Persona Creation tools – Differences, usage, benefits and constraints
“It is essential to have good tools, but it is also essential to use the tools in the right way!”
That is a quote by Wallace D. Wattles, an author who lived over 100 years ago. It is fitting since this article aims to investigate the concepts and usage of persona development tools.
To ensure utmost respect for the industry, we will refrain from mentioning any specific names. Nonetheless, we will provide you with detailed descriptions of the available alternatives to assist you in making an informed decision for your endeavor.
Tools for persona creation are indispensable to the toolkit of any modern marketer or UX designer. These tools are designed to assist businesses in creating detailed and precise personas that effectively represent their target audience, each with its own distinctive features and capabilities. These buyer personas are commonly used to inform marketing campaigns, user experience design, and product development, making them a crucial aspect of any business strategy.
The groundwork for using persona development tools
In most scenarios we will describe further in this article, we assume that the personas are grounded in data. Before even looking into choosing a template or a persona creation tool, companies need to do their homework on target audience analysis or admit that they need assistance.
For decades, persona creation was based on gut feeling or ideas from the senior level of companies who believed they knew exactly who their customers were. Luckily, nowadays, most companies have the requirement to create data-driven personas.
Personas are critical for understanding the audience segments and driving customer centricity. It is grossly negligent in creating personas based on personal opinions. Either do a proper analysis internally, choose agencies or consultancies that can help, or pick a persona tool that gathers or analyzes existing data. Never create and distribute personas not grounded in data.
Of course, quickly creating personas through internal interviews or small research is adequate when you start or are new to a job. Still, the second they are used for UX, marketing, sales, or product development, you need to go through the process of persona validation, checking whether your assumptions were correct!
What is a persona creation tool?
But let us start with the basic definition because it will help to highlight the problem of using the word tool in this context.
The general definition of a tool: “Something that helps you to do a particular activity!”
Definition in the software sphere: “A tool is any software application or utility that facilitates software development or the upkeep of computer systems. Such tools can aid programmers or users in creating applications or managing their computers!”
As a logical conclusion, a persona tool assists in developing and creating buyer personas. However, the question remains: what qualifies as a tool? Is a template enough, or should it have additional capabilities? It is a subject matter, so we will just describe the various types of tools available for you to draw your own conclusions.
We will provide an overview of the following three persona creation tool categories.
Persona creation templates are pre-designed frameworks that allow businesses to create personas quickly and efficiently. These templates are a starting point for persona creation, with fields for demographic info, psychographic info, and other relevant details.
It is critical to mention here that it only provides the framework and does not offer any assistance regarding data analysis. However, extensive CRM or web analytics companies publish some of the most famous persona template tools. Therefore, you should have access to data sources through these systems. Surprisingly, these templates are rarely connected to the actual software, making it hard to condense the insights into the persona templates.
If your organization has customer data in order and you have access to internal data scientists capable of identifying the critical clusters for a data-driven persona creation process, using one of the templates is a great option.
We will now highlight some benefits and constraints of using persona creation templates. The different points do not apply to each template but can be seen as a checklist for choosing the right tool.
Benefits of Persona Templates
Efficiency: Persona creation templates allow businesses to create personas quickly and efficiently, saving time and resources.
Consistency: Using persona creation templates, businesses can ensure that personas are consistent across their marketing and design efforts, providing a cohesive and unified brand image.
Best Practices: Many persona creation templates are designed based on industry best practices, ensuring that personas include all the necessary details to represent the target audience accurately.
Customization: While persona creation templates present a starting point for persona creation, users can also customize them to meet specific requirements. Customization options may include adding custom fields, adjusting persona details based on user feedback, or selecting from a range of pre-existing archetypes.
Cost: These tools are all free and often come with a free trial to test the actual software behind the templates.
Constraints of Persona Templates
Data overload: Analytics tools produce a vast amount of data, which can be overwhelming and challenging to navigate, especially for smaller businesses or those with limited resources. Identifying which data points are relevant to creation can be difficult, leading to wasted time and resources.
Data availability: These templates do not offer any assistance for data analysis or gathering but provide a framework for inserting your information and insights. You, therefore, need to clearly understand the demographics, needs, pain points, personalities, jobs to be done, channels, etc.
Accuracy: The accuracy of the data used to create the personas and the accuracy of the personas themselves. This can be influenced by bias, sample size, and data quality.
Knowledge: If you are new to the persona concept, you might get overwhelmed with the different components, not knowing what to fill in and where to find the relevant insights
Relevance: When creating personas, it’s crucial to determine which information is pertinent and how much of it is necessary. The “the more, the better” principle doesn’t apply to the persona concept. The goal is to present your customer segments concisely and understandably for all stakeholders. If you use templat#es, you’re solely responsible for determining what information is significant.
Customization: Some tools do not allow adding segments or deleting unnecessary persona profile components. In addition, in some cases, it prevents the user from uploading pictures for the different profiles, thereby losing the “real human” aspect.
Static: The templates are static, meaning users must adjust and manually redistribute the profiles accordingly.
Conclusion Persona Creation Templates
If you possess ample internal data and analytical capabilities, these solutions may be an ideal match for your needs. With the prerequisite groundwork of data analysis and insight gathering completed, persona creation becomes fast and cost-effective.
Persona Creation Guides
The subsequent level involves persona templates that facilitate the process of data gathering, processing, and organizing the persona components. Creating personas is a critical process involving extensive research and data collection. Creation and guidance tools simplify this process by providing a template and instructions on completing it. This saves time and resources while ensuring that the personas accurately represent the intended audience.
This tool type begins by outlining the necessary data to collect and how to manage it, such as demographic information, pain points, needs, behavior patterns, and other relevant information. Although these tools provide a theoretical framework for data gathering and processing, the actual work must be done manually. Once the data has been collected, these tools guide how to populate the persona template using the insights gained. This includes offering examples of how to write a persona based on the collected data. Finally, the tools guide the user on effectively utilizing the personas created to enhance user experiences.
As before, we will now highlight some advantages and disadvantages of this persona tool type. They have the same benefits as all templates (see list above) and others.
Benefits of Persona Creation Guides
Guidance: By providing advice, either through a step-by-step process or by supporting content, new users are introduced to the concept in a targeted manner, leaving less space for errors
Fact Check: Even though these tools do not do the data analysis for you, they still highlight the importance of proper data analysis
Therefore, these tools are ideal for users new to the persona concept and needing help with the concept and creation process. It will prevent the user from making newbie mistakes. However, there are still many constraints for these tools. The same ones that apply to the sole template tools are data availability, accuracy, customization, and static. On other points, these tools do a better job but also create new constraints.
Constraints of Persona Creation Guides
Limited scope: Persona creation guides may focus only on a specific aspect of the target audience, such as their demographics or buying habits, and may not provide a comprehensive view of the audience. This can lead to personas that don’t capture the target audience’s full range of needs and behaviors.
Biases: Persona creation guides can be influenced by the biases and assumptions of the creators. This can lead to personas not representative of the target audience and can result in ineffective marketing strategies.
Oversimplification: Persona creation guides often provide a narrow view of the target audience, which can lead to oversimplification. They may not capture the complexity and diversity of real people, which can lead to stereotyping and inaccurate assumptions.
Limited perspective: Persona creation guides are often created from a business perspective, which may not align with the target audience’s perspective. This can lead to personas that don’t accurately reflect the needs and desires of the audience.
Limited applicability: Persona creation guides may not apply to all types of businesses or industries. Different businesses may have different audiences with unique needs and behaviors that a one-size-fits-all persona cannot accurately capture.
Conclusion Persona Creation Guides
These solutions can be a perfect fit if you’re new to the persona creation process. They provide comprehensive support materials and articles to guide you through the data-gathering process and offer descriptive fields or a step-by-step approach to help you assemble your persona. However, remember that internal data management and analytical capabilities are still necessary, which can be costly and time-consuming. Additionally, it’s important to note that these guides are not immune to human bias, as they may steer users in a particular direction.
Automated Persona Creation Tools
The last segment of persona creation tools is those that offer their customers a fully automated process. Automated persona creation tools are software programs that generate customer personas using data analytics and machine learning algorithms. These tools have gained popularity recently due to their ability to streamline the persona creation process and improve accuracy. Automated persona mapping tools are an excellent alternative to traditional methods of persona creation, which can be time-consuming and prone to errors.
These tools can process vast amounts of data quickly and efficiently, allowing companies to manually create personas in a fraction of the time it would take.
Regarding data gathering, processing, and outcome, there are different approaches in the market, which we will explain in more detail now.
Universal-data-based Persona Creation Tools
These are the most sophisticated persona-creation tools since they use multiple data sources. These tools usually incorporate advanced analytics and machine learning algorithms to help identify patterns and trends in the data, allowing users to create more nuanced and refined personas. These tools are constantly evolving and the most precise way to build data-driven personas free from human bias. The more data these tools have, the more accurate their predictions become and the more detailed the personas they create.
These tools can provide a comprehensive view of a target audience by leveraging various public data sources, such as demographic information, user behavior and purchase patterns, and psychographic data. By feeding additional internal data into the system, the AI can sift through the information and extract only the relevant data helpful in creating and enriching the personas. This process relieves the user of the burden of data cleaning and eliminates the potential for bias in the outcome. In essence, the system’s AI acts as a filter, ensuring that only the most pertinent information is used to produce detailed and accurate personas. For many users, qualitative data analysis is the most critical aspect of the process. The results can provide valuable insights into pain points, jobs to be done, and customer needs. These insights are crucial for distinguishing oneself from competitors and building a customer-centric organization.
The following section highlights the benefits and drawbacks of using universal data persona creation tools.
Benefits Universal-data-based Persona Creation Tools
Efficiency: Automated persona creation tools can generate personas faster and more accurately than traditional manual methods, as they can quickly analyze large volumes of data.
Up-to-date: Whereas the manual creation process sometimes takes months, these persona creation tools can help businesses continuously improve their understanding of their target audience by incorporating new data and feedback, allowing them to stay ahead of market trends and customer needs.
Reduced Bias: By using an automated approach, these tools reduce the potential for human bias. AI algorithms are programmed to analyze data objectively and identify patterns based solely on the available data.
Cost-effective: Businesses can reduce the cost of hiring experts to create personas or conduct market research by automating the persona creation process.
Individual focus: Compared to all other tools, a significant benefit is the unique focus of the personas. Some tools offer the opportunity to focus on a particular customer journey step or product line rather than a brand level.
Improved Targeting: Persona creation tools using internal and public data can help businesses better understand their target audience, interests, and pain points. Users create more targeted and personalized marketing campaigns that are more likely to resonate with their audience.
Better Customer Engagement: By the generated insights about customers’ needs, pain points, etc., businesses can provide more personalized experiences and content that speaks directly to their customers, which can help improve customer engagement.
Improved Product Development: These persona creation tool types help businesses gain insights into their customers’ preferences, behaviors, and needs, which can inform product development efforts and help ensure that new products and services meet the needs of their target audience.
Data Integration: Using internal and public data sources, persona creation tools can provide a more comprehensive understanding of the target audience, as they can integrate information from various sources to create a complete picture of the target audience.
Constraints of Universal-data-based Persona Creation Tools
Data Limitations: These universal data creation tools are only as accurate as the data they receive. If the data is incomplete or biased, the personas generated may not accurately reflect the target audience. Businesses must thoroughly discuss with the vendor to ensure successful implementation and avoid potential drawbacks of automated persona creation tools. It includes requesting specific data requirements and structure and understanding the extent of public data gathered. By doing so, companies can ensure that the data used to create personas is accurate, complete, and unbiased. Additionally, this communication allows businesses to understand the vendor’s processes and limitations clearly.
Privacy Concerns: Using public data to create personas raises privacy concerns, primarily when personal information is used to create detailed customer profiles. It can lead to legal and ethical issues if data is collected and used without customers’ consent.
Costs: Since this tool type integrates a wide range of data sources, including internal data (such as CRM, email, and analytics) and public data (such as reviews and blogs), they can be more expensive due to the vast amount of data they process. Nevertheless, these tools remain cost-effective compared to manual processes or hiring external consultants. While the upfront cost may be higher, these tools can provide significant time and cost savings in the long run by automating the process and minimizing the need for human intervention.
Google Analytics-based Persona Creation Tools
Google Analytics-based persona creation tools help companies better understand their online customer behavior. By analyzing data such as website traffic, user behavior patterns, and conversion rates, these tools can generate personas that capture the essence of a company’s online customer base. Though the persona profiles generate some insights and often look decent, this approach comes with challenges and restrictions.
Benefits Google Analytics-based Persona Creation Tools
Cost Savings: These solutions are usually reasonably cheap since they rely only on one source. Using Google Analytics as a data source can help businesses save money by avoiding the need for costly market research studies or external consultants.
Real-Time Data: Google Analytics provides real-time data on website visitors, allowing businesses to quickly adapt their personas and marketing strategies in response to changing trends and customer behaviors.
Speed: Since it is a one-source focus, the creation process is usually very fast and takes up to 24 hours, making it easy to meet pressing deadlines.
Data Visualization: Google Analytics provides powerful data visualization tools to help businesses better understand and interpret the data, making identifying trends and insights that inform persona creation easier.
Constraints of Google Analytics-based Persona Creation Tools
Setup: The insights are only as good as the setup of Google Analytics. It’s essential to note that Google Analytics is based on cookie tracking and user identification. It can only provide insights for users who consent to be tracked, which may only represent part of the entire customer base. While Google Analytics offers a lot of data, it’s vital to ensure that it is accurate and up-to-date. Technical issues, such as broken tracking codes or incorrect data filtering, can skew the data and lead to inaccurate insights.
Source Restriction: Relying only on one source is susceptible to biases and errors. The tool only considers people who have already gone to your website. However, it only provides a partial picture of the customer’s overall journey, including interactions with other touchpoints such as social media or email. This can result in incomplete customer profiles and incomplete insights. You might have initially targeted the wrong personas and continue to ignore ones out of sight.
Source of insights: These tools frequently feature categories such as the brand the persona follows and entertainment preferences, which can be challenging to pinpoint their origin. Therefore, caution is advised when utilizing these tools as a basis for targeting and other purposes.
Quality of insights: The biggest problem is that it may not always accurately reflect the full range of customer characteristics since Google Analytics is limited in its ability to provide qualitative data about customers, such as needs, pain points, jobs to be done, interests or attitudes, which can be crucial for understanding customer needs and behavior. Complementing Google Analytics with other data sources, such as surveys, customer feedback, and market research, is vital to obtaining a more well-rounded view of customers and developing more robust customer insights.
Lack of actionable insights: While Google Analytics can provide valuable data, it may only sometimes offer actionable insights that businesses can use to improve their marketing or customer experience. It can result in companies spending time and resources analyzing data without gaining meaningful insights.
Limited context: Google Analytics provides data about what customers are doing, but not necessarily why they are doing it. Without context, it can be challenging to understand the root causes of customer behavior and develop insights that address these causes.
Data privacy concerns: As Google Analytics tracks user behavior and data, businesses must comply with privacy regulations and protect their customers’ data. Failure to do so can result in legal issues, reputational damage, and loss of customer trust.
Public-Data-Based Persona Creation Tools
Some vendors offer public data-based personas. As a source, they name social media, MOZ, and SimilarWeb as references to create these personas. SimilarWeb and others are web analytics platforms that provide insights into website traffic, user behavior, and digital marketing performance across various industries and geographies. These tools use data from these platforms, such as website traffic, keyword searches, and referral sources, to identify patterns and trends in the audience’s behavior. For example, suppose a business’s website receives significant traffic from social media platforms. It may indicate that their target audience is active on social media and prefers to engage with brands through these channels. Similarly, if a business’s website receives a high volume of organic search traffic for specific keywords, this may indicate the topics and keywords that resonate with their target audience.
However, it’s important to remember that building personas using SimilarWeb and other platforms’ data has limitations. These platforms provide a broad view of website traffic and user behavior but may not capture the nuances of individual users’ needs and motivations.
Benefits of Public-Data-Based Persona Creation Tools
Additional web analytics: Using tools that integrate SimilarWeb or other sources, provide additional web analytics data, including website traffic, referral sources, search traffic, and more. It is easy to gather additional data if your internal data is insufficient.
Global reach: These platforms provide data on website traffic and behavior across multiple countries and regions, providing insights into your target audience’s behavior and preferences in different geographies.
In addition, as stated above, the points speed and cost savings apply here as well.
Constraints of Public-Data-Based Persona Creation Tools
Limited data sources: SimilarWeb provides data on website traffic, keywords, and referral sources, but it may not provide a complete picture of a target audience’s behavior and preferences. It can lead to incomplete or inaccurate personas that don’t accurately reflect your audience’s needs.
Inaccurate data: While SimilarWeb provides valuable data, verifying its accuracy and reliability is essential. Inaccurate data can lead to personas that don’t accurately reflect your audience’s behavior and preferences.
Lack of context: SimilarWeb data provides insights into website traffic and user behavior but may not provide insights into the context behind that behavior. For example, a high bounce rate on a website may indicate a lack of engagement, but it may also be due to technical issues or slow loading times.
Limited accuracy: These personas are based on assumptions about your target audience, and while data and research can inform these assumptions, they may only sometimes be accurate. This can lead to personas that don’t accurately reflect your audience’s needs and behaviors.
Limited scope: Personas are typically based on specific segments of your target audience and may not reflect the needs and behaviors of all your customers or prospects. This can limit the effectiveness of your personas in guiding your marketing and product development efforts.
Difficulty keeping up-to-date: As your target audience evolves and changes, your personas may become outdated, requiring you to update them regularly. It can challenge businesses with limited resources or those operating in rapidly changing markets.
Lack of qualitative insights: SimilarWeb provides quantitative data on website traffic and behavior, but it may not provide qualitative insights into your target audience’s preferences, motivations, and pain points. It can limit the depth and accuracy of your personas and the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.
Database-hinged Persona Creation Tools
These vendors build personas that rest on a database of surveys and statistics. The approach is quite similar to tools that base the creation of personas on public data, with the difference that they rely on a fixed database. These tools usually use machine learning algorithms to analyze large amounts of data and identify patterns, correlations, and trends that characterize different user groups. The data can come from various sources, such as customer databases, web analytics, social media, and market research. The tools use this data to create profiles of typical users, including their demographics, psychographics, behaviors, interests, and preferences.
Benefits Database-hinged Persona Creation Tools
Time-saving: These tools can quickly generate personas based on large datasets, saving businesses time and resources compared to manually creating personas through user research and surveys.
Cost-effective: By automating the persona creation process, these tools can be more cost-effective than hiring market researchers or UX designers to create personas manually.
Objectivity: By analyzing statistical data, these tools can provide objective insights into customer behavior and preferences, reducing the risk of subjective biases arising through user research and surveys.
Constraints of Database-hinged Persona Creation Tools
Limited data scope: These tools rely on historical data to generate personas, which means they may not consider more recent changes in customer behavior, market trends, or other factors that could affect customer preferences.
Generalizations: The personas generated by these tools are often based on generalizations and assumptions about customer behavior and preferences, which may not accurately reflect the attitudes and motivations of individual customers, especially your specific brand or product.
Lack of context: These tools may not capture the nuances and complexities of customer behavior and preferences. They rely on a statistical analysis of large data sets rather than a deep understanding of individual customer needs.
Limited scope of analysis: These tools may only analyze specific types of data, such as demographic data or purchase history, and may not consider other factors that could influence customer behavior, such as social media activity or interactions with customer service.
Bias and accuracy issues: The statistical models used by these tools can be subject to bias or inaccuracies, leading to incorrect or misleading insights about customer behavior and preferences.
Lack of empathy: Personas created solely based on statistical data can lack empathy and fail to capture the emotional and psychological factors that influence customer behavior and decision-making.
Incomplete picture: Statistical data may not provide a complete picture of customer behavior, particularly for complex or subjective behaviors such as customer satisfaction, loyalty, and brand perception.
Limited granularity: These tools may not provide the granularity required for specific use cases, such as UX design or product development, where detailed insights into user behavior and preferences are essential.
Outdated data: The historical data used by these tools may quickly become outdated and not accurately reflect current market trends or customer behavior.
Conclusion Automated Persona Creation Tools
Google Analytics-based persona creation tools use website traffic, user behavior patterns, and conversion rates to generate accurate and detailed personas, offering benefits such as cost savings, real-time data, speed, and data visualization. Public-data-based personas are created using data from platforms like SimilarWeb and social media to identify patterns and trends in audience behavior, providing benefits such as extended web analytics and a global reach. Still, they also have limitations, such as limited data sources, inaccurate data, and a lack of qualitative insights. The Database Contingent Persona Creation Tool creates personas based on a statistical analysis of a fixed database of surveys and statistics, providing benefits such as time-saving, cost-effectiveness, and objectivity. Still, they also have limitations, such as limited data scope, generalizations, and lack of empathy.
Universal data-based persona tools are the most complex but offer significant benefits for businesses seeking to understand their target audience better. These tools can generate more accurate and nuanced personas, reducing the potential for human bias and providing valuable insights into customer needs and pain points.
User profiling, customer segmentation, and persona creation tools have become increasingly popular among businesses seeking a competitive advantage by understanding their target audience. Using demographic, psychographic, and behavioral data, companies can create buyer personas representing their true customer and use them to inform marketing campaigns and product development efforts.
The persona creation process typically involves user research and interviews, which can be time-consuming and resource-intensive. However, persona mapping software can help streamline the process by providing customizable persona templates and collaboration tools that allow teams to create accurate and detailed personas.
While there are limitations, like data accuracy and privacy concerns, the benefits outweigh the potential drawbacks. Using these tools, businesses can gain a competitive advantage by creating more targeted and personalized marketing campaigns, improving customer engagement, and informing product development efforts.
In conclusion, persona creation tools provide valuable insights into customer behavior and preferences, but choosing the right tool based on the business’s specific needs is vital. By understanding the benefits and limitations of each tool, users can make informed decisions and use a combination of methods to understand their target audience comprehensively. With accurate and detailed personas, businesses can create more effective marketing campaigns, improve customer engagement, and ultimately increase revenue. Persona testing and validation should also be integral to the persona creation process to ensure that the personas accurately represent the target audience.