Ashton Media
Marketing & Customer Experience Hub

How to create real customer personas


Personalisation is often discussed as a single marketing activity; which can mislead marketers into thinking of it as a rather low-key item on the never-ending ‘to do’ list.

The reality is that personalisation, like social, can be as extensive or as half-hearted as you want it to be. While ‘Hi [NAME]’ might seem perfectly acceptable to some, true personalisation is limited only by the amount of customer data you’ve collected and the conclusions you can draw about their preferences, based on that data.

Personalisation is about making informed assumptions- which is where personas come into play.

User Experience designers were among the first to use the concept of personas, in order to test how different audiences might use a website which, in turn, would influence the design and layout of content.

Nowadays, customer personas provide a useful tool for enhancing personalisation strategies- both online and offline. How? By enabling you to categorise your customer data and tailor different marketing messages to real people, rather than one message to the masses; whether deciding the best messaging for a conference or displaying the most relevant content on your homepage.

Being able to segment your audience into typical customer personas helps businesses to harness and make sense of that often overwhelming beast, big data. It also helps to ensure that your messaging has a logic behind it and is more likely to resonate with the customer reading it.


So, here are some simple tips to consider if you’re thinking about creating customer personas:

1. Do your research

Just because personas are fictional, you shouldn’t take them lightly. They should be created based on both qualitative and quantitative research. The more data you use to influence the persona and capture the motivations, frustrations, wants, dislikes of that audience segment, the better.

The bare minimum for data sources should include user behaviour and real customer interviews. Additional sources could include Census information and demographic research sources, such as Roy Morgan Research’s Helix Personas database.

2. Details

The more information you can include in your personas, the easier it will be for you to identify different users and allocate personas accordingly. The key things a persona needs to include, in order to be useful, are:

  • His/her goals and motivations (what do they want out of your site/app/kiosk/etc.?)

  • Current pain points and frustrations (either overall that your business/product/service can solve, or with your site/app/etc.)

  • A short statement that captures their attitude towards your brand/product/service/site.

  • Their level of expertise with your product/service/etc. or if it’s for UX design, then their technical expertise (i.e. do they know how to use a website or do we need to hand hold them?)

3. Baby steps

Personalisation is a long-term activity and should be approached in this way. Investing a lot of time and research in creating four or five accurate personas is far more valuable and manageable as a starting point.

Once your personalisation strategy is up and running, you can introduce more personas, to hone the relevance of your messaging.

Sitecore customer, CPA Australia, created four personas to kick-start their personalisation strategy; the first of these being a persona called Charlotte.

By starting with one persona and slowing introducing more, the organisation was able to gain support from the rest of the marketing department. As CPA Australia’s Digital Publishing Manager, Natalie Buffett, explains; “We aligned the first persona release, Charlotte, with an existing campaign, so that the marketing team understood that personas would complement what they were already trying to achieve, rather than ‘adding’ to their workload”.

4. Targeting

Ultimately, the purpose of personas is to enable you to categorise each customer or visitor to your website and determine what messages you should be sending them, in order to make their experience as relevant as possible.

Once you’ve identified your personas, you should be able to answer the following questions, which will influence every communication or interaction with them- from the content they’re shown when they visit your website, to the emails you send and the products/services you offer:

  • How and what would your best sales person pitch to this customer?

  • How can your organisation help this person?

  • Where is this person most likely to hear about you/encounter your brand? (e.g. blogs, display ads, emails etc)

  • Where each persona sits, in the customer lifecycle (i.e. awareness, research, purchase, using, loyalty, etc.)

  • What content/message would help them move on to the next step?

  • What’s the appropriate CTA?

Robert Holliday - VP Enablement Service - Greater Asia, Sitecore About Robert Holliday - VP Enablement Service - Greater Asia, Sitecore
As VP Enablement Service - Greater Asia at Sitecore, Robert is charged with driving strategy in collaboration with the local senior management teams responsible for Sales, Marketing, Customers and Alliances. Robert works closely with corporate and regional offices to implement and localise the global strategy to grow the business and ensure customer success with Sitecore's leading customer engagement platform.