I am all for new methods of helping organizations better focus their marketing and fundraising efforts and the rise of the ‘user persona’ is getting a lot of attention.
The user persona is a creative director’s dream come true. The process to come up with a series of fictionalized ‘characters’ takes imagination and therein lies the possible weakness of using user personas.
Here are my 3 key ways to avoid the most common pitfalls when crafting and using personas:
1. ROOT a persona in both qualitative and quantitative data. The behaviours and characteristics of any personae groups MUST use data sets, analysis and survey answers to craft their behaviours. If you aren’t doing this, you are using personas that are relying more on the narrative imagination of Stephen King versus the empiricism of a Sir Francis Bacon.
2. TEST the personas through data and results. You can’t use personas and not track whether they actually improve results. There is a strong academic/research body of work that strongly criticizes the user persona model because it is not often rooted in empirical testing. It may be that personas perform poorly in comparison to classic RFM test groups. You need to test to find out.
3. PRACTICAL implementation plans to test user personas can be difficult. You need to think very carefully through how a persona can be properly tested. It’s not easy working with ‘fictional characters’ in the real world but you have to figure it out.
My gut tells me that user personas are helpful in testing for marketing campaigns BUT if they are being driven by clever, creative people and not driven by data, analytical staff then you are going to be let down by this technique. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to talk more about this.