October 10, 2018

11 Essential Elements of an Actionable User Persona

All too often, products, services, websites, and solutions are designed and structured based on preferences of the internal team working on the project. Designers, marketers, analysts, and CEO’s all have their own opinions of how things should look and function – but these are not always the best way to go.

The people who are typically making your directional decisions are likely not the end users of your product, which can create a large gap and explain why customers may be underwhelmed or unsatisfied. The best way to start formulating HOW you will target and advertise to your customers is, naturally, identifying WHO those customers are.

Do you ever find yourself asking these questions?

  • How do we convince the team to switch focus to new users to help increase revenue?
  • Are we sure that the needs of the customers we are targeting are within our scope and capabilities?
  • Are we efficiently using our resources to target the right people?
  • Who else might be interested in our products and services, and how can this translate into the market?

It is important to take the time and identify your real users; because these are the people whose needs you will actually be addressing with your offer. If you’re not catering to them, you’re wasting your time and precious budget.


A user persona is a fictional character or archetype, that is used as a realistic representation of your ideal, target customer. Although fictional, they should bring your users to life in a reliable and actionable way.

Personas are (ideally) based on user research, but are sometimes also created based on assumptions and past data. Personas uncover the needs, goals, and behavioural patterns of your ideal customers and translate them onto paper so that you can better market to them based on their needs and motivations.

Persona research can be done through talking with customers, e-mail, survey’s, questionnaires, and looking at past website data.


You may be asking; “what is the point of actually creating one on paper, won’t this take too much time?” The goal and purpose of a persona is to bring everyone together and to create realistic, reliable representations of your audience. They can be updated, and referenced at any point in the future by anyone on the team.

Personas serve to help us all remember what our users are motivated by and what their behaviours are influenced by. They help us identify what responses our products and services will bring out of our users.

Knowing your audience means being able to steer future direction to meet their expectations, and ensuring that decisions are consistent and aligned. Personas add a layer of reality to the marketing and design process.

Designers, stakeholders, and strategists alike all need to be on the same page about who they are targeting and how to target them. A great user experience is centered on knowing your users and understanding their end goals. If these are not documented and well thought out, they will likely get lost in translation.

Personas are not to be confused with segmentation! Segmentation is used simply for targeting, personas are used for empathy, emotion, and understanding.


Marketing Personas

Marketing personas cover demographics, psychographics, and personality traits. These types of personas address potential consumer behaviours and motivations. Marketing personas are used to determine who will be most interested and responsive to the type of messaging you are going to be putting out. Who will relate to it on an emotional level?

Marketing personas will help you identify if you are using the right messaging to influence the users you are targeting and will help you identify gaps where there is room for improvement.  Marketing personas are based on primary user research.

Proto (Fictional) Personas

When circumstances do not allow for primary research (budget, time, etc.), fictional personas are used. These are based on secondary research, past analytics (website and sales data), and educated assumptions on who you are designing for. As time goes on, proto-personas can be validated and updated through research, but having a proto persona is always better than no persona at all. It is always better to start with a base that can be modified and expanded upon.


As we go through the elements that compose a user persona, keep in mind that you should constantly be asking yourself questions as you’re creating. If your persona is ambitious – ask yourself why this is important. Why does this make them YOUR target?

  1. Name, Headline, Quote

Give your persona a name, a catchy headline, and include a quote! This will be the first step in creating a realistic character. Is Crystal a student? Is she ambitious? Is she a self-starter? Make sure her title reflects that!

Adding in a short quote will help summarize your personas character and attitude. What are they looking for exactly? If possible, use real quotes obtained from connecting with your real customers.

“I love helping people, but I find it difficult to connect with others and find volunteer opportunities.”

  1. Picture

We all know how everyone likes to put a face to a name, personas are no different! Try to use a real photo of a customer and make it authentic. Pictures say 1000 words, so ensure yours captures your persona.

  1. Demographic Profile

Demographics are skimmable and should give a good general overview of who your target is. Here is where you will capture your persona’s background, lifestyle and common behaviours. Include age, ethnicity, gender, education level, location, and family structure.

If you’re creating a proto persona that isn’t based on primary research and you have an existing website, tap into your Google Analytics data to get some real-life information about the demographics of your existing users!

  1. Personality Traits

Building upon demographics, you’re going to want to assign your persona personality traits to help shape who they are as a person! What key characteristics do they have? If you need help or guidance coming up with personality traits, check out these 16 personality types.

  1. Goals

Here is where you will tie your persona back to your product, service, or solution. Why are they searching for, or in need of, your product? Are they looking for something to make their lives easier? Are they looking for a product that will help them achieve something? What does the user what to achieve by using your product or service? Goals will typically reflect your own end goals – “what will my offer do for someone and why have I created it?”

  1. Frustrations and Fears

With their goals in mind, try and think about why your person may not have achieved their goals yet. What is standing in the way and keeping them from realizing their goals? Is there nothing out there that satisfies what they need? This is where you can form and define your own brands differentiating factors and what sets you above and beyond your competitors for your target personas.

  1. Motivating Factors

What motivates your persona to make decisions? What inspires them, and what makes them hesitant? Achievement, power, and fear can all act as motivation for humans to take action. If you need help defining your persona’s motivations, use McClelland’s Human Motivation Theory as a great starting point!

  1. Preferred and Favorite Brands

Here, you want to think of brands that your persona may already identify with. Think about what brands they may favour, or use often. This is going to help set the stage for what types of brands and core values your persona is influenced by (and therefore help with your own direction). These might end up being your direct competitors, indirect competitors, or even future competitors. Feel free to upload logos, or just list names.

  1. Channels of Communication

In this section, we’re trying to narrow down the ways in which you will communicate with and market to your target persona. What works best for them, what forms of communication do they prefer? This will heavily influence how you plan to carry out your marketing efforts (and may explain why they have not been working so far if you’ve been trying to communicate with your target on a channel they do no frequently use)! Feel free to use broad categories, but try to get as specific as possible and list all of the channels that are relevant to this persona.

Examples: traditional TV ads, banner ads on Google, word of mouth, event marketing, Facebook ads, newspaper ads etc.

  1. Biography/Summary

This is exactly what it sounds like; a short paragraph that describes how your user goes through life and their journey. How did they get to where they are today? Are there any events that define the problems they are having that require what you are offering? Highlight what parts of their life make them the ideal customer for your offer. Use this section to summarize and add in any details you feel are important that were not mentioned elsewhere.

  1. Buzz Words

We suggest creating these last. Based on the entire persona you have just created, what are some keywords or traits that summarize them? In this section include their main priorities, motivations, and key personality traits. Remember to use adjectives here; these words will be key terms that separate one persona from another.


No matter what you are creating; a website, an e-commerce product, or a business solution; the one thing that needs to be absolutely clear will always remain the same – who is going to be using and benefiting from this? Your user personas will become heavily referenced go-to documents that ensure that every business decision is done with the actual living, breathing end-user in mind.

Don’t wait for permission to start creating personas! Take the initiative to start creating them yourself and present them to your team and stakeholders to should them how they will aid in making better, more focused decisions.

Ravenshoe can work with you to help your team craft personas for further marketing activities. Never hesitate to get in touch with us through social media with any questions you may have!

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