Recent buzz about personas has created some confusion. If you've tried to develop and deploy personas, you may have experienced resistance from other departments because they don't grasp the value that personas purportedly provide. The reason may be that personas (in the form of customer profiles) by themselves don't offer all that much.

But personas are not just customer profiles; rather, "personas" is the title for a complex tool that has four components:

  1. Persona descriptions
  2. Scenarios
  3. Insights
  4. Innovation opportunity handoff

Only if you complete all four parts will your Personas offer their true value: the ability to translate customer research into valuable innovation and action.

Part 1: Persona Descriptions

Because we marketers often find information about customers to be interesting in its own right, we can mistakenly assume that people in other departments will see value in customer data, too. This assumption is dangerous because it might let us stop at the first layer of persona development.

Persona descriptions are receptacles that capture and communicate what market research knows about our customers. A persona description is a customer profile of a typical customer's attributes, which illustrate the segment the persona represents. The persona description contains demographic information, behavioral and attitudinal information, and information about customers' needs and goals that relate to the interest area your company addresses.

As such, persona descriptions are good vehicles for communicating your relevant customer data in terms that are easy to understand and remember. But they do not alone provide enough direction for product managers, developers, and sales people to get them excited.

Part 2: Scenarios

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Angela Quail is SVP of customer insights at Goal Centric Management, Inc. (, where she and partner Tony Zambito offer training and creation of user and buyer personas.