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What are personas and why do we use them?

By Nicky Meijer | 28/09/2020

If you really want to put the customer first, it is important that you focus your strategy and communication on them. Make sure you constantly address their needs and goals so that you can respond to them. Otherwise, there is a good chance that you will make assumptions or will think too much from the perspective of your organization, instead of the perspective of your customer. That is why everyone in your organization should be an ambassador for your customer. Personas are a great way to make this easy for everyone.

First of all, who do we mean by customers?

We use the word “customer” in the broadest sense of the word. It can be a real customer-customer who buys something from you, such as the buyer of a product in a store, but if you work at a school you can also see students (and / or their parents) as a customer. If you work for a municipality, your customers may be citizens of society. Or if you work in a business-to-business (B2B) setting, it may not always be the end users of a product that you see as a customer but for example the sales agents or the entrepreneurs of wholesalers.

Actually, your customer is the one you focus on as an organization. Whose experience you would like to improve to ensure that your organization remains relevant, competitive and in the spotlight of your target audience. You would prefer to know everything about these people. Because if you can make the match between your organizational goals and the needs of your customers, you can serve them much better. And doing that creates more customer loyalty and return visits, which you will notice in your organization’s bottom line.

What is a persona?

A persona is a fictional character who represents someone from your (potential) target group. The persona enables you to communicate more easily in your organization about these needs while designing good customer experiences. It makes communication about your target group in your organization more personal, making it more appealing and top-of-mind.

In a persona you capture information about a fictional person. You describe the goals, needs and what makes them upset or what makes them happy. You also write a short “background story” of this person in which you describe characteristics and the context that are important to this person.

Of course, you don’t just come up with this yourself. It is essential to really get to know your target group by questioning them. You combine this with existing data about your target group. That’s why you compose a persona from insights that come from thorough customer and user research. Otherwise, you may be focusing on assumptions and your persona may not be an accurate representation of reality.


A persona brings your audience to life

Don’t make too many personas for your organization. They must represent the target groups, but because it is a fictional character, it may well be that some target groups’ characteristics come together in 1 persona. By using a maximum of 3-5 personas in your organization, you bring focus and make it easier to really let them live.

It makes more sense and more humanly when you say “we’re targeting this campaign on David, a buyer looking for inspiration” instead of “we’re targeting the buyer’s market segment.” Not everyone can imagine the latter, but David’s persona appeals to the imagination and can therefore help to embrace target groups. You can quote fictional person “David” in conversations and in (design) sessions asking each other: “Is this really what David wants?”

Advantages of using personas in your organization

Why can’t you just talk in terms of target groups? What exactly does such a persona do for your organization?

A persona:

  • Helps people in the organization to form a collective picture of what your customers or users need
  • Provides focus
  • Ensures that the outside-in perspective is not forgotten
  • Encourages setting the right organizational goals to stay relevant
  • Can be a framework for “testing” your customer experience development activities and decisions against customer needs
  • Used to evaluate customer experience or digital design
  • Supports making decisions about the design of products or services

How to create personas?

Basically, the most important thing is that you have to know what your customers want and consider important. You do this by conducting research and bringing together all the insights and knowledge you have about your customers. A good way to do so is with the help of a Persona Canvas.

Every month we provide free training Persona Creation 101, so if you want more information, I recommend that you join one of our online sessions. Or you could download our GriDD Persona Canvas and get started right away by yourself. Both pages are in Dutch but content of the training and canvas are English. If you’d like more information and don’t read Dutch, please feel free to contact me and I’ll have a chat with you or will send you what you need.

Leren in de GriDD academy

Would you like to know more about personas or about mapping your target group?

Our online tools in the Academy help you easily, but of course we are also there for you. Would you like a helping hand or are you already frequently working with personas and just want to exchange experiences? Then do not hesitate to contact me!

Nicky Meijer


Nicky Meijeris a consultant and manager CX Academy at GriDD. She is driven to support professionals and organizations with (complex) customer experience issues and any form of personal development.

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