Know Your Customer

Developing Behavior-based Personas

Two men were born in 1948. Both were were raised in Great Britain. Both are married, have two kids, love dogs and are wealthy. And both are princes.

Segmenting customers based on demographics or backstory would probably put these two men in one segment. But engagement designed for one would probably fail for the other. One of these men is Charles, the Prince of Wales. The other is Ozzy Osbourne, also known as the Prince of Darkness.

We spend a tremendous amount of time designing the products and services we sell. We spend significantly less time developing a deep understanding of the people who buy our products and services. As the example above illustrates, an overly general understand of your customers can be worse than no understanding at all. 

Behavior based personas are one tool for developing an understanding of your buyers. A persona is an archetype, an representative example of a type of person your organization interacts with. Traditionally personas are developed to represent customer groups that are segmented based on demographic criteria such as age, gender, income, political affiliation, etc. Behavior based personas segment based on attitudes, behaviors and emotions and cut across traditional demographic segments. 

Segmentation and behaviors should also include those who influence the purchase and consumption of a product or service. Influencers for B2B organizations could include the CFO, CTO and project manager. For a B2C organization influencers may include family, friends, and online peer groups.

In order to segment your customer list and create accurate behavioral personas it is necessary to get customer data out of your CRM and into a format you can work with. You can use index cards to accomplish this segmentation:

  1. List the name of key customers and influencers over the past 6-12 months on index cards.
  2. Write each customers key information on index cards.
    • Demographics
    • Position - company role or family/social network role
    • Role played during the purchase and consumption of the product or service (expert, customer, detractor, champion, etc).
    • Goals
    • Challenges
    • Needs
    • Attitudes relevant to the technology/industry/product or service
  3. Place the cards on a large table where you can see each card
  4. Group people by commonalities until you have 5-7 groups. Start by grouping by:
    • Goals, challenges and needs
    • Roles and behavior
    • Attitudes towards technology/industry/product or service
  5. Once you have identified your groups use the group member that has the most in common with other members as the basis for the behavior based persona.

Behavior based personas must be communicated broadly to employees across the organization. You can activate your personas by posting them in a visible area, including employees in brainstorming to develop new ways to engage each persona during the customer journey and developing methods for supporting those personas that are advocates of your products or services.

Key things to keep in mind as you build behavior based personas:

  • Start rough. Refine as you go.
  • Look broadly for commonalities. The things your personas have in common that are relevant to buying may be different from the traits and behaviors listed above.
  • Involve more than sales and marketing. Customer support or service delivery staff interact with customers regularly and have insights into customer behavior.
  • Make persona development an iterative process. Regularly review your personas to confirm assumptions are holding true.
  • Test your assumptions with your customers.