Okay, everyone says they know who their target customer is…Many even say they have personas. Where does your team fit here?
Here are common pitfalls we see in most companies as they relate to effective personas (can you say “That’s us!” to any of these?):
- Focused on demographics – age, location, occupation, etc.
- It’s made up by an external vendor
- Your team has a couple documented, your UX team has some, there’s one the research department created….point being there are a few and not all consistent.
- Aren’t considered in day to day product decisions
- Cost a lot of money for beautifully designed artifacts (designed to be displayed)
- Lengthy (boring) descriptions or multi-page persona’s
- Haven’t been updated since being created years ago.
Does any of this sound familiar? It’s okay! It’s normal. We often don’t know how to build practical personas and understand how to use them on a day to day basis.
Here are some tips to apply tomorrow:
- Try using a template that works. Here’s one we’ve created (and have a whole workshop around.) Contact us if you’d like to take our course. Other templates work too, but make sure they aren’t exacerbating the problems mentioned above.
- Focus on behaviors and attitudes that are relevant to the task/problem you are solving… leave demographics for last if at all.
- Work with your broader team to finalize (don’t do this in a vacuum…include dev leaders, UX team, and research team members, if applicable.)
- Find a picture that best represents that persona. This will be the most memorable thing about the persona and what gets used most. Make it a good one. With a relevant background environment, facial expression, clothing, tools in hand, etc. Check out a really great example of visually oriented personas
- Post them up where everyone can see/utilize. See examples of how some companies have done this.
- Treat them like participants in a conversation when making product decisions…”Would [your persona’s name] actually find this valuable? What’s the problem she/he is facing and what’s the context impacting the solution we build?” Here is one example we use in our workshop that highlights a real world example of utilizing a persona in choosing a feature/design direction for an area of a small business software application.
You’d be surprised how many companies believe they have clear target customer definitions but when we poll the entire team (product managers, UX team, engineers, etc.) we get different definitions across the teams and different opinions about how/if those definitions are adhered to in decision making. That makes getting product decisions made quickly and in a way that “stick” almost impossible.
Start by polling the team… are you all on the same page?
Sounds like a pretty easy question right? Should be able to rattle it off fast. Try it now – write it down. Then ask another product manager, or if you’re in a startup, ask a colleague – to do the same thing. Did they write down the same statement that you did? Chances are, you came up with different answers – maybe subtle differences, maybe major ones. We gave a workshop last year to 35 founders. One of these company’s had two co-founders. They wrote completely different problem statements. They had spent the last year assuming they were working towards the same goals. You’ll be amazed at how many product teams and company’s go about never actually stating the exact problem they are working on.
Your problem statement should cover who has the problem and why it’s happening. In one (or two) short sentences. You get bonus points if you explain what the customer is experiencing because of the problem. And the aim of your product (or feature) is to overcome that problem. Simple, right?
If you’re struggling writing your problem statement, and want more guidance, this is one of the first areas we teach in our Customer Foundations course. Step-by-step instructions to get you facing the right direction. Head over and take a look.
We get asked about influence a lot. Seems like all product managers feel like they’re constantly trying to persuade one person or another. After all, we have all the product responsibility and no direct reports. Trying to persuade your team, your peers and your boss can seem daunting. The one thing that always works? Don’t make it your opinion – use your customer’s voice. Whenever you’re trying to change someone’s mind about priorities, or direction, or market fit (or anything)…it’s way easier when you tell a customer story, show a customer picture, play a customer video. No longer is it about what you want – you represent your customer. What is your customer asking you for? How do you know? Of course, you have to get out there and be talking to your customers all the time. All the time. Don’t rush out just before a key meeting. Make it a regular habit – and start collecting all those great stories. You’ll have exactly the right story at your fingertips just when you need it.
Make it matter to your audience because you’re serving a critical customer need. Your powers of influence will magnify magically. Give it a try.
Having a bad day? Got another twenty powerpoint revisions to make for that big meeting tomorrow? The one that seems to come around every 5 minutes… Well, here’s your first rebel challenge. Block two hours tomorrow (and if that’s really not possible, find a time next week). Put it in your calendar now (that’s right, open up your calendar and book it. We’ll wait). Now search through your customer logs and find a customer who’s given you feedback recently. It doesn’t matter if it’s praise, a complaint, or just a question. Send them an email to request a 15 minute discussion about your product. Now do that again two more times with two more customers. You just booked yourself time to talk to three real people about your product. Excited?
Now all you need to do is put this script into your calendar, and you’re all set:
Hi, I’m <name>, a product manager with <name of product>. I know that you recently used our product, and I’d really appreciate hearing a little about your experience. This won’t take more than 10-12 minutes of your time. I just have three questions:
- Can you tell me a little about why you chose the product, and is it meeting your expectations? (why, why not)
- What would you recommend about the product? (Why)
- If you could change one thing, what would it be? (Why)
Thanks so much for your time. Talking to customers is one of my favorite parts of the day, and I so appreciate your willingness to share your experience with me.
That’s it…go ahead and modify it whatever way you prefer. But if you don’t have time, you still have this waiting in your calendar, ready to go. No excuses! Go on product rebel, make a difference to a single customer, and maybe learn something that will make a big difference for you.