Personas 101, part III

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In our last blog — Persona Development 101, Part II — we discussed the first three of the five W’s of persona development: the Who, the What, and the Where. 

To recap, the five W's of the persona development process are as follows:

  • Who is the customer?
  • What does the customer do with our product/service?
  • Where does the customer interact with our product/service?
  • When does the customer interact with our product/service?
  • Why does the customer interact with our product/service?

Today, we're going to hit the When and the Why and bring Persona Development 101 full circle.

The When

When your customers engage with your brand is just as important as where. How does the saying go? timing is everything?

Putting in context when your customers engage with your product or service helps your business better understand the optimum times to engage with your customers and potential customers.

Once identified, the timing of your customer’s use of your product or service can be compared to your initial “day in the life” short story. Ask the following questions:

  • Is your customer interacting with your brand when you thought they would be?
  • Is the customer interacting with your brand at specific times regularly or is it sporadic?
  • Note the other possible distractions during the times that your customer interacts with the brand.
  • Who is around the customer at these times? Is this a pattern?
  • Notice what communication formats are being utilized or are nearby when the customer interacts with your product or service.

The Why

According to the Golden Circle Theory customers do not buy a product based on what you do, but rather why you do it.

Simply put, a customer doesn’t just make a purchase based on price or features. Human behavior takes over and subliminally pushes us to align with brands that agree and express similar values. For example, one could say that they buy Toms brand shoes because Tom’s “one for one” program values align with their personal views.

Why expressed through Brand Value

Brand values do not have to be as obvious as a corporate social responsibility program. Brand values develop from the company’s employees, leadership, and a customer’s perceived value of the brand. A company can develop their brand values through an integrated communications approach including marketing communication, customer service and thought leadership.

Southwest Airline's brand values include celebrating individuality, hard work, efficiency, trust, fun and safety. At Southwest Airlines price does matter, but it’s not the sole driver of brand differentiation.

Southwest instills their brand values not just in their advertising, but also in their internal company culture. Southwest celebrates their employees individuality and interests by featuring them as part of the brand's communications.

When booking a flight you might identify yourself with the same values as Southwest. Customers who believe in efficiency and celebrate hard work will find themselves identifying with the airlines’ busy staff of gate handlers and stewards responsible for turning the airlines over between flights in record time. Customers who also believe in celebrating individuality will identify with Southwest’s celebration of their staffs’ lives outside of work.

Does a strong Why matter in your business personas?

In Southwest’s case the numbers show 43 consecutive years of annual profitability, a record unmatched in the U.S. airline industry. Southwest flights account for one-fifth of all passengers flying in the US.

Peeling back the Onion of Why

Similar to the question of who are your customers, defining why is a process that can take a considerable amount of time and research (Ask Simon Sinek who has built a career around asking why). For the purposes of timely persona development, “why” can be defined by the data already gathered during the interview process.

Review your qualitative interviews. Your customers’ stories of their pain and friction points hold a clue to defining what the “why” is to them. Review word counts and other trends that emerged from their stories of their buying journey.

A customer of a family restaurant is not just solving the pain point of hunger. The customer could have walked into any restaurant. Their story might include mentions of family gatherings when they eat out. These family gatherings tell us that the customer values family-friendly atmospheres, places that feel like home.

In this example the family restaurant not only creates an inviting environment but also shares family values by treating employees as family through HR programs and benefits. Because employees are treated like family, the customer subliminally senses these values in the environment through customer service and marketing collateral.

The menu might include a welcome message and possibly a story of the family that owns the restaurant.

Did the customer set out to get a meal at a restaurant that shares their family values?


Does the customer sense something that feels familiar?


In this case the “why” is the value of family.

Persona Development: The Foundation of Business Development.

By investing in your customer personas, you have successfully built a strong foundation from which your business can operate its business development, product/service development and integrated marketing communications.

Your customer persona profiles when implemented in business operations will prevent misaligned communication and experiences with your brand.

Humanizing your customers from the harsh practice of target markets helps your business to communicate in a fully engaged manner that is meaningful for both your customer and your business. Customers who feel aligned with your product/service and brand values will engage at a higher rate with your brand and remain brand loyal.

When executed for your business, personas add up strengthen your bottom line.

Now that you know the ins-and-outs of how to develop customer personas, get going! It's so worth the investment.

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