Personas, Part One: Why They’re Important

Intimately understanding customers is at the core of product marketing. The marketing funnel helps track their journey-from being aware of your product to making a purchase. As a product marketer, driving adoption includes being able to influence customers at every stage of the funnel. Influencing someone starts with understanding them.

Personas are detailed descriptions of your target customer; from demographic information to their pain points, and from details on their role to the media they consume. They’re composite images that make it simpler to internalize the needs and nuances of your customers.

Movies and novels often employ a similar tactic. The stories they tell follow the journey of a single character or family in the context of a broader event such as the California Gold Rush or a post-apocalyptic event. This family might share similar characteristics with the general population of the time, but they most certainly share the same circumstances.

It’s a challenge to understand and empathize with the realities of a particular situation when trying to digest the lives of many people. The human details can often get glossed over or even forgotten when considering “300,000 individuals poured into California in search of gold but many faced misfortune, loneliness, and diseases such as cholera and typhoid.” It’s easier to understand the plight of gold miners in the California of 1850 by focusing on one person, James MacArthur, a (completely fabricated) individual who left his wife and son behind in New York City to better his family’s financial situation, longing for the occasional letter from his wife. This is what personas do. Personas make it possible to internalize and humanize a collection of individuals with shared characteristics, paving the way for empathy.

The Importance of Personas

Creating personas helps you effectively articulate and understand the nuances of your target customer: their needs, pain points, and other attributes that are important to be aware of as you craft a go-to-market strategy.

Talk to customers is the mantra in product management and product marketing, and for good reason. Customer research identifies product gaps, lays the foundation for crafting a marketing strategy, and ultimately, increases the chance of product-market fit. It’s helpful for this research to be digestible. Personas enable this. Personas help you distill and generalize knowledge about your customers. They create a singular, generalized snapshot of your ideal customer, personifying disparate feedback into a human-albeit, concocted-form.

Personas make it simpler to tailor messaging, marketing content, and even product development to the needs of a specific target buyer.

Doing this helps you gear messaging to different segments of your prospect and customer base. Customer personas also help in identifying key stakeholders in every stage of the buyer’s journey; knowledge of which helps make the entire sales lifecycle more efficient. In this way, personas help guide a significant portion of your marketing activities from defining your target customer to identifying the appropriate channels of where to sell.

A strong understanding of the dynamics of the market segment you’re going after, the nuances of your prospect, and knowledge of the stakeholders in the decision-making process boosts key performance indicators (KPIs) across the board.

Targeted messaging and sales efforts reduce the cost to acquire new customers, or the customer acquisition cost (CAC; the marginal spending on marketing and sales per customer acquired). Eliminating indiscriminate onboarding of customers also increases the likelihood that a customer is here to stay, reducing churn. These are just two examples. Personas boost the overall efficacy of your marketing efforts by painting a vivid image of your target customer. With personas and in a broader sense, product marketing, the goal is not necessarily to identify a large range of buyers. It’s about identifying the ideal customer.

Originally published at on August 3, 2020.

Product Manager at Amazon. Previously at NASA and startups. Optimist.