How often should personas be updated?
When entering the market, every entrepreneur should first create well-founded personas to understand their customers and their wishes right at the beginning of their journey.
From product development, marketing, and service, this understanding generated by personas is essential to ensure a company’s success in the long run. And who doesn’t know the stories of companies that have done everything right initially, and the bigger they grow, they further deviate from this ideology?
There are many reasons for this, such as silos forming where departments communicate less and less, or the company is only concerned with serving the operational business. In the process, they often lose sight of the actual goal – to satisfy the customer – and ultimately fail.
But the market learned a lot over the past years. UX designers are popping up everywhere like tulips in spring, and suddenly, Customer Centricity is the ultimate buzzword in many companies.
As a result, companies increasingly focus on developing a dynamic understanding of their customers and recognizing and responding quickly to the constantly changing demands and wishes arising from a wide range of factors.
Personas are only effective if they are accurate, data-driven, and free from human bias. Updating them should be an integral part of your business strategy to ensure you create the right product and your marketing and sales endeavors reach those who need it most. If you can help your potential customers evaluate your product or service on their terms, you’ll win them over and hold them as loyal customers.
Let us look at the different factors that impact changes in needs and desires.
Covid – The “New Normal Persona”
Let us start with the most recent factor that caused a change in your customers’ behavior needs and thoughts – Covid19. Let us be frank; the pandemic impacted everyone. It was changing daily lives caused by home office or lockdowns, fear for health, financial restrictions, logistical delays, just to name a few.
Those who understand their clients based on years of industry experience now face a big unknown because nobody has dealt with a pandemic in their lifetime before.
In the past, there were a few newspapers. Today there are thousands and thousands of news websites, some of which use Twitter as a good source of information and thus spread a lot of untruths. In addition, new channels such as Tiktok, Twitch, or Clubhouse are emerging more and more. The use of established channels is changing, as can be seen, for example, in LinkedIn, which has become the most important sales channel in the B2B sector. All these developments influence the needs of customers and their communication methods. Dynamic personas, i.e., those that are not static but adapt to the market, are fundamental for picking up on and understanding these changes.
Merger and Acquisition
When companies merge, they challenge combining two different strategies and ideas and turning them into a joint plan or path. Expanding business services opens doors to buyers that may not have been relevant to one company or the other prior.
If a merger is imminent, it is prudent to revisit the types of customers each company originally had and determine the characteristics and personas that are still relevant and those who will no longer work in the merger. In addition, companies should agree on how personas will be created and implemented in the future.
Representatives from both companies must work through this together. Differences between data sources used, expectations and handling are just a few points that need to be worked out.
The corporate strategy has changed
When a companys’ direction changes or plans a rebranding, it is crucial to re-evaluate whether your current personas are still suitable for its new path.
For instance, if you decide that the new path focuses on an older, more mature customer base and adjust the wording and branding accordingly, you need to ensure that the personas are adapted to this change. Before rebranding or shifting business strategies, the first thing you should do is create personas that reflect this path. Thereby, every stakeholder involved understands from the beginning where this shift leads to and for whom it is done.
Meanwhile, when monitoring existing personas frequently, they might be the trigger for a rebranding or change in business strategy. For instance, if you realize that your personas change from a very young to an older audience, this might indicate that it is time to adjust the branding and strategy towards these older customer segments.
Products or services change
If your company decides to launch a new product line, you must identify the right target audience as you expand your offerings, the number of buyers you want to target increases. Perhaps your products were previously aimed only at men, and you now include women’s offerings. Of course, this is an extreme shift in customer base, but already establishing higher-priced products can directly target a completely different audience.
Therefore it is a must to create new personas for this segment. The new target group probably has completely different needs, goals, and problems than your original target group. Once the new buyer personas are created, it is critical to compare them to the existing ones. This will clarify what adjustments or enhancements need to be made in marketing or sales. The bigger the differences, the more effort it means for the respective teams. This effort will define the ability for true customer-centricity within the organization.
Conversely, the personas must also be adapted if the company decides to reduce the product line. This means that specific personas no longer play a role, which gives the respective teams with limited budgets the opportunity to address the customer groups in a more targeted and cost-efficient manner.
The decision to expand the product offering geographically must also lead to reconsidering the existing personas. It is a fallacy to assume that personas for one geographic region can be easily transferred to another. The cultural differences alone are reason enough to adapt the existing personas to the market or even create entirely new ones.
A wide variety of factors influences customers. These include competition, which can have an enormous influence on the needs and wishes of customers. This influence does not even necessarily have to come from the same industry.
Cameras and cell phones were two completely different industries for a long time until the iPhone came onto the market. Therefore, many manufacturers had to develop entirely new marketing strategies to remain successful. And these manufacturers have certainly lost specific customer segments to the cell phone manufacturers since they now serve a particular need as a by-product.
Accordingly, these personas will fall away in the future, or the camera manufacturer will manage to concentrate on the desires that a cell phone manufacturer cannot yet serve.
New input or data sources for personas
As mentioned so often, persona creation must not be a one-time effort. Many companies create personas based on qualitative and quantitative data and realize that particular insights are still missing but essential to create helpful personas.
In this process, surveys, interviews, or market research are generated to serve as a valuable source of insights. Accordingly, the personas are expanded and adapted with this new information. This is why we often talk about the importance of dynamic personas regularly fed with the latest market data and are always up-to-date.
Now that we’ve looked at the various factors, it’s clear how important it is to regularly update personas to keep up with the latest trends and incorporate new information you’ve learned as you shape your marketing strategy throughout the year. You might discover new input or data sources on your personas to enhance them or make a once relevant persona obsolete. Dynamic personas are the future to stay ahead of your competitors.