How to Create Accurate Customer Personas

“Customer personas” are a must-have tool for marketers, customer experience professionals, and UX designers alike. To put it simply, customer personas are fictional representations of your customer or buyer types. They are often built based on real data, gleaned from online behavior and statistics. They can be detailed and elaborate, or merely simple descriptions of customer profiles that a company is targeting.

Since we happen to be living in an era of Big Data, data visualization, and troves of behavioral data, you may be thinking that customer personas are now simpler to create – just study patterns in the numbers, and create profiles based on commonalities.

Right?

Well, it’s not quite that simple. Sure, you can create customer personas based on numbers and behavioral data alone, but you’ll be left with incomplete personas. Your personas won’t capture the nuances of customer types, which can give you crucial insights into the motivations behind purchasing behavior and loyalty.

For all of the advancements in Big Data, to truly create accurate customer personas that will help shape your marketing plan, customer experience strategy, or UX design, one of the best and most insightful tools seems rather “old fashioned” when compared to our current array of data-crunching tech tools. In fact, you’re likely familiar with it already.

Did you guess it?

The Qualitative Research Method

Qualitative research has been used widely in social sciences and marketing, and it’s perfectly suited for creating customer personas. To understand the various customer types, an experienced (always third-party to eliminate bias) researcher will set up in-depth interviews with customer and prospect categories. The interviewer will take respondents through an open-ended discussion guide, iterating along the way if the conversation opens up new insights. The researcher may even use projective techniques, which use props and creative exercises to break beneath the surface of conversation. The result from this method of investigation yields incredibly rich, detailed – and actual – opinions from real people, not just “fictional” representations gleaned from statistics.

But data is good too

When you create customer personas from interviews and in-depth qualitative research, you still need data, statistics, and patterns. The numbers provide macro data to help you understand wider patterns in geography, ages, and demographics. The qualitative aspect brings these segments to life. When you develop your customer personas using information from both of these methods, you’ll have a real understanding of the people who buy from you. You’ll know their demographics, but more importantly, their opinions, wants, and needs. Your marketing plan, prospecting plan, or design will come to life – a true representation of the people who you’re trying to attract.

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