One of my favorite clients was looking to take a business segmentation to the next level. He wanted to better understand his customers -- as people, not just a targeted profile. He had been reading up on "personas" and asked if we could help.
My first reaction was... Why? Personas are a fad. Are you sure you want to spend a bunch of money to create imaginary customers?
He set me straight. And I have been an advocate of persona building ever since.
Personas are not a targeted profile or segmentation. They are not based on percentages and demographics. Instead, they are built around the person -- and his or her motivators, drivers, pain points, challenges, interactions, inspirations and aspirations.
Personas are multi-dimensional, deep and rich narratives. They are a comprehensive and highly accurate portrayal of the person; designed to generate empathy. Empathy, in turn, allows us to understand, relate to, and "connect" with the information shared -- and ultimately use this insight to improve experiences and create more compelling messages.
KS&R's approach to persona development is holistic and immersive. Going to the places these targets work or live. Observing. Listening. Learning. Looking for patterns and characteristics that distinguish the targets, and then using these insights to build a unique and distinctive persona environment. These environments are built by applying both a personal lens (the target's point-of-view) and a cultural lens (how macro forces outside the target's control affect him or her) to our development efforts.
Typically, we have 4-6 personas in a given environment; beyond 8 is unruly and unlikely to be embraced by the organization. The process of naming, imaging and developing each persona's story is important -- wanting to reflect the essence of who this person is, how they behave, and why they matter.
The process is time consuming, but worthwhile. Personas are the best way I have found to help an organization really understand its targets, and use that understanding to take meaningful, productive action against them.