Why product companies should know the color of their customers’ hair?

misunderstandingDo you know how your end consumers look like? Do you know what they eat?drink? Where they live?

Oh well..should you actually know all this? Is it really relevant?

Yes. For the simple reason that you need to understand what your customers expectations are and why they use/do not use your product? What are the social/technical reasons that drive your customers to use your product?

And if you don’t know all this, how will you “wow” them? How will you build services for these users, unless and until you don’t know their face and what they do in real life!

Think of mapping your users to Product Personas.

What’s Product Persona?

A persona is a fictional person who represents a major user group for your product.

“Personas are character sketches which represent a typical member of one customer segment and highlights their needs, goals and behaviors. Because it is representative of a customer segment, it allows decision makers to prioritize various features based on the needs of the segment.
Because it is a character sketch, it is sometimes easier for decision makers to internalize the key needs of the segment than it would be by reading reams and reams of data “[wikipedia]

Why do it?

Apart from helping you in concentrating on customer segments (and prioritizing them), Product Personas also helps the team (engg + product) in understanding

  • Users’ goals and needs
  • Users’ interaction with the product – i.e. whether they are a heavy user or a casual one? Whether they need full-attention while using the product or not, in short usability/design constraints of the product, w.r.t the target segment?
  • Most importantly, you will not end up with “self referential design/product” where you start believing that you are the end user of the product; and end users are like you – which is never the case.
  • Before designing/developing a feature, the entire team should ask “Will Mr. X use this feature? Will this feature help him“?

How to do it?

Product Persona typically includes:

  • a name and picture
  • demographics (age, education, ethnicity, family status)
  • job title and major responsibilities
  • goals and tasks in relation to your site
  • environment (physical, social, technological)
  • a quote that sums up what matters most to the persona with relevance for your site [source]

An example:

Product Personas are typically constructed after conducting focus group studies and several user scenarios, but as a startup you need not spend tons of money on this. Just look at your analytics tool, combine that with search queries (that reach your site) and of course, your own perceived segmentation of user base and you can go ahead with creating personas.

Lets take the example of NextBigWhat.com itself. Even though this is a content site (and NOT a product per se); and doesn’t have actionable components (which are typically the interactive features with other entities like users/features of the site, be it scrapping @ orkut, or sending resume@ Monster), i.e. you only consume the site content and comment/email sometimes, lets attempt to create a product persona for NextBigWhat.com.

pluGGd.in has three distinct customer segments – wannabe entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs and VCs. Let’s take ‘wannabe entrepreneurs‘ persona and call him Ravi.

About:
sinha Meet Ravi. He is 27 year old engineer, a bachelor, stays in a metro city (say, Bangalore) and works for an IT company (has work experience of ~4 years). He loves going to technology focused events like Barcamps/FOSS and enjoys meeting like-minded people (i.e. techies/wannabe entrepreneurs).

Ravi is interested in learning more about Indian startups/Businesses, reads magazines like Businessworld, and regularly visits sites like TechCrunch/ReadWriteWeb/GigaOm etc.

Key attributes:

  • Techie by heart.
  • Want to startup or Join a startup
  • Wants to see cool Indian tech products making big in India/world.
  • is interested in knowing about latest Indian startups and tech.
  • network/communicate with like-minded people; learn from other entrepreneurs.

What matters to Ravi?:
“Ravi is interested in knowing more about starting up – right from taking the first step, to business validation, how to approach VCs etc’; and is also interested in staying updated with India Business (especially Internet/Mobile) related news. He also seeks inspiration from entrepreneurs and guidance for his venture”

As the editor of NextBigWhat.com, my job is to ensure I meet Ravi’s expectations. Before writing any new post, I should make sure that Ravi reads it (and comment on it, share with his friends, talks about it)! Right?

Got the feel of Product Persona?

If you are a product startup and wish to go thru’ the same exercise, let me know. We can do the entire exercise (you need to provide me data about user segments/usage of the product) and will publish the findings here.

Game?

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