What are customer personas?

“A major virtue of personas is the establishment of empathy and understanding for the individual who uses the product.” – Donald A. Norman

Building upon our recently published article on customer journey mapping, we now look to unpack a critical component of the mapping journey, customer personas. Customer personas are a fictional representation and description of an organisation’s ideal customer. They are based on real data, research, and insights gathered from existing customers. Such outputs typically include customer information such as demographics, personality and traits, values, goals and frustrations, lending credence to their worth in the mapping process. Yet, they are also a powerful tool for businesses and marketers in and of themselves.

“The closer you are to your customer, the more value you can add.” – Courier 2022

Research suggests that 91% of people are more likely to shop with businesses that provide relevant offers and recommendations. Whilst another indicates 66% of customers expect companies to understand their needs, with customer-centric companies being 60% more profitable than companies that aren’t. Deep organisational understanding cannot be understated in highly competitive markets, and the competitive advantage of being able to tailor activities and communications in line with customer desires is clear.

“Knowing your customer is an essential part of your business, a highly valuable one. Knowing who your customers are will drive conversions and boost your business’s revenue and overall success on many levels. Successful organizations have a customer-first approach ingrained within their company’s culture” – Yelena Petic, VEZA Digital

Customer personas are the foundations for deep customer understanding. There isn’t a limit on how many personas you can create, but “in most cases, three to five customer personas are sufficient. If you create too few customer personas, you risk missing out on key customer segments. But when you create too many, you’ll stretch your marketing resources thin by trying to appeal to everyone.” There also is no one right way to create a customer persona, but quality research should always be at the center. All businesses have their own nuances and variations of what is important to understand about their customers, however there are consistent questions which can help form the structure of a successful customer persona. As mentioned, these include:

  • Demographics – Age, occupation, income, education, relationship status
  • Personality and traits – What defines who they are? How would you describe them?
  • Values – What is important to them? What matters most?
  • Goals – What are they wanting to achieve in life? Do they have any dreams or future ambitions?
  • Frustrations – What are the biggest problems in their life? What causes them the most angst?


(Customer persona template)

Using these questions as a starting point, you can then dig a bit deeper, exploring what is specific or most helpful to your organisation. As Ralph Burns of Forbes describes

“Once you’ve fleshed out some of those basics, think about the customer qualities that matter to your specific business. It may be important to understand what kind of books your customers read, what kind of movies they watch, what kind of restaurants they prefer or what kind of dishwasher detergent they buy. The key is to find the most important bits of information to help you and your team gain a better understanding of who is buying from your company, so you can find more people just like them.”

Customer personas can and should become a staple for businesses, a reference point for all consumer led decisions. Fundamentally, they can be used to inform:

  • The refinement of products and services
  • The creation of targeted marketing / advertising
  • Ongoing product development, pricing, and strategy

Using the eco-conscious consumer persona above as an example; A clothing brand, based on their research and understanding of this persona, might develop messaging that highlights the eco-friendly features of their clothing line, such as the use of organic cotton, recycled materials, and sustainable production practices. They might also emphasise their commitment to ethical labour practices and fair wages for workers. Rather than design or style features which mightn’t be as attractive to this persona type.

A persona should be a fictional character that embodies the characteristics of your ideal customer based on real data and insights you have gathered about your existing customers. They are a valuable tool for businesses to understand their customers’ needs, preferences, and behaviours. By creating customer personas, businesses can better implement targeted marketing campaigns, make better business decisions, and create products and services that meet their customers’ needs.

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