The product management guide

Aha! helps product managers get their mojo back

How should product managers define customer personas?

Customer personas are fictional characters that product managers create to represent the different, common users of a specific product. They exist to help product managers communicate research about their ideal groups of users — and give human faces to these groups. Personas matter because they represent a product's core customer demographics.

Product managers must make informed decisions about who their customers are, what they need, and how their product will be the solution. Personas help product managers make these decisions. But knowing what personas are and why they matter is just the first step towards bringing them to life.

Here are some answers to common questions about user personas:

How are customer personas created?

Because customer personas must be as truthful as possible, they are often created based on data from customer interviews. This data should include insights such as patterns, goals, needs, and attributes amongst these specific groups.

A product manager may also decide to create multiple personas — but they should be as different from each other as possible. Product managers create customer personas to group different types of people together who use the product. This helps them collectively represent segments of the marketplace. They represent the different customer groups that a product manager aims to reach with the product, and help to put a "face" on the customer.

What is the goal of customer personas?

The core goal of personas is to help product managers empathize with their customers. When they know who their customers are and what they struggle with, they can view challenges from a fresh perspective. The key role of a product manager is to serve as a customer advocate. The more they know their customers, the more assurance they gain that they are building what customers want and need.

Developing personas helps them answer questions like, "Why are we prioritizing this idea?" Or, "Why is this feature being shipped as part of this release?" When they can answer the "why" behind their decisions, the team becomes more motivated to build, market, sell, and support them — especially when they know how these decisions will help customers.

What are the benefits of personas?

Personas help product managers:

  • Understand customers
  • Propose solutions
  • Give human faces to customer groups

What's an example of a customer persona?

Let's use the example of a fictional software product (Fredwin Cycling) and five different personas for five different user types. Here is the product vision for Fredwin Cycling:

Product vision:

  • To be the #1 social fitness app.

Being the #1 social fitness app will require engagement with several customer personas. Here are Fredwin Cycling's five different customer personas:

  • Carl: Competitive Rider
  • Catherine: Casual Rider
  • Paul: Pro Racer
  • Cecile: Cycling Vendor
  • Chris: Cycling Event Manager

How do I create my first persona?

Creating personas involves capturing key information about them. How much schooling have they had? How long have they been in their industry? What are their likes, dislikes, and goals? All of this information helps to paint a picture of the target users.

For example, Paul is a Pro Racer and one of five personas created for Fredwin Software. Below is an image created in Aha! as an example, although this information can be captured in another format if preferred.

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Here is some key information about the persona of "Paul: Pro Racer" that will inform future decisions about Fredwin:

Name:

  • Paul: Pro Racer

Education:

  • College graduate

Experience: 

  • 15 years

Influence: 

  • Junior team members
  • Local club pros
  • Cyclists in local group rides

Product Knowledge:

  • High

Likes:

  • Tracking all workouts and sharing the data with his coach
  • Integrating heart rate and wattage information to compare his efforts over time
  • Auto uploads of data when he returns home
  • Being the first to own new gadgets

Dislikes:

  • Loss of GPS signal
  • Poor battery life
  • Having to manually upload data
  • Stopping to send texts

Goals:

  • Joining a high-profile team
  • Racing in Europe
  • Staying healthy

Responsibilities

  • Being fit
  • Winning races
  • Mentoring junior team members

Challenges:

  • Balancing work and racing
  • Optimizing nutrition and training based on data
  • Choosing the right equipment (beyond what the team supplies)

Skills:

  • Identifying new technology that will give him an edge
  • Analyzing performance-related data

Trusts Information From:

  • Team members
  • Coaches
  • Trainers

This customer persona includes key information that will help the product manager for Fredwin Cycling gain high-level understanding and empathy with customers who are similar to Paul.

Product managers can get bogged down in so many daily details that they can lose sight of the big picture. It is easy to forget that when the product is done, it will come to life in the hands of real users. Well-crafted personas that are based on thorough research are an ideal way to delight users.

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