14 May 2017

CREATING PERSONAS, Part 2 - Identifying "Major Work Goals" and "Major Personal Goals"

Lesson #29–CREATING PERSONAS, Part 2

This is internet income course lesson twenty-nine, which continues to simplify the difficulties of starting and running a profitable online business by breaking down important principles in simple English. Course author, George Little, continues to reveal tips, real-world advice, and in-depth, step-by-step instructions on setting up your Internet-based business. Read the previous lesson 28 here.

In this lesson, we will continue the discussion of how to create "personas." In our last lesson, we were using the sample template (located here) to work through creating a sample persona. We left off in our discussion of general information at the top right of the template. We will begin this lesson picking up with "Major Work Goals" and "Major Personal Goals."

Empathizing With Your Users' Goals

Identifying the persona's "Major Work Goals" and "Major Personal Goals" is an important part of creating a persona. Empathy is the key to reaching any audience. Understanding someone's goals and the frustrations they encounter in achieving those goals is the key to empathy. Personas, as we have stated earlier, help us to empathize with our target markets.

How do we determine the major goals for our hypothetical persona? First, we remember that a persona is a hypothetical person; not a real person, but one who represents a group (or "demographic") of potential customers. Thus, there is no one person we can ask. So, we look at a group of people that seem to share certain characteristics and we ask them. Then, we look for the common factors in their responses and attribute these common characteristics to the persona we create to represent that group. This approach applies not just to work and personal goals, but to all of the remaining information needed for the persona.

In the example used in our last lesson, we identified small, local businesses with existing websites as a group to be considered. How many of these do we need to survey to get useful results? Alan Cooper, the highly lauded programmer and author who pioneered the use of personas, has said we need only interview eight (8) people. Of those eight, he says, three will not be responsive in a meaningful way. The five that are left will provide what we need, provided we listen carefully to their responses.

For Cooper's approach to work, it is important to ask the right questions. Do not ask "yes" or "no" questions. Instead, ask open-ended questions that allow for feelings and experiences to be freely shared in response. Then, listen patiently and carefully to the answers. For example, start out by asking about their day. Then, follow up by asking whether they feel they got closer to achieving their goals today or farther away. If that doesn't prompt them to tell you their goals, you can slowly lead them into it. When the question. "What are your major goals?" comes cold and unexpected, people tend to clam up. It is better to slowly lead them into a discussion in which they spontaneously recall their goals and why those goals matter to them.

In a similar vein, one should not use a written or online survey that lists out common goals and asks the participants to order them by priority. That approach may be quick, simple, and easy, but it won't give the participants the freedom to be open and honest. It boxes them in to your preconceptions. It prevents you from learning anything really new about them.

If you find it impossible or terribly inconvenient to arrange and conduct interviews with eight local, small business owners, another option is to engage with them on social media. Ask questions in your posts that will bring out discussions on these subjects. Perhaps follow up with private messages to make sure they are giving you completely open and honest answers. If you just cold call business owners and ask for their time, they will often be reluctant. On the other hand, if you post questions on social media, they may, when the time is convenient for them, be eager to respond. Again, though, don't just post a survey, allow them to freely answer your questions by typing out their answers.

When you have completed your survey, look for common factors in the answers you received. Each participant will have given you idiosyncratic information about themselves that is not useful and can be discarded. For example, if they tell you their favorite color or their favorite TV show, it is unlikely that will reveal anything about their goals, personal or business. Incorporate into your persona only those things that all of the participants seem to have in common. Leave out the idiosyncrasies.

After you have completed your own survey, look for information from more formal studies. Just as a quick example, I recently searched on Google for "goals of small business owners survey results", which yielded many informative articles. A Gallop poll that caught my attention was informative because it revealed that small business owners do not necessarily know their own mind. The survey found that most small business owners felt "satisfied", but few felt they were "successful." This reveals that a very important goal to small business owners is self-reliance. They feel satisfied because they are self-reliant, yet they do not feel successful. It appears that many small business owners misconstrue success as something different from satisfaction with one's life. In other words, they don't really know (and thus can't articulate) what really motivates them. This suggests what Cooper hinted at earlier, that people are much more than snippets of demographic data. You need to be a good "listener" to really understand their true motivations.

One survey published by Infusionsoft broke the results down into four major groups of small business owners:
  1. Passionate Creators
  2. Freedom Seekers
  3. Legacy Builders
  4. Struggling Survivors
This suggests four top level personas to represent small business owners.

My Google search also resulted in much useful, more straightforward, demographic data. The demographic data you can find online is very useful to know, especially when you are attempting to interpret your own survey results. It can be helpful by comparing your own survey results with the results of others. When this data is compared to your own findings, you should gain enough insight to build your personas.

While we have only discussed goals in general thus far, the template provided requires us, and it is quite useful, to break it down into work goals and personal goals. Perhaps this distinction explains the results of the Gallop poll mentioned above. It may be a work goal to be "successful" and a personal goal to be "self-reliant." The satisfaction found in the Gallop poll is a satisfaction of the personal goal, but the business goal goes beyond that and remains unsatisfied. Breaking it down makes the results more understandable.

Knowing people's personal goals also provides a strategy to reach them and relate to them. The relationship formed this way opens the door to a trusted business relationship.

While we have used a specific group of people, i.e. small business owners, in this discussion, all of the principles discussed here apply to creating surveys for any type of group. The type of groups you will want to create personas for will differ according to the specific product or service you desire to promote, but the techniques used to create those personas will be similar.

This lesson continued our discussion of how to create personas using templates. Identifying the persona's "Major Work Goals" and "Major Personal Goals" is an important part of creating a persona. Empathy is the key to reaching any audience.

Remembering that a persona is a hypothetical person rather than a real person, we learned that we need to survey a group of people to ascertain what goals to assign to our persona. According to a top expert in the field, surveying eight people is enough to accomplish our purpose. In surveying these eight people, we have to ask the right questions and ask them in the right way. When our survey is completed, we need to look up other published surveys and test our results against them. The type of product or service you are promoting will determine which groups of people you want to include, but the principles to be applied in creating personas will still be similar. Understanding people's personal and work goals as they relate to your particular product or service will almost always be important and should be included in your personas.

In our next lesson, we will continue our discussion of how to create personas. You may read the next lesson here: Creating Personas, Part 3. And you may also browse through the Internet Income training Index.

By George Little, Panhandle On-Line, Inc. For more information on the Internet Income Course and other works and courses by George Little, see http://www.profitpropulsion.com

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