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How to Design a Persona: Protect your Customer Experiences and Profits

Crystal Garrett
18 Oct, 2017

Customers are not numbers and customer experience is not a one-size-fits-all. Many companies treat their customers the same no matter their needs and expectations. The only way for customers to reach "human" status is to spend more to earn special treatment, which is the basis for all "loyalty" programs. Why do customers have to buy their way "in" to be treated special? Not cool. 

Customers have different needs and expectations, but they all deserve to be treated equally. The best way to accomplish this is by designing customer personas. 

“Know customers, know profits. No customers, no profits.” - C. Garrett

In this blog, I will give you some details to consider as you begin persona proofing your company. I’ll approach it from your customers’ point of view, an outside-in way of knowing your customers. Here are three points we’ll cover:

  • The definition of a persona
  • Persona insights and intel
  • Designing your personas

If you know who your customers are and you set out to meet their needs and expectations, especially for those most loyal, then, and only then, can you begin to consistently deliver relevant experiences that your customers perceive to be the most worth it option on the market. When you fail at this, you lose – customers and profits.

In fact, a survey of execs was conducted by Oracle stating that their companies’ potential revenue loss for not offering a positive, consistent, and brand-relevant customer experience is $400 million for a $2 billion company. Ouch!

Exceptional and consistent customer experiences begin with knowing your customers, which is why having personas in place is critical to your company’s bottom line.

So, let’s get to proofing.  


What’s A Persona?

A persona is a fictitious person that represents a larger group of customers by various social demographics and psychographics. Personas are useful for segmenting marketing strategies, targeting, and communicating who your customers are across an organization. Simply stated, it helps companies bring the right stuff to the right folks to meet their needs, wants, and expectations.

Personas are grouped by demographics (the body), and psychographics (the heart, mind, soul).

  • Demographics are the collection of data for a specific population in order to categorize the needs of consumers (i.e. race, age, gender, income, education, job title, family size, religion).
  • Psychographics are the habits, behaviors, lifestyles, interests, and hobbies of consumers. (i.e. shopping preferences, leisurely activities, hangouts, social media channels, favorite shows).

The CX greats, like Apple, have discovered the power of both. Based on a bit of research, I’d like to do a little exercise on what one of their iPhone personas might look like.

Our iPhone Man (yes, men take up most of their market share ) would be a 25 to 35-year-old urban dweller, who may or may not have a family, is college educated, non-religious, a manager, and high earner (this, of course, is relative). If you only had these demographics, it wouldn’t tell you much about him as a person and what makes him tick.

Handsome business executive lying on wood while talking on mobile phone.jpeg

Now, let’s add psychographics to get a better understanding of who he is. iPhone Man is fiercely loyal, stylishly casual, ambitious, a social media junkie, innovative, a mid to upper-class socialite, foodie who loves traveling and football. See the difference? Psychographics give it life and depth. Just think of how much easier it’ll be for you to create exceptional experiences for iPhone Man with this insight.

Congratulations, we walked through a persona! Not too bad, right?


Persona Insights And Intel 

Gaining deep insights and intel are the start of designing fully informed customer personas. It’s important that you collect pertinent information necessary to identify with your customers and what they need, want, and expect from you. Here are some tips to help you dig in:

  • Inquire. Use your team assets. Ask to sit in on sales calls. Go to the customer service department and ask to listen to those "recorded calls for training purposes only". Get with the analytics team and inquire about their customer data. Be sure to note the customers' questions, complaints, and concerns.

For B2B personas, find out your customer’s job title, responsibilities, and personal and business challenges and frustrations. 

  • Interact. Dialog with your customers. Open up those social media channels where your customers hang out and see what they are saying about your company. The key is to listen to their needs, wants, concerns, expectations, and suggestions.
  • Investigate. Get out of your office and into the field. Don't depend solely on a mystery shopper report. Go in-store and find out what it's like to be your own customer. 

At this point, you should have documented commonalities and begin seeing segments forming. 


Designing Your Personas  

The goal is for everyone to feel 100% comfortable giving input. You may want to separate the frontliners (sales, customer support, cashiers, field operations, marketing, omnichannel, account manager) from the C-suiters (those with the corner offices) for this exercise, and then identify and discuss the commonalities. 

Now, find a whiteboard and gather a team member from across departments. It's time to design using our persona proofing template! Take it one persona at a time and don’t design any more than 3-5 personas total, depending on the size of your company. As a point of reference, Hubspot is a multi-million dollar, publicly traded company housing only 5 personas. 

Remember not to think about your products or competitors. Customers buy experiences that provide solutions to their needs and wants (based on your products or services). It’s all about your customers’ experiences.

Here are three steps to get you started persona proofing: 

  1. Print and pass out our Persona Proofing Mad Libs to each team member.
  2. Start with the persona generating the most revenue for your product. Check with your data team in order to be precise. 
  3. Begin swapping information and fill in those blanks with the personas' demographics and psychographics. 
  4. Repeat these steps for your next personas. 

Try this fun persona proofing template to get your team involved in designing your personas!


Remember, the ultimate goal in designing personas is to know your customers and deliver an unmatched customer experience that makes different customers feel equally special throughout their journey with your company. Prove that you are the most worth it option on the market and make the CX greats envy you!

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