Personas Are Fake Customers. Here’s Where They Come From and Why They Are So Useful.
Versta Research has received a lot of inquiries and projects over the last few years around building personas. It represents an interesting shift among our clients from a previous focus on segmentation. And it brings us back to Versta’s roots in social science, from whence the very name “Versta” is derived.
Personas are today’s business-equivalent of Max Weber’s ideal types. Weber, a sociologist and political economist, formalized the concept over a century ago: “An ideal type is formed by the one-sided accentuation of one or more points of view and by the synthesis of a great many diffuse, discrete, more or less present and occasionally absent concrete individual phenomena, which are arranged according to those onesidedly emphasized viewpoints into a unified analytical construct.”
That is exactly what consumer or buyer personas are: Fictional, highly detailed representations of customer-types that reflect the demographics, behaviors, goals, and motivations of real people. They are “archetypes” derived from real data. They go beyond basic demographic information and delve into the psychological and emotional aspects of consumers, providing a deeper understanding of their buying behaviors and decision-making processes.
Here is a simple representation of how this happens:
Each colored dot is a real person, arrayed on two measurable dimensions. The black dots are the personas. How are they derived?
- Statistical clustering identifies groups of people who share similar characteristics and who are different from other groups (but this is actually done on hundreds of dimensions simultaneously)
- Groups are compared on each dimension to specify the strongest within-group similarities and the strongest between-group differences
- Data are summarized by building an archetype (or persona) that captures the essence of each group
Having a “person” with a name and a demographic profile, along with a description of need states, motivations, and pain points helps everyone on the team – marketing, sales, customer service, and strategy – gain a deep, intuitive understanding of a target market, enhance product development, and tailor their outreach, messaging, and strategies more effectively.
—Joe Hopper, Ph.D.