What we do

When tension creates magic in persona development

We were sitting in a meeting with a range of stakeholders within a client organisation and when it came to the topic of designing relevant experiences for customers there was a disconnect across the table.

Marketing and Customer Insight had successfully completed a large segmentation project and the priority customer segment(s) had been agreed upon. However, when it came to the Product Managers and Designers who needed to design experiences for the priority customers, they were asking for more.

It’s not enough to know the target is the 25-34 years old male that resides in the outer suburbs of a capital city and wants to become more fit and healthy. Product Managers and Designers need to have a deeper, much richer, understanding of the people they were need to design for, beyond socio/psychographics.

They need to know who is the person really is they are designing for. How do they connect with them? How do they design an experience that meets their underlying needs and motivations? What they are really talking about here is emotion, getting ‘under their skin’ so to speak.

Customer empathy informs personas

Customer empathy comes from having the right kind of discussions with customers (or potential customers), delving deeply into the rational and emotional spheres of what drives behaviour. It’s about understanding another’s situation, motivations and feelings in the context of their life.

This rich understanding is a vital ingredient for the development of personas. Personas are a fantastic way of bringing to life the different types of people in a way the staff can relate to; and refer to time and time again.

They’re used to help design meaningful/impactful experiences for customers who have a diverse range of emotional and rational needs. It’s these experiences that also help differentiate vs competition and ultimately drive market share.

Personas vs segments

A common area of confusion is the difference between segmentation and personas and the role of each. The purpose of segmentation is to represent the market/entire customer base and have those sized to inform who to target to drive growth (e.g. the category, market share, profitability). Personas exist to inform design considerations at both a rational and emotional level.

It’s important to understand the boundaries of both. Future Reference blends the benefits of each, focusing on the sweet spot, namely ‘focused empathy’ - who to design for as a matter of priority.

The power in personas

The power of personas comes from the way they’re developed and how they’re used. Key questions to kick-off the process, include:

  • Who will be using them?
  • When will they use them?
  • For what purpose?

Tension maps are used to plot personas on two axes that are relevant to the problem you are solving for. Every time, we test many ways of producing these maps using different parameters. We flip category convention on its head and finally land on a map that best represents the diverse customer needs to design for. Polar opposites win over middle ground blandness. The sum of these personas is not intended to represent the entire market.

For example: a family traveling from Melbourne to Sydney with two young children for a weekend away has very different needs to an elderly gentleman with mobility challenges who’s making the rare trip to see his children who live interstate. How would you design for the needs of each?

Personas as part of the team

These personas need to become part of the people’s vernacular, a natural part of conversation in team meetings. Enterprise-wide personas unite people and teams. They generate a consistent view point. “How would persona Jake feel about this?” becomes the catch cry in a meeting, rather than “well, I think my partner would…”.

It’s a great way to equip you with the evidence to overcome internal opinion.

Even better, we’ve known clients who make such a strong connection with a persona that they genuinely help them through delivering relevant solutions.

When personas are created and used effectively, both hygiene product and service attributes are delivered alongside personalised experiences. In tandem, they contribute to customer retention, advocacy and acquisition.

Future Reference produces detailed personas that are used by Designers and persona cards used by Business Leaders too.

The persona development process has a lot of rigour and the artefacts produced help teams get to know these real people almost as well as their colleagues. When that happens, you know you’ve hit the mark.