Creating Customer Personae

with Julie Hamwood

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How to make a customer profile

Julie Hamwood

Strategist, Project Manager, User Experience Expert

Lessons Learned

Do not get caught up in stereotypes. Create your persona based on a real person you know.

Are your customers already buying or hacking a way to fix the problem you want to solve?

Make an assumption and then go out and test it. Untested assumptions are worthless.


Lesson: Creating Customer Personas with Julie Hamwood

Step #2 Profiling: How to make a customer profile

So when we start doing customers development, like ground zero for me is what's in my head, and if I'm working with a larger team, what's in my larger team's head. So we'll go through an actual exercise where we really go through in detail and we think about a particular person, each of us can think about a particular person, not a stereotype, but an actual person that we know or have had contact with. Then we go through a range of questions round for that person. So we're going to look at: What is this person's problem? What is the need that they have? If that need is satisfied, what gains do they get? If it's not satisfied, what pains do they bear?

I want to know what their needs are. I want to have a sense of who they actually are, and this is where a lot of demographic and psychographic information comes in, and what you gather there will depend on your product.

Obviously, gender and race and sexuality and age and all of those sorts of things are worth having, but you might want to collect educational background. You might want to collect income levels, or you might want to collect lifestyle habits or family structure. It really depends on what your particular business is addressing, what aspect of a person's life.

I really want to understand that person's context. What's a typical day for them,? What are the ways that they receive information? As they meet this need, what barriers are they encountering? What is actually helping them meet this need? I'm really interested in functionally how they try to meet this need themselves. If we didn't exist, if my business didn't exist, what are they doing? Are they trying to hack a solution together themselves? Are they buying another solution currently that they're finding sub-optimal? Are they doing nothing? I'm really wanting to get a sense not just of the specifics of this, but what the intensity of it is for them and also the priority is for them.

So I'll be looking at, functionally, what their needs are there. I would then start to introduce the solution that we're looking to offer. But I really want to do that once I've had a really good understanding of their world's view and their problem scope. Then I can start to talk gently about our solution, just to tease out: Is it interesting to them? What sort of concerns would they have about it? If they could envisage using it, what would they expect to experience? So I can start to tune in to, as part of my delivery of this service, what expectations do I need to hit? In real time, a day later, a month later, three months later? Particularly, obviously, I'm looking for a repeat engagement. Whatever the particular product is, I really want to understand what their experience points are over time. And I definitely want to get a sense of prize. How much are they willing to pay for this, and how much do they pay for things that are similar to what's being offered?

Now, in the first instance, that's just coming out of my head. That's just me writing that down on paper. Or if I'm doing it with the team members, I'll have the team members do the same thing, and then we'll go through a process of synthesizing all of that. The point of this isn't to say, "Oh, I know all of this." It's to make it explicit to myself what all my assumptions are. It's to make explicit to myself what I do know and what I don't know. When I'm actually doing this, it's also completely fine to acknowledge I don't know certain aspects, because then I know what I need to go and gather information on.

Basically, the real value of getting this out of our heads and actually coherently organized is I think it also helps team members to see that we actually have different perspectives. Even though when we're in a collegiate way sharing with each other what we're doing and we think we're on the same page, we usually actually aren't. So we need this exercise to help bring some synthesis and also to identify where within our team we have different understandings of who we're serving.

I think it's also very valuable for everybody to look at what they're assuming and then go out and test that, because the richness of the results that you get back from testing is so strong and the amount of learning that you will have about particular customers and what they need and how you could really meaningfully find that sweet spot of servicing them with your business is tremendous. I think one of the best experiences of being a team member is really learning how much of what we assume is actually incorrect.

I actually really love that growth experience, even though it's initially hard. Some of your darlings get completely rejected, and things that you were so sure about are utterly wrong. But I'd rather know about it upfront before I've really put a lot of build time in, and actually it's pretty incredible to get to know my customers more effectively and do a better job of meeting their needs than it is to try to go down my particular vision and require somebody else to love my baby. So that's why I think it's important to create those profiles.

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