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 products will be the solutions. 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 customer 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 several personas -- but these personas 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. Personas represent the different customer groups that a product manager aims to reach with the product, and help to put a "face" on each customer.
What is the goal of customer personas?
Developing personas helps product managers answer questions like, "Why are we prioritizing this idea?" Or, "Why is this feature being shipped as part of this release?" When product managers can answer the "why" behind their decisions, their product teams become more motivated to build, market, sell, and support them -- especially when they know how these decisions will help customers.
What are the benefits of customer personas?
Personas help product managers:
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:
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
The core goal of personas is to help product managers empathize with their customers. When product managers 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.