How to create a persona in 9 simple staps

Published 28 May 2020
by Sam Dawson, Developer


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Are you keen to ensure your company is customer-centered? One good way to do that is to build personas.

Whether you’re a product owner, marketer, or salesperson, writing your company’s personas is kind of a big deal. (So, probably don’t delegate this job to the inten…)

That’s because your personas can be used to:

  • Brainstorm new ideas
  • Decide what products and features you should prioritize
  • Better target your advertising and marketing creative
  • Connect better with sales prospects and recommend the best solution to match their goals, problems, and pain points

Your personas will impact nearly all parts of your organization, so it’s important that you get them right. We know a thing or two about how to create personas (you might even say we’re experts 😏), so we’ve created this little guide to help you create yours like a pro.

Follow our 9 simple steps and you’ll end up with powerful personas that your whole team can use.

1. Do your research

The best place to start is with your existing customers and prospects. You could run interviews and focus groups to find out more about who your customers are and what they want. Or create an online survey - you can set these up for free in Google forms.

Ask your customers about:

  • Their age
  • Their location
  • What they’re qualified in
  • Their title or job role
  • Where they work
  • Their family life
  • How they’re currently using your product (or other products)
  • What’s bothering them about your product (or other products)
  • Relevant tasks they struggle with
  • What they’d like to achieve in their work/life right now

Tip: it can sometimes feel a bit awkward if you ask personal demographic questions, so you could instead sum them up with one question: “How would you describe yourself?” This allows each respondent to decide how much detail they give you, and you might get some really valuable insights from an open-ended question.

Other research methods include:

  • Analytics- Google analytics and social media analytics will usually display demographic Look at your analytics
  • Forums- Join forums and closed groups where your audience likes to hang out, ask questions, and share about problems that are relevant to your product or service (just make sure you set a time limit for yourself so you don’t accidentally fall down a Reddit/Quora rabbit hole 😸)
  • Talk to your colleagues- Try to get your whole team involved and talking about your audience, especially the ones who regularly interact with customers

2. Analyze the data and identify your personas

Now that you’ve done the research, it’s time to figure out what it means. Keep an open mind as you look at the data because you want to create real personas, not something that backs your own internal narrative or the path you’ve been on until now.

Look for patterns in the data and see what the similarities and differences are. From here, you should be able to identify 3-5 distinct persona types. At this point, you might be tempted to create eleventy million personas, but don’t. You want to cover all your key user and audience types, and get reasonably specific.

Usually, less is best when it comes to personas because it means you can be more focused. After all, you can’t do everything and you know what they say… if you target everyone, you reach no one. The more your product and marketing is tailored to a specific group of people, the more they’ll be drawn to it. This could mean you’ll need to exclude some audiences from your personas who aren’t as good of a fit for you, and that’s okay.

3. Find a persona tool or template

Ideally, you’ll use an app or system that creates personas (like Easy Agile Personas for Jira). That way, you can integrate your personas into your processes, you won’t have to fiddle around with formatting, and they’ll be easier to update.

Some people have persona templates in google docs or Confluence.

4. Make them human

Before you put pen to paper, it’s a good idea to source a photo that helps define who your user persona is. That’s because the more authentic your persona, the easier it will be to relate to them and have empathy with them. And the easier it will be to write about them and come up with their story. When choosing your photo, try to find something that doesn’t look like a stock photo.

Next, give your personas real names that fit their demographics. Try to avoid boring cliches, but if you need some namning inspiration, you can trawl through the lists here.

In the personas, include information that helps you understand them as a person. You don’t need to share their full life story, but adding little details about their personality and motivations can help bring them to life.

5. Write your personas

When writing your personas, it’s all about telling their story (the TL;DR version). Depending on how you plan to use your personas, you might include details like:

  • How their day is structured
  • How they got to where they are now (in life/career)
  • What they’re currently thinking about
  • What keeps them up at night

Key sections could include:

  • Name
  • Demographics (like gender, age, location, qualifications, occupation, income, marital status, and kids)
  • Goals/needs
  • Values
  • Information sources (like books, podcasts, news sites, blogs, TV, radio, thought leaders, and social media channels)
  • Technology (including devices, browsers, and software/apps)
  • Pain points, fears, and objections
  • Personality traits (you might refer to DISC, Enneagram, and even Love Languages)
  • Skills and tools
  • Quote (a sentence or two in their own words that captures their thoughts or position, ideally a survey answer or quote from interviewing one of your customers)

You don’t have to use all of the above sections. You’ll need to keep your personas succinct (1-2 pages), which means avoiding fluff and editing out details that aren’t relevant or useful.

6. Refine

Now that your personas are written, it’s time to involve the rest of your team and get feedback on the personas. Many of them will have different perspectives on who your personas are and what your audience’s key problems and pain points are. So, let them poke holes in the stories and add other important details you may have missed.

There’s also a side benefit to refining your profiles with the help of your team members. If they’re involved in creating the personas, they’ll be much more likely to use them at the end.

7. Make them pretty

Scrappy personas can work, but if you create a better user experience, your personas will probably get used more often.

You can jazz up your personas with icons, illustrations, and brand colors. Add graphs and charts to visually represent data (like where your persona sits on a personality trait scale). And use headings to break the persona up into sections and make it easier to scan. Dot points, bolding, italics, and highlights can also help key information to stand out.

personas small screen 1

8. Incorporate them into your processes

Your marketing, sales, and development teams can all do better work when they use personas. So make sure that your shiny new personas are incorporated into all relevant business processes and made accessible to the whole team. Upload them to the cloud, link them to your project management tool (like Jira), and ideally, your user stories and backlog to add context there.

9. Notice the difference

With personas, your teams are equipped with a much better understanding of your users and audience. The impact of this could be that:

You’ll become more user focused

Personas force your team to think about the user first, empathise with your customers, and see them as real people with real needs. For example, your team might want to work on a new feature that allows users to login using Facebook (everybody else is doing it!), but first they check to see how each persona would use this feature. Turns out, none of your personas are heavy Facebook users so it’s unlikely this feature would get used. Instead, your team decides to prioritize updates to the dashboard that could help two of your personas achieve a specific goal.

Your product will improve

If you’re focused on what your users want and need, your product will get better. Linking new features and work to what your personas need will help shape your product and make it more valuable over time.

You’ll see the value in your work

A task becomes more than just a thing on your to-do list when it’s linked to a persona. Your team aren’t just marketers, salespeople, and developers - they’re problem solvers.

Your marketing is more relatable

Personas help your marketing team know your customers better - their problems, goals, desires, and even how they talk. Your marketing team can use these insights to create marketing collateral that’s more relatable and engaging - that talks directly to your personas.

Your comms become more aligned with your releases

For example, your marketing team could filter all of the issues scheduled in an upcoming release by Persona. They might see that the majority of stories the development team will be working on directly relate to the Busy Mum persona. Having this information allows them to tailor their go-to-market communication to the Busy Mum persona, which can help warm up this audience, ready for the new release.

You’ll have your priorities sorted

You’ll be able to prioritize better and justify your actions by bringing it back to your personas. Instead of following your own agenda, your customers’ priorities become your priorities. You can sort tasks by which persona it will benefit and by how much (in Easy Agile Personas, we have an “Importance to Persona” custom field). For example, you might see that your team hasn’t worked on any of theStay At Home Dad persona’s stories for a while, so you shift gears to work on his top priority feature.

That’s why great personas should be your #1 resource when making key business, product, and marketing decisions so that you always look at things through the lens of your customers. Now you’ve got your personas, go forth and create!

Try Easy Agile Personas

If you’re using Jira, we have a super simple way you can incorporate personas into your workflow 👇

Easy Agile Personas is our latest solution for teams that use Jira. Capture personas alongside your team’s Jira board and make it easier for your team to stay aligned on priorities and focus on the most important thing - your customers!

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Try the 30-day free trial and see how easy it is to build personas into your team’s everyday tasks!

Got questions about how to create a persona or think we’ve skipped an important step in the process?


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