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Customer Personas: Building Personas

This is part 3 of a 5 part series on Customer Personas.

Yesterday we discussed how to look at the distribution of customers by dimensions to identify candidate traits for our personas. Now we just need to put them together into personas!

Unfortunately, you likely have a long list of traits because your customers will naturally segment into dozens of groups. While you are welcome to create dozens of personas, it is often most useful to have only a handful. To handle this complexity, we’ll triage the possible personas by using the total population size.

For example, let us assume we identified 3 traits for our online furniture company each of which had 2 clear segments: Age (Young and Old), Table Size (Small and Large) and Frequency of Purchase (One-time and Monthly). Even this simple model with three traits (two segments each) give rise them to 8 different personas!

That’s far too many, so let’s cut it down by looking at the total population of customers that falls into each candidate persona. When we do, things become a lot clearer:

Age, Table Size, Frequency of Purchase Population
Young, Small, One-Time 31%
Young, Small, Monthly 5%
Young, Large, One-Time 3%
Young, Large, Monthly 10%
Old, Small, One-Time 9%
Old, Small, Monthly 27%
Old, Large, One-Time 6%
Old, Large, Monthly 9%

As you can see, combining our traits actually reduced most of our potential personas to very small parts of our population. Only “Young, Small, One-Time” and “Old, Small, Monthly” represent enough of our customers to be worth creating personas.

Note that these two personas don’t cover all of our customers, just large segments. Your personas will never cover 100% of your users, as the number of personas that would require is impractical. Keep this in mind when using your personas, however, because there are many customers that fall outside.

You’ll find that using population as a filter is a very effective way to go from dozens of potential personas to only just a few. With those in hand, tomorrow we’ll talk about how to verify that your personas are really representative of your customers or if your customers just represent your personas.

Quote of the Day: “Dealing with people is probably the biggest problem you face, especially if you are in business.” — Dale Carnegie

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The Customer Personas series