The Problem With Personas
Do you use personas in your marketing? You aren’t alone – creating personas is a great way to determine who you are targeting with your marketing. Personas also give you a solid framework to make informed decisions when you’re creating marketing campaigns and strategies.
While personas are a useful marketing tool on many levels and one that I use myself with my clients, there are a few downsides I’ve noticed over the years and I wanted to bring them to your attention.
The main issue with user personas is that they can encourage complacency. You might spend a lot of time researching your customers to create in depth personas but then once you have your personas, it’s easy to sit back and assume that now you know what your customers want, there’s no need to research any further.
Even if you do have a persona or series of personas as part of your marketing strategy, it’s important that you don’t neglect regular user research. Consumer needs and wants change rapidly over time and if you’re going to keep your personas current you need to be regularly reviewing and revisiting them.
It’s also important to be aware that personas are essentially a broad set of assumptions and characteristics that are general to a group of customers. People are all different and it’s important to treat them as individuals. Personas can get in the way of this sometimes by lumping individuals together in groups, which can be misleading.
When we create a persona there’s always going to be a certain amount of guesswork that happens. And that guesswork can be dangerously inaccurate at times.
While personas are important and they can be fantastic as a marketing strategy it’s important that you don’t use them as an excuse to get out of talking to users and doing actual, fact based research. Be aware that your personas are essentially made up people and try not to rely too much on assumptions when thinking about your targeting and marketing.
I’m not suggesting you give up using personas altogether. But what you can do is just approach them with caution and be aware of their limitations. Don’t rely on personas as a substitute for talking to your customers or clients and finding out what really makes them tick.
There is no substitute for genuine interest and education about your customers and because customer needs change on a regular basis, it’s important that you keep revising your personas and update your research into your users.