At Amity, we define persona as a description of a type of customer, including associated job titles, work responsibilities, current goals, pain points, etc., based on research of existing customers. You’ve probably heard of personas helping teams segment prospects and customers in a Sales and Marketing context. However, personas don’t need to be exclusive to those teams.
Having persona profiles for existing customers will help your Customer Success team work more efficiently and better predict the needs of different customers. It can also help your Sales and Marketing teams recognize good-fit vs. bad-fit customers before they get to the bottom of the sales funnel.
The goal of creating personas is to focus on the needs of your most important customers and how you can provide value to them. The goal isn’t to create a persona for every type of customer and try to meet all their needs.
Research your customers
To make accurate and effective customer personas, you need to conduct research about your customers. The data you compile will help you find patterns and map customers into groups based on similarities, which will eventually become your personas. Remember: don’t base personas on specific customers because that will severely impede the effectiveness and applicability of your personas.
The best way to gather information about your customers and how they interact with your service is to ask them. Surveying your customers will give you a more holistic view of their successes and challenges with your service. If it’s not feasible to survey all your customers, you should determine which customers represent the kind of personas you want to prioritize, and which customers are, realistically, the most likely to complete your survey.
We recommend you survey both successful and unsuccessful customers to create personas of both. This will help your team recognize customers that are more likely to churn and can help your Sales team prevent such prospects from becoming customers in the future, saving your organization time and money.
You can also survey your Customer Success team to see the customers from their perspectives. This will provide key information about what a CSM does to make customers successful and the milestones they look for in such customers, as well as early signs of unsuccessful ones.
Using this information, you can compile use-cases for your product based on customer personas. It would also be extremely useful if you created a playbook for each persona, allowing CSMs to better manage these kinds of customers moving forward.
Create your customer personas
When creating personas, keep the list short and limited to your most important types of users. This will make goal-setting for your different personas more realistic. You should try to make each persona up to one page long so they’ll be easier for your team to remember. This will also force you to include only the most important and relevant information for each persona. You can name your personas to make them more memorable and relatable for the rest of your team.
Successful and unsuccessful customers, though they can be personas on their own, could also be broader categories for different personas that fall into them. For example, ‘Champion’ and ‘Admin User’ can both be personas within the ‘Successful Customer’ category.
Test the personas on a broader scale than the people you surveyed to see how accurate your personas are and what you can improve. Don't be dismayed if your personas don’t match your customers exactly. With the increasing diversity of customers in SaaS, it’s possible that your customers are a combination of two or more personas.
Depending on the kind of information you acquire during research, you may see your data naturally fall into categories that you can use in your persona one-pagers. Some sections we find useful are listed below.
1. Role and Responsibilities
This section will include the titles that people of this persona often have. Remember that a persona is not a reflection of a certain customer or role, so it’s natural for there to be multiple roles that fit the profile of a persona.
Though the people of a persona may have different job titles, they may have an overlap in responsibilities that make them all fit into a persona. These responsibilities may also correlate with their goals and pain points, so they’re important to note in the persona profile.
2. Background and Traits
Here you will list the typical background in education and experience of customers who make up this persona. Do people of this persona usually have a master’s degree or just an undergraduate? Is it a combination of both? List that in this section so it helps your CSMs better understand the prior knowledge of your customers.
The goals of the persona are what drove your customers to seek a product like yours. Here you will write about the problems they’ve solved or are trying to solve with your service. Use-cases will be helpful in this section when CSMs are dealing with new customers who fall into the persona.
Goals can be personal or professional, meaning that the persona may be motivated to use your services for how it benefits their own learning, as well as the efficiency it drives in their organization. This includes short-term and long-term goals of the persona.
4. Pain Points
No product is perfect, so while you’re trying to improve your services and expand your capabilities, it’s important to be aware of factors that may lead a customer to churn. By creating a playbook for the persona, and/or including possible solutions or ways to manage these pain points, CSMs will be better equipped to deal with similar pain points of future customers.
Pain points, however, do not need to be exclusive to the customer-product relationship. You can also include concerns regarding company politics within the customer’s organization or certain departments they don’t get along with. Any indicator of churn would be helpful to put in this section.
Align your organization’s personas
Now that you have customer personas, you should share them with Sales, Marketing, and any other teams with personas so you can have consistent formatting and terminology. Then, you can share these customer personas with the rest of your organization to ensure everyone is aware and on the same page.
The two personas mentioned earlier, the successful customer and the unsuccessful customer can help your Sales team if they compare those to their various buyer personas. With both customer profiles, Sales will know what traits to look out for when finding ideal customers. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to include a CSM in the sales process because they may catch markers of bad-fit prospects that sales representatives don’t, which will save everyone valuable resources if that prospect became a customer on the path to churn.
By meeting prospective customers when Sales does, CSMs will see right from the get-go if their capabilities and the product will provide the right kind of value to prospects. Including CSMs in the sales process will also provide better insight for both the Sales team and the CS team regarding prospects. In turn, this will help both teams know what to include in CS personas and buyer personas.
Sharing CS personas with Marketing will help them lead the right kind of prospects down the sales funnel. Marketing can use the profiles to cater their campaigns and content towards persona-based segments. They can also leverage the unsuccessful customer persona by creating content that will teach prospects how to prepare their organizations and become good-fits for your service. With the successful customer persona, they can produce content that appeals to customers and teaches them how to maximize the value they gain from your service.
Don’t forget to update your personas regularly, such as once a quarter, to ensure the profiles are consistent with your business and your customers as you both grow. This will keep your personas relevant despite changes to your team, customer base, and product.
About the Author
Elakkiya Sivakumaran is a Technical Writer at Amity. She enjoys interdisciplinary writing (who said English, Classical Studies, and Psychology can't mix?) and learned almost everything she knows about English grammar from high school Latin. She is currently studying English and Classical Studies at the University of Waterloo.More Content by Elakkiya Sivakumaran