A CEO’s Perspective of Personas

I have been engaged with several companies recently who are pursuing personas as an avenue into buyer and user knowledge, and an intimate look at the behaviors, goals and motivating factors of each.  

For those unfamiliar with personas, Jennifer Doctor, Principal at Marketing Consortium shared the following in her post A New Definition of Personas to Think About. “Personas are about real people, not simply demographics on a chart or in a spreadsheet. Personas encapsulate the goals, attitudes and behaviors of these real people. They are not about the outward characteristics, but the internal motivators that are often unshared with others, unless “coaxed” out by experienced product management and product marketing professionals.” Jennifer’s simple formula for why personas are important is below.

Personas = the reasons why your target market needs to have their problem solved.

CEO’s and the teams that lead their products find that personas are providing more value than understanding the demographics, goals, attitudes and behaviors.

Where’s the Hidden Value in Personas?

During a recent conversation with a CEO, he commented to me and his team, “We thought personas would give us better sales alignment as we prepared to approach different market segments. We got more than we expected. Not only did we discover the traits associated with our buyers, but found their buying process is more complicated than we prepared our team for.”

As we continued the conversation, I noted those areas the CEO found valuable:

  • Sales Process – we’re refining our sales process to better align with buyer problems and buying influences. 
  • Sales Enablement – when you interview your buyers and users, and spend time watching, listening and learning, you take away more than behaviors, goals and what keeps them up at night. We will refine our positioning based on these conversations. The discussions also gave us validation and content to better prepare the sales channel.
  • Competitive Insight – we contacted non-customers and they told us why they didn’t buy. While it’s tough listening to why people don’t love you, it’s interesting what you learn about your competition. We’ll use the information to better position our products and how to react to competitive issues.     
  • Business Systems – we were frustrating our customers when they wanted to purchase more products. It wasn’t easy for them to buy when confusing purchasing options were involved. 

So, what’s the value of personas to CEO’s and product leadership? I believe it provides real content and opens the minds and actions of an organization to fully understand what problems exist and what motivates people to buy. Why second guess it, go try it for yourself.  

Want to learn more about personas and what they can do for your team? Here’s a great link from Stewart Rogers on Persona Resources. It offers links to posts, articles and webinars on the topic. Also, David Meerman Scott offers some thoughts.

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  • Stewart Rogers  On January 26, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    Awesome! If a product management team spend a week developing personas, they would crush their competition.

    • Product Management Tribe  On January 27, 2010 at 2:25 am

      Stewart, I couldn’t agree more. The power of personas is more than profiles of users and buying and influences. There CEO level information that can truly “crush the competition” as you mentioned. There’s strategic information in Personas.

    • The Cranky Product Manager  On January 28, 2010 at 12:51 am

      Aw, com’on Stewart. Personas are no magic pill. They’re a handy dandy zippity tool, but crushing the competition is far from guaranteed.

      Or was your comment tongue-in-cheek?

      • Stewart Rogers  On January 29, 2010 at 3:07 am

        While I agree that it is no magic pill and does not guarantee victory, it sure can give you an advantage over the competition who is likely not doing personas. Of course the baked in assumption is that you are able to research and document the right personas and then make them work for you. However, it is a start in the right direction.

  • Scott Gilbert  On January 27, 2010 at 1:59 am

    Another great Persona “How To Guide” from Jeff Patton the Agile Design guy can be found at http://bit.ly/aZgteb. If link is bad DM Jeff via Twitter @jeffpatton.

    • Product Management Tribe  On January 27, 2010 at 2:23 am

      Scott, thanks for the comments and the link. Another great resources for the Product Managment community via Twitter #prodmgmt


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