Customer Personas: Testing Personas

This is part 4 of our series on Customer Personas, previous segments are available in our archives.

Now that we’ve assembled a group of personas, we need to do one final check and ensure the traits making up our personas are useful. Traits can be one of two forms:

  • Descriptive. These traits capture some aspect of why customers behave the way they do and can help predict future behavior.
  • Derivative. These traits are a result of customer behavior, and are likely an artifact of either how your product operates or how customers perceive your company.

Telling the difference is critical, as personas composed of Derivative traits will not be useful because they won’t help you understand how changes will affect your customers. Your personas should be made only of Descriptive traits, but how do you make sure?

To illustrate this difficulty, let us revisit one of our traits from yesterday: Table Size. Remember that we found two customer personas: (1) Young people who bought small tables once and (2) older people that bought small tables monthly. It should have struck you as odd that someone would buy tables every month! Why might that be happening?

  1. They might be buying tables on behalf of a larger organization or community, so they aren’t truly buying for themselves and there is a customer behind the scenes that you never see.
  2. They might be buying tables on your site to resell in other venues, because your prices are lower than what they can buy them for elsewhere.

Option #1 is Descriptive, as the frequency of buying a table indicates a specific set of customer needs, which means a specific set of decision criteria when buying from you. Option #2 is Derivative because it’s solely a result of the price of your table and there are no real decision criteria. Depending on which reason is correct the classification of this trait will differ, so you’ll need to investigate all of them to be sure.

Understanding why a trait exists is critical to properly classifying it. The only sure-fire way to do that is to talk to customers in each persona and better understand their needs. The good news is that you shouldn’t have to talk to more than a few in each persona to be sure you have captured Descriptive traits to represent them.

Tomorrow we’ll cover how to make decisions with these personas we have assembled!

Quote of the Day: “A synonym is a word you use when you can’t spell the other one.” ― Baltasar Gracián