Are You Putting Your Personas on a Shelf (or wall or paper or …)?

Product Marketing makes a great strategic move and creates personas for use in their processes. They invest in the effort, hold the interviews, do the field observations, and build 4-6 great personas that represent their buying market. The team takes the personas to the executives who love them, match them with the personas developed by product management, and proudly produce new posters for the conference room wall. Everyone applauds.

And, the next time you enter the conference room, visit your Web site, look at your collateral, the shiny faces smile back at you. Great, right?


Developing personas is only the beginning of the process. We know that persona creation is a balance of art and science. The science is doing the right research and analysis; the art comes in crafting the persona. BUT, the art continues in USING the persona for maximum benefit. Hanging them on a wall is hardly maximum benefit.

Companies that understand personas are using them to:

  • Improve decisions that drive better results – which behaviors are important to drive business goals
  • Making tactics and spending decisions – where should the investments be made for prioritization
  • Evaluating metrics – what are expected results for each persona served

How do you avoid your personas becoming wall art? First, start with creating scenarios based on the knowledge you have obtained. Jack or Jane should be part of your vocabulary – how you discuss the product; how you talk about your marketing message; how you create your lead generation. You have done the work to know these people as well as yourself…make them actionable.

Remember to integrate the personas in more than tactical development – they are at the core of your strategy and decision-making processes. When you set business goals, do Jane and Jack have a seat at the table? Why not? They are the backbone of your efforts. If they are only on the wall, then they are listeners – make them participants. Use them for investment decisions, design decisions, and especially in testing and evaluation.

Personas are valuable and provide a foundation. Looking in from the outside, if you don’t fight for your persona to take them off the wall, they are reduced to being pretty art. And, that, will not have any return for your business.

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