At ProductCamp Atlanta 5, I co-presented a town hall session with Kevin O’Malley about the use of personas in Design and Strategy.  Our assertion is that a persona effort is a wise use of a product manager’s time, because it can lead to both a better-designed product and a better-aligned marketing effort, which should lead to better results.

A significant amount of research goes into developing personas, and because of the “town hall” format, we only touched on that in this discussion at a high level.  The key point is that the research must be first-hand, and the persona cannot be “made up” based on demographics and abstract data alone.

Here’s my re-enactment of the presentation, as captured by my friends at the Startup Slingshot:

Once realistic personas are created (with real names and other details) we then must engage in a socialization effort, which is beyond the scope of this presentation.  Suffice it to say that the personas must be brought to life, and the key players must get to know these personas as if they are real people.  In response to a question, I cited that in the persona effort I led at Carestream, we had our personas email our team regularly to provide ongoing interaction and a steady flow of realism to paint the picture even better.  If the team isn’t on a first-name basis with the personas, they aren’t doing any good.

The key benefits to investing in a persona effort are:

  1. Buyer personas: By crafting marketing collateral for a specific “person” or “persons” instead of the generic “the user,” we get more targeted language that our target audience can really connect with.
  2. User personas: The product itself can be better designed to meet the needs of a specific target market by designing the user experience for a specific “person” or “persons.”
One key point to make is that to achieve everything listed here, there are often two sets of buyers (particularly for B2B software) because the buyer is NOT the person using the product!
The slides we presented are on Slideshare:
For more background, please reference this article by Steve Johnson at Pragmatic Marketing.
Image source: Flickr
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