you the right answers.

2. Collect the information

Here are several ways you can gather the above data:

  • External interviews: Interview existing users and prospects over the phone or in-person. Offer incentives so people will happily participate. Further, make it convenient by planning ahead and streamlining the scheduling. Also, be sure participants know it is not a sales initiative.
  • Internal interviews: Interview the entire internal team (sales, marketing, customer service, etc.) to collect insight into their interactions with users.
  • Surveys: Ask users or prospective users to complete a survey online or in-person.
  • Analytics: Study analytics from your website, social media, and other platforms.
  • Forms: Add fields to forms on your website or app which will capture additional personal information such as a person’s company size, job title, etc.

It’s important to get a decent sample size before drawing conclusions so aim for a minimum of 100 responses.

3. Analyze the data

Once you have all of the information, it’s time to analyze it. Review all of your data and look for the patterns. Is there a prominent age bracket dominating your user base? Do those people share similar goals and challenges?

Separate the users into segments and rank them by how profitable they are to your business. Next, decide which segment of users you want to use for your first user persona.

4. Build the user persona

Once you’ve chosen which segment is going to be used for your first buyer persona, you’ll bring him or her to life using the data you gathered. You will want to clearly define the persona through details such as:

  • Image
  • Name
  • Age
  • Male or female
  • Income
  • Job title
  • Career path
  • Family
  • Location
  • Personality profile
  • Technology preferences
  • Habits
  • Daily activities
  • Communication preferences
  • Biography
  • Goals
  • Challenges

Create a one-pager that outlines all the above details about your user persona, or download our free template to help you get started.

Note: You will need Sketch to edit the template. 

5. Tailor your products to the user persona

Once your persona is ready, you can tailor your products to him or her. Here’s how:

  • Analyze the goals and challenges of your persona and identify what your company can do to help them achieve the goal or overcome the challenge.
  • Use the knowledge about your persona to determine which features you build into your products.
  • Write your elevator pitch to appeal to the needs and preferences of your user persona.
  • Create content that appeals to your user persona and release it on channels that it prefers.
  • Design your buying funnel according to the typical buying behavior of the persona.

By following these steps, you can build your first user persona and many more after that. Further, you will be able to plan your products based on your persona and track how it impacts your results.

Lastly, the process of optimization never ends, so plan on continuously learning about your audience, monitoring your results, and fine-tuning your design strategy accordingly.

Want help building your user personas?

Building user personas and integrating them into your product design strategy creates a better experience for the customers while driving revenue for your business. If you would like to get started now.

Have any questions? Let us know in the comments below or drop us a line here.

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