A few months ago, Dave Shapanka wrote an inspiring post about starting a complicated website-construction project from scratch. To summarize the article using his own TL;DR:
“Remember when they taught you "pre-writing" in elementary school? Turns out that has real-life applications as well.”
Though “pre-writing” as it relates to Vodori’s business of digital marketing strategy, creative, and technology manifests in uncountable ways, one aspect of brainstorming that travels across disciplines from project inception to launch is that of the persona.
Wikipedia defines a persona as a “represent[ation of] the different user types within a targeted demographic, attitude and/or behavior set that might use a site, brand or product in a similar way.” We create personas to better understand our target audiences in order to figure out how they interact with our products and web properties. Our main goals in creating personas are to:
- Inform functional and technical requirements (i.e., what they need to be able to click on in order for us to make a difference in their lives)
- Direct creative activity (i.e., what arrangement of buttons, colors, videos, and copy will excite them about doing business with us)
- Guide marketing and online promotion tactics (i.e., how we can reach them and communicate to them how amazing we are)
If we have an absolute understanding of what’s going on in the brains of our target audiences, we have a much better idea of how we can eat them what inputs are necessary (across disciplines) to make our digital projects flourish. For a recent strategy engagement, the Vodori team completed the following activities to create impactful personas (note: talk to your creative team before starting, they will have valuable input into what information they need in order to do great work):
- Ask around internally. Chances are, there are 1-2 people who work in customer service, sales, or the like that talk to your target audience on a pretty regular basis. Harvest everything they know that may be relevant to your goals.
- Talk to them. Pick up phone, dial number, start to ask questions. Get in car, drive to office, shake hand, start to ask questions. If you can’t talk to them in person, send them an online survey. Surveys can also be an excellent opportunity to make the qualitative research process more tangible as the results are statistics. In short, if you approach someone with an opportunity to make their life better through the web, chances are they will open up.
- Pretend to be them. Try and understand their everyday challenges, their goals, and what excites them. Shadow them for a day. Imagine you are starting a business in their industry – what are the things you would do in order to succeed?
- Don’t forget the web. Even if you have a great understanding of what your target audience needs from you in a business sense, do you know how they might interact with it? How do they browse the web? Do they own a tablet or smartphone device?
When finished, you’ll have lots of raw data, most of it qualitative. Use this data to come up with a set of personas that you feel are representative of the entire market you are trying to reach (this could be as many as fifty or as little as two). When creating personas, make them feel as human as possible. Along with demographic and statistical information, include quotes from your research, attach pictures, outline business needs and possible features that might solve them, include fun tidbits like their top 5 favorite websites or the last three things they bought online. When you don’t have a clue what you’re doing, try your best guess; it’s okay to extrapolate and stereotype a little bit (but not too much).
If in the end you can hand a one-page printout of your personas to your designers and have them tell you that they know exactly who to design for while giving you some pointers on riding your fixed gear, a copy of the new The Antlers CD, and an invitation to their brother-in-law’s poetry reading of the lyrics from this Kris Kross album at a coffee shop that you’ve probably never heard of, then congratulations, you’ve done it. By the way, did you see what I did there? I just created a persona of a hipster designer that you understood so I could make my point. Boom.