Marketing Strategy Blog

Creative & Unique Techniques for Developing Personas

Persona Development

Convincing your spouse to go on vacation is simpler then getting them to clean the house. Why? You hit a nerve, a need, a want, a desire.

One of the keys to marketing success is knowing your customers’ needs and wants better than any of your competitors. To that end, you need to step out of your own perspective, empathize and fully immerse yourself in the mindset of your customer. Personas make it possible for you to understand your target audience in greater depth and to connect with them on a personal, emotional level.

There are various methods that are effective in developing customer personas. Sitting at your desk in the office and making assumptions is not one of them… Digging into user data and interacting with your audience is a much more reliable (and far more enjoyable!) way to go. Although there are a number of standard persona-development approaches, we are taking this opportunity to share techniques with you beyond the basics and that venture into the paths less traveled.

Google Analytics Data

Google Analytics offers a wealth of information about your users. Just get creative when analyzing the information. There is basic demographic information, such as age, gender, location and language. But don’t just limit yourself to those data points. Use GA Interest Reports to discover much more about your target audience.

Identify areas of interest based on the type of content users consume, along with how recently and frequently they consume. Use “Affinity Categories” to add lifestyle information (technophiles, travel buffs, avid investors, etc.). These categories are defined in a similar way to TV audiences, and represent an opportunity to understand the behavior of your audience and also target your ads on a similar scale. Use In-Market Segment Reports to identify groups of users who are in the market for your specific product categories.

Review the list of referring sites in GA to see what content your audience is interested in before they visit your site. And of course, analyze the keywords that your customers are searching on both in search engines and on your site (Note: You’ll need to connect your GA account to your Google Webmaster Tools to see within GA the actual keywords driving traffic to your site). Lastly, do not forget to analyze your site visitors’ “Behavior Flow” and the content on your site that’s consumed the most.

Social Media

Social media provides invaluable insights into your target audience. In Facebook, these are typically your existing customers communicating with you and the community you have built. What challenges are your customers facing, what do they like best about your product or service, what do they like least? What are they talking about? What gets them excited? Who are the most active and engaged people with your brand? What insights can you gather?

In Twitter, look for broader insights. What hashtags are trending? What topics are people most passionate about? Which of your tweets are the most retweeted or favorited? Dig into your Twitter Analytics to understand the engagement rate per tweet, including your click rate vs. retweet rate.

And by all means, use your social media accounts to interact with your audience and ask them questions!

Online Surveys

Surveys are an effective means of capturing feedback from prospective customers. Surveys enable you to interact with a wide range of individuals in a short period of time very efficiently. In fact, in terms of efficiency, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better approach to gathering information for building your personas.

There are a variety of easy-to-use online surveys available, from TypeForm to SurveyMonkey to Qualtrics. You can even go a step downstream with a website tool like Qualaroo, which asks your site visitors multiple-choice questions while they are still on your site, with the aim of understanding what they value on your site. Qualaroo catches your site visitors “in the moment,” as they are searching for your type of product or the type of information you provide on your site. The tool can even be configured to ask logical follow-up questions based on their initial answers. Through all of this, you are able to extract useful insights for the development of your personas.


Who knows your audience better than your own customers? Your customers potentially provide the deepest insights on which you can capitalize for your persona development. To that end, conducting interviews with your existing customers can be a highly effective means of capturing insights for your persona development process.

Be sure to ask the same questions to all of your interviewees, so that you can codify and quantify the answers among a larger sample size. However, you should also allow the interviewees to go off topic, as this can also potentially reveal interesting insights.

Interviews are one of the most time consuming tactics among the list here and they require significant manpower, but they will provide you with very rich and useful data.

Lunch (Yep, that’s right, “Lunch”!)

There’s something about food that helps facilitate conversations. It’s one thing to talk with a person in a cold, off-white, personality-less conference room, and quite another to chat over lunch and a delicious dessert. The interviewee will more readily open up and the quality of discussion you have over a meal will most likely be more meaningful.

If you’re at a conference, trade show or industry event, if you meet a new prospect, or if you can meet a client in person, invite them out to lunch. Pick their brains and uncover what makes them tick. Remember, let them do the talking (well, between bites). The insights you gain can be significant.

Just keep in mind that this is qualitative information and will need to be married with your quantitative research, which can be conducted across a much broader base.


To understand how mothers use Tide laundry detergent, what does P&G do? They visit the homes of actual mothers, and they observe how the mothers do the laundry. To understand how to create the next generation supermarket basket, what does the renowned product design firm IDEO do? They observe shoppers at a supermarket. This is called “living with the tribe,” as ethnographic researchers recommend.

As Tim Brown, CEO and President of IDEO states, “The insights that emerge from careful observation of people’s behavior…uncover all kinds of opportunities that were not previously evident.” Observation is a critical step in IDEO’s product development methodology and a way to go beneath the surface of typical research methodologies.

If you want to truly understand your audience, you need to put yourself in their environment. Although more costly and time consuming, making the effort to observe your target audience in their own environment can help you to uncover the unstated, the behaviors and preferences of your audience that perhaps even they themselves are not aware of.