Personas are undoubtedly an essential tool for a product marketer, after all they form the basis of your entire strategy! Pretty daunting stuff when you stop and think about it. Without them all you have is guesswork and a product that may or may not be what your intended customer needs.

But, fear not! Whether you're new to personas or a seasoned pro looking to refresh and refine, Grace Kuo, Dir. of Product Marketing at Udemy for Business has some excellent advice on persona studies just for you!

Dive in.

Q: One thing I always struggle with is illustrating the success of our personas. How do you - or would you - recommend measuring the success of personas?

A: “Great question! So before I get started on a Personas project, I always ask myself and the team, who are we developing these for, who will be using this data? By understanding who will be benefiting from this research, you are able not only to structure your project in a more effective way, but also have an easier time measuring success.

I’ve put together personas for a few teams before: Demand Gen, Product, and Sales. Each of these will have distinct ways of measuring success. For example, Demand Gen, you can see if campaigns are reaching more of the target audience. By understanding your target persona better, in theory, your Demand Gen should have an easier time targeting your key buyers. You should (hopefully) see increases in click through rates, CVR, quality leads, etc.

For Product, helping them understand the day to day challenges your target persona faces should help them build products that are aligned with customer needs. Measuring success for this team is about providing more context and color to your users/buyers.

For Sales, I’ve experimented with measurement of success through helping ADR/SDR scripts. Are they resonating? Do they have a better time targeting the right roles and is the talk track effective?

In general I’d say to measure the success of personas, you should have an understanding of who will be leveraging the study, and also why/how they will be using it. This will lead to a more strategic framework for your Personas study construct.”

Q: How often would you review your personas? And what are the tell-tale signs personas are in need of a refresh?

A: “As much as I would love to be proactive and create personas actively - sometimes there’s just never enough time, amirite? But with that being said, I make sure I am plugged into all the strategic discussions so that if any team feels like they don’t have a good grasp of who’s using our product and why - that’s a good indicator that it’s time for a refresh.

In addition to having alignment with the business, sometimes personas change. As your business model evolves or pivots, you might discover that you have an entirely new set of audiences that are integral to your growth. For these instances, it is also a good idea to tap into these new personas so you can expand on the opportunity.

Some industries change quite often, i.e. the technical space, IT, if your buyer is in that space, you should revisit every year to make sure your information is still relevant. For other industries, your personas might not change as often, which means you don’t have to update it as often. The point here is having a pulse to market changes, which will also help determine when a refresh is needed.

Because of the current pandemic, many industries have been affected, so the day to day of our target personas has changed a bit. We’ve had to revisit and refresh our own personas just to make sure we’re addressing the current reality with our audience.”

Q: Who do you collaborate with when building personas, and what role do teams outside of product marketing play in ensuring the process runs smoothly?

A: “I love this question because many times, Product Marketers try to do everything themselves, but in reality, persona studies should definitely be an exercise that is cross-functional.

For one, I’d reach out to the teams that would benefit from these personas. Try to understand what gaps there currently are, so that when you build these personas, it will be valuable and benefit their line of work. Primarily, I’ve built personas for Marketing, Product, and Sales, so having a conversation with them beforehand is critical in making sure you’re asking the right questions and framing the study in a strategic and helpful way.

In my experience, I’ve also worked closely with our UX Researchers to actually conduct the study. Their expertise in putting together the research structure, question framing, interviews, etc. is invaluable. They are also integral in the post-analysis as well - so that you can be confident you’re not misinterpreting any data.

After you put together the study framework, I would socialize with the key stakeholders from the teams I mentioned above, to ensure you’re answering the right questions (and see if there are additional ones worth adding.)

Post-study, Personas should be something every team benefits from, so share away!”

Q: Do your preferred methods vary at all, depending on whether you’re creating buyer or user personas, or do you consider the process to be more or less streamlined?

A: “For the most part, most Personas study should feature:

Qualitative studies (interviews)

Quantitative studies (surveys, research)

Within each of these studies, you can conduct observational research as well, but in general, I would say the construct shouldn’t change too much.

With that being said, the strategy and questions asked should definitely be different - as you are trying to uncover different themes and pain points.”

Q: What would you consider to be the most effective way to document your findings when creating personas?

A: “Documentation is key! The most effective ways I've found:

  • Presentation (PPT, G Slides): this makes it easy to circulate, present, and for people to reference.
  • PDF: Having a well-designed findings doc gets your reader engaged and helps them find relevant information faster.

Don't create a long word doc of research findings, interview responses, etc. This will lose the attention of your reader FAST. Parse out what's important and the key takeaways.

Post your findings in a central Wiki or use it as part of the onboarding process so that it's useful and has visibility throughout the org!”