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Friday, Jan. 14, 2005 at 12:21 pm

Persona Development and the Law of Averages

By Bryan Eisenberg
January 14th, 2005

Persona” is a hot buzzword in this industry, yet most companies that create personas haven’t fully embraced everything they have to offer. Most personas are watered-down and hard to relate to. The worst of the lot are lifeless outlines of a company’s demographic targets. Most often, they don’t deliver the expected outcome from using the persona approach.

I’m contributing to a book about the persona development process with experts Tamara Adlin from and John Pruitt from Microsoft. I don’t have the space here to get into the nitty-gritty, but there are best practices you can use to maximize your persona set potential.

Pruitt, who pioneered persona development for Microsoft, comments:

Our goal was to help a development team understand and focus on a set of target users. We read Cooper’s 1999 book and looked around the industry and our company to see how other teams had defined their audiences and communicated that information to their broader team.

As Pruitt’s team learned more about personas, it uncovered the same pitfalls I’ve seen many others teams fall into:

  • The personas weren’t believable.
  • Persona attributes weren’t communicated well across the design team.
  • Teams had little understanding of exactly how to use personas.
  • There was sparse early commitment. Some departments used personas, some didn’t.

Creating profitable personas shouldn’t be a mysterious process, but neither is it simplistic. It involves a practical application of science, customer research, psychology, and customer empathy, which already exists in most successful sales processes.

Continue reading my column at ClickZ…

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Comments (1)

  1. I agree that word; “Personas are complex creatures, like your customers. Don’t get fooled into wrapping them up into a single or primary “average” user (unless, of course, you’re the only company in the world with average customers). Designing for personas is the only way to properly design scent trails that lead your customers to what they find most relevant and to instigate what you find most relevant: a conversion.”

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Bryan Eisenberg, founder of FutureNow, is a professional marketing speaker and the co-author of New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling books Call to Action and Waiting For Your Cat to Bark and Always Be Testing. You can friend him on Facebook or Twitter.

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