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What is a Persona?

Classify and categorize Personas

1) Determine participants / profiteers of the persona

The Persona has the potential to be the cross-departmental and cross-professional basis of all action. Attention: As you can read in the previous section, this is limited to agile environments where there is no clear reference to real customer data.

Depending on the corporate and departmental structure, the following corporate areas could be involved and synchronized:

  • Requirement collection of software or hardware requirements
  • Requirement collection of User Experience Requirements
  • Online marketing
  • Content marketing
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Purchase processes
  • Registration processes
  • Testing and UX Testing
  • Design decisions such as appearance of hardware, GUIs, corporate identity

Goal of step 1:
Find the appropriate departments/employees and invite them to a kickoff meeting for the persona creation.

2) Determine the type of persona.

We now have to specify the type(s) of persona(s) in the kickoff or subsequent appointments:

a) Persona as starting point or target?

Depending on the age and/or orientation of the company, the persona should either represent the current customer – or the future customer. This distinction is important! For example, in a company that is not yet on the market, you can model exactly the persona you want to reach. The first is much freer and the creation of the persona can influence the company direction back if necessary.

b) Categories of Personas

We can distinguish between 3 groups of personas:

  • Primary Personas
  • Secondary Personas
  • Ad-Hoc Personas or Proto-Personas

The Primary Persona is someone who can be served as completely and satisfactorily as possible with our developments. The primary persona must not be hindered, restricted or disappointed by developments generated by other primary personas. In the most extreme case, several contrary primary personas ensure that several products are developed.

Example: We are a company for simple amateur radios. There is now the primary persona of a 35 year old CB radio amateur and the primary persona of a 7 year old child. Since the technology of the devices is the same, the management wants to reach both groups. Both have however few identical requirements, but many contrary. So it can lead to the fact that we manufacture different products. For the child, the simple pink Hello Kitty radio with just one control button, which our CB radio operator would probably not be satisfied with. Whether it makes sense to operate all personas is an individual business decision and should not be the issue here. In order to satisfy both, it would lead to two teams developing two products while respecting primary personas.

The Secondary Persona is very similar to the primary persona in characteristics and wishes. However, there are few small differences that need to be taken into account. These must not influence the primary persona, but the secondary persona can benefit from them.

Example: In our CB radio example the secondary persona could be an older person with lower vision. This would lead to additional requirements that the inscriptions on controls be slightly larger. Does not disturb our main user, but has advantages for the secondary user. Here, too, the question should be asked as to what the cost/effort ratio is for secondary users.

The Adhoc-Persona or Proto-Persona is a special type. The first two Persona types are based on data (see also the next article in the series). For the proto-persona there is no data, only assumptions or a well-founded assumption. Either because you create them spontaneously in the course of a planning meeting (e.g. to investigate different possibilities for exotic users) or because you don’t have any data yet. In the latter case you should verify the persona with data at a later time.

Example: In a meeting someone has the idea to connect the radios from the previous examples with a Smart Home system. A persona is spontaneously created who is assumed to be a Smart Home customer. Now one can put oneself into this persona and think through whether this connection makes sense.

c) Types of personas

It is helpful to think through the context in which the persona moves. For example, one could think of these 3 areas:

  • Audience Persona
  • Buyer Persona
  • User Persona

A Audience Persona is the “audience” that is played on social media channels, for example. A Buyer Persona is someone who gives you the money for your product or goes through your online buying process. A User Persona is someone who uses a product or software.

That can be one and the same person, but maybe not. Example: In a children’s toy the user is a child, the Audience may be parent number 1 following the social media channels, but parent number 2 is the buyer persona you think or know is using the company’s online store.

d) Determine market / environment

It is possible that your company will not only talk to end customers, but also to corporate customers. Or even with partners, to whose end customers we indirectly address ourselves:

  • B2B Persona (corporate customer)
  • B2C Persona (end customer)
  • B2B2C Persona (end customer reached via a corporate customer)


Companies like to get bogged down in too many unclear target groups and markets. If we initially determine the personas as above, it becomes clear very early on how much effort it takes to satisfy them. A company with products for children, teenagers, adults, families, from low to high income, with its own e-commerce in the B2B and B2C market will either make an extremely high effort to satisfy the personas with a lot of individual solutions – or they will not even create personas and with the missing customer view they create an unspecific uniform mush that nobody is interested in.

Personas can’t change the wrong entrepreneurial decisions, but you can indicate very early the possible effort you have to make to satisfy your customers.

Now we have narrowed down the persona(s). But we still need something to create the persona: data!
More about this in the next article of this series:

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