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What are Personas? Creating Personas

In this episode, we break down the different pieces that make up a persona. We also show you some examples of personas and access them for what's working and what could be improved.


So let's jump into personas. Personas I think the easiest way, if I had to come up with a line that immediately says what a persona is, it's visualizing your market. And so I want to sort of break it down a couple of the pieces that go into a persona and show you some examples of personas and leave you with sort of a thought about how maybe you can take personas beyond the norm, the generic in its form. So let's jump into this.

So we'll start with that. What sort of content should a persona have? So what are the pieces that make up the persona itself? So the first one is goals and likes, and these are goals and likes of your user. So again, let's imagine we have this segment, this specific set of users, what are their goals? Those might be goals related to your product, or if you hopefully can relate it to them, they might just be their general goals of where they're trying to move their life to. If my goal is I could make X number of income or something on a YouTube channel, for example.

In addition, what are their likes? What are the things, are there specific channels? Are there specific types of content that they really like? Maybe they love cats, for example. So you would list that. Then by identifying, if you can get a big enough market and they've identified that they love cats, then you could maybe use cats in the advertisements towards them. And they might be more receptive to that. So goals and likes.

Background and where they live. So what is their classification like? What is their current status? That might be come into like how much money they make, that might come into where they came from, that culture. And then where they live specifically? Do they live in Pasadena? Did they live in Korea? Do they live in Japan? Do they in Germany? That place where you live changes a lot of the market itself, right? One, you're going to market to a specific area, whether you're doing that via online, or whether you're doing that traditional marketing means it's location-specific. So you can segment that market. So segment them maybe by location.

Age range, and gender. So I put this age range, a lot of people will put in there and be like 18. I think that works. So you'll see some of these examples of personas that I'll share. That kind of works, but it doesn't really matter that they're 18, but there is a big difference I think about it based on 10-year increments. So there's a really big difference between someone who is 10 and 20, for example. There's a huge difference between someone who is, I think that's the biggest difference there, but if you go from 20 to 30, right, big difference between 20 and 30. Big difference between someone who's 30 and 40.

I think as you get older, those differences start to lessen some. But if you look at that based on increments of 10, I think you can classify that. Even at ten-year increments, that's a huge range. So you might look at that and segment that further down. I think about, for me, between when I was 20 and 25, there was some growth there, but my mindset probably was the same. Between 25 and 30, for me, that's changed quite a bit now. And I think now in my 30s, I think when I get to 40, I think that's going to be very different then. I am sort of see it happening in the way my thinking is, the way what my goals are, everything in that space is different.

Behaviors and spending habits. So what do they actually do? What's their daily routines. If you can better understand what those routines are and you can group them together and find groups of people that behave in that way, you can market to them and segment them and provide features from them in that way. And then of course, what are their spending habits? Do they have a bunch of debt? Do they buy quickly? Do they like to rent things? They don't like to own things, for example. That's going to tell you a lot about how you might get perfect product/market fit based on your pricing and how you sell your product and the features that are on your product itself.

Big ones, pain points, and needs. Right? So this kind of plays a little bit into goals and likes, I guess, a little bit, but pain points and needs. What is it that upsets them? Think about that for yourself, what is that thing that upsets you? For me, one of the biggest points I drive, I commute three days a week. I should think about all the cars and you get people who go too fast and you get people who go too slow. And I keep thinking like, there's got to be a way that we can just magnetically attach or something all of the cars into this sort of train. And then the train just goes. And then when someone needs to break off from the train, it knows that person needs to break off and they break off. And then the next car behind the attaches over to that car and essentially makes this sort of freeway experience. Some sort of thing there, the freeway and that just driving in general is a big pain for me. I almost wish I didn't have to drive.

Other things sometimes in the shopping experience, where there's like self-checkout's changed that a lot where I can go and just check out very easily and quickly. Sometimes that's not the easiest to think based on the type of product that I might be buying. So really play into what are your user's pain points? What are their frustrations? This is, I think a really a case of like have as much empathy as possible for your users. Just because something's really easy for you doesn't mean that it's easy for them.

So really when you interview your users really try to get to the sense of like, what's the thing that upsets them about that space. That might just be general talking points, but then it might get more specific when you start talking about how your product is going to solve those pain points. Not necessarily that you're going to lead to that, but setting up that space to do so. The final thing of course is needs, like what are the things that they need in their life? Like they have to have this thing.

So, number one thing that I see is people, is students primarily is they make it up. You look at a user persona it's clearly, I guess I would say for lack of word, better word, like bullshit. It's total nonsense. It's not based in any sort of sense of reality. They've sort of just picked numbers out of their head and said, this is what I think it is. You need to either, I use some tools that I'm going to talk about, which will help you identify the market. And you need to ask real users. You need to interview people. Some people sort of general rule of thumb is interview 100 people from your market. If you interviewed 100 people from your market, you for sure know segments of your market, you know how to take all that data, what you're going to have tons of data and now group that and simplify that data into a way that you can see multiple personas.

Don't just make an assumptions in like, Oh, I've made a persona. So I'm done. Again, that might be a starting point for you for the very first time you make a persona because you might not have that time yet to be able to do it. And that's a jumping off point, but you need, and maybe that is for you. I think, let me break that down a little bit for a second. I think when you're making a product that's going to solve some sort of problem, it's most common is that you make a product for yourself because you're thinking about your pain points, your issues, and this solution, whether it's a website or app or physical product is designed to solve your problem. So you are in that market. So find some other people like you and see if they it's true, verify that.

Now that's the most immediate I think we all look to ourselves to immediately to solve that. Now you might be making a product that is not at all for you whatsoever. It's for a completely different market. Well, you have to go out there and interview your users. You have to talk to them. You have to get a sense of who they are and you have to be genuinely interested in them, right? There's sharing all this information to you. Right. Some people are willing to talk, but what are you doing for them? Right. Sometimes listening is enough, hearing them out, hearing their story, understanding their struggle with whatever their product is or whatever is that solution somewhat. Sometimes it's providing some sort of incentive as well.

So interview users. That's right, real users. Don't assume you have a market. This last one in here it says, don't assume you have a market. That's a big sort of point there, I guess. Maybe I should have made that the big text there. But when you assume you have a market in mind, because maybe it's you, you have this pain point and you're the one who realizes like this, that market may not be big enough for you to make an app or to make a website that is really going to be worthwhile to do it. Now I'm sure you could still do it and it still would solve the problem for yourself or maybe a couple of users, but you need a big enough market and a big enough reach to get to those users. You may also need to think about, is this a preexisting market or do I need to build a market for this? And that's a big, I think a great contrast there. So if you're going into a marketplace where there's already competition, that's sometimes is a good thing.

It's a good thing that there's competition, because you already know there's a market there. You can look at it and say is, I can do better than these, than X competitor. I'm on offer these features. When you're entering into a market, which there aren't competitors, this is a brand new product, and it may be solved something in a new way. And people don't maybe necessarily know that they need your product to solve that you have a lot of work to do in the persona space and in the marketing space to make sure that those users know what your product is. So coming back to that, don't assume you have a market, do the research. I'm going to show you some tools on how we can go and do that.

All right. So now I want to jump in and let's talk about persona styles. There's a bunch of different ways to do this. It doesn't have to be so formal. I'm going to show you some formal ones, and I'm going to show you some informal ones and maybe talk to the point of maybe something that you might want to go and create. So there is this first one, this one's by Dani. I found this on Dribble. This is kind of the standard persona that you think of.

They've managed to combine a lot of the different things we talked about and in a nice visual organized way. So they have some frustrations, they have goals. They have a reading habit. So maybe this has something to do with books or something like that. You can see their favorite books under tech. You can see some of the usage on the internet. So they're on the internet a lot, their social networks, maybe not so involved. They're messaging, games, online shopping. You'll see a lot of these sort of charts in this form. I got mixed feelings about this. In general, I could say, Oh, they're really heavy internet user, but what does that actually mean? How can I quantify that for that group of people? Again, they're referring to this as the Nerdy Nina, but this isn't Nina specifically. This is a group of people that match up in that same form.

So when we think about internet usage, does that mean she's super hardcore, she's on the internet nonstop and she's never away from it? She's always on Reddit, for example? I want to get into more specifics about the social networks as well here. Okay. It's two blue dots, but what does that mean exactly? Does that mean that she's on Facebook and Instagram and no other social networks or she's not that often a social network user? So sometimes like that when you put chart-like data, it can be misconstrued slightly and misunderstood. And that's a problem because you want everybody on your team or in your organization or in your company to look at that and know who that person really is.

I think the hashtags up top where it says book love or book addict and book nerd problems, right? That really, I think you can think of those keywords in it. It brings a lot of different thoughts about who this person is. Demographics. They're 25, lives in Brazil, software engineer. Q&A at an Indie game company. Lives with her boyfriend. So we're getting to some of the demographic information. We're getting some of the background. We don't know from, we can kind of derive a little bit maybe about how much money she has or that market has. But I would like to go a little bit further and see like, not so much the salary. Salary kind of tells some things, but I like to see what kind of money does she have to be, to be able to spend on things?

Okay, let's look at another one. Oh, one quick thing. You see the keywords around her head there where it's smart, passionate, collector, geek? I think that adds a lot to the space. You see the image of this person, you kind of get a better sense of who they are. I like that style because it goes and adds in those keywords the same way those hashtags worked.

So here's one. And again, great photo. I liked this composition of the photo cutting out of the background kind of. It's a little tagline here. I want to live in room like in Pinterest photos, but I need some guidance. So here's the immediate, we kind of see their pain point. They don't know how to get there. There's searching. I'm sure she has lots of photos on her Pinterest account, but how does she actually go and take that into that next realm. We have wants and needs here. Design the new apartment with existing furniture and some new additions. Add plants to her home. Frustration, wants to add accessories that will make the living room like the pictures on Pinterest, but she can't decide what to do and does not do that.

So that's a big source of frustration. How are we going to solve that, right? There's not an immediate solution that comes to mind, but that's a clear frustration. She says, look, this is upsetting. I don't know how to get there. Sure. There's all these assessors, but I may be, I don't know how to go and apply it. This is interesting. They put favorite brands in here. So you can kind of get a little bit sense of the lifestyle. This is a little bit mixed space because sometimes like if you put Netflix, for example, and Apple, yeah. That's maybe tells you a little bit, but there's so many people who have Netflix now. I don't know if that tells you that much.

A little bit of biome, which in this is a sentence form in versus just bullet points. I kind of like bullet point things versus a paragraph that you're going to go and read. I like this, that to be like a poster, it's a quick read tool. So she lives with her new husband in a rented apartment with three rooms. She has a busy schedule between school and work. She and her husband now moved into the apartment and they expect a child in seven months. That says a lot, right? So she's pregnant. They have three, it sounds like three rooms, which I assume maybe that's two bedrooms and a den area. She's living with her husband. She has a busy schedule between school and work. So she's going to school and she's working. Her job here above, she's a student and she's a waitress. This is Brooklyn. She's 26.

So think about that space. Is there a lot of people in that space they're that age, they have that kind of job? It's clear, sort of where they're going. In the tech, we see again, that same chart sort of system. She's an early adopter kind of, so not really an early adopter. Again, some of those aren't that clear in it. So we get some pieces from it. I would say in general, this is a great start. I would want a little bit more, for example, if I could get a sense of she's on social media a lot. So I would say, Oh, she's on Instagram. Probably, maybe Snapchat as well because she's on that. I'd like to get a sense of how many hours this person might be on Snapchat or Instagram a day maybe or a week. And that would be a great little chart or module snippet to break out and say, this user is on Instagram for 10 hours a week. That gives you a lot because you know that you'll be able to reach that market via Instagram ads.

Okay. Here's another one. This is Xtensio. Those other ones were just made Photoshop, illustrator, sketch XD. You could make them in lots of different tools. Xtensio provides this sort of template and form for you to go and create. So here we have Clark Andrews. I don't know so specific about the names for things. I kind of tried to avoid that because then you look at this and you're like, that's Clark Andrews, and I'm only selling to Clark Andrews. I like this concept of like that personality, that kind of person. And sometimes giving them a nickname is a little bit better than the specific, Oh, here is them. Again, these aren't just one person. It's a segment of that market.

So age 32, software developer, single, San Jose, computer nerd. I see the photo. I'm like, that could be a computer nerd. It's not sort of the stereotypical computer nerd that I think we think of. I feel like there's a smarter way for me to transition to a healthier lifestyle. So I'm like, okay, maybe there's something there. Yeah, maybe there's something, I don't know. It seems a little mixed in that space. So you got goals, you got your frustrations in there. Preferred channels so social media, mobile, email, traditional ads.

Again, the chart kind of tell you something, but it's misleading because we don't know what that means. When you look at a chart and you don't have a key to that chart, then how do we understand that? So if social media was maxed out, what does that mean? How many hours is that mean? Like literally I could say in hours, what does that mean? Motivations, fear, power, and social. That's an interesting space to be putting them into these motivational categories, but what does that mean? Power at 90% just about, right? That doesn't tell us so much.

Personality is very interesting introvert versus extrovert, analytical versus creative, loyal versus fickle, passive versus active. That's hard to maybe derive all of that from a user group, a classification for that. And I would say that's also difficult to say is based on that, what are we actually going to understand from this market? So he's very analytical and not so creative. Okay. So what does that mean for the way that we'll market to this person? The way that we'll make features for this person? How will they understand things? If we can derive that further than just sort of spectrum, they'll add more to it.

On top there, we have those little tag buttons friendly, clever, go-getter. So that's really, we get the sense of who that is. Right? I think those tags speak volumes immediately of understanding what this is. Now Xtensio, and I think I'm pronouncing that right, but this is a tool to sort of make a board that looks like this, a persona board in this form. It might be something to check out. In general though, I'm kind of not super interested in it. You can see some of the brands as well like the Apple health app, Crunch Fitness and Nike. I'm like, okay, I get this seems like this person they're very health-conscious. They work out a lot. They're very healthy. Yeah. It's not playing into this computer nerd I think expectation we have like, though, like assumptions, I wouldn't say expectations, but assumptions of who this person is.

So those are some general personas, but I came across these recently a set of personas that were done for MailChimp. And these were by this guy named That's his website. These are very interesting to me because it doesn't have all the text, but it says so much about the person. So this first one, we see a photo of the person. You have this nice bokeh blurred out background. This is a real person here. This wasn't set up. And you can see kind of what's on them, what's their life like. And you can see and derive so much from just the items that are on them.

So they have little SD card reader, or not SD card, a little drive there. And it says, things are not okay. And then they have the camera card and they have some sunglasses. They have Sony headphones. So they're obviously listen to a lot of music in that space. There's a little sticker with their face on there with a little helmet. So they have a sense of humor in that. The phone, the iPhones, they have the latest tech here. They're a photographer, right? They have a light meter. They have a little hat that they're wearing there. It's worn. You can see the discoloration on it, almost like dirt and grime on that. Like, they're always wearing that hat.

They have a water container, right? They're not doing from a water bottle. They fill that up and a little bit of tape. And they also have their keys kind of organized in this sort of like zipper wallet sort of space. Very interesting. And then here, you see this diagram, which is very sort of analytical in its form. All of this was shot on sort of this green background and is a nice contrast between the individual photo and the composition of this layout.

I'll show you another one of these here. So here's this woman here, she is Harley Davidson cycles. This sort of, I don't know, that's like some leather of some type. I don't know exactly what they are. We have a little, a book Where We Stand: Class Matters, Bell Hooks, very interesting in this space. That book particular, what is it about that book, that subject matter? A pocket knife, Tylenol Extra Strength. A wallet with a little zipper on it, again, leather. The sunglasses, the rings, the car keys. Right. And think about that says so much about the car and the lifestyle and all of that. There's like a random penny. So all of this, right? Same concept there.

Here's the last one of these. So again, same thing. I'm like, Oh, this is cool. It looks like it has a little mic or not a mic, a camera, a little tripod extender kind of device, a worn Geo Cube there, or their wallet really thick with cards. They have a really old Apple Shuffle. The sunglasses, right? The style. You can compare that to the glasses that they're wearing and the scarf and the hat. Like this person's stylish and in that experience there. Their laptop, so they have the laptop, a little dongle as well, and a pen.

And then it has this create. I would say, it's very interesting. The thing that keeps getting me with this, I just had to say it is like that create there, the curling between the A and the T. I'm just like it screams out at me and I'm like, I can't stop looking at it. But in general, when you look at these things, you can build that sense of who this person is. Right. It's very interesting to be able to create in this way.

So as a challenge to you, think about how you can use photos and this content, essentially the items that someone has to tell that story about a persona and how can you integrate perhaps type on top of that, in that space. So it's a combination of some of this plus that, that other more traditional style of making personas.

What I want to talk about next, I'm going to talk about in the next episode, kind of plays into planning your marketing, but also plays into understanding that market. How big is the market? Sometimes it's not, you're not going to have the time to interview 100 people. Sometimes you're going to interview five people and you're going to have to run with that. And hopefully you have enough information. So what tools can you go and use to sort of collect information and get better insight? So let's talk about that in the next episode,