Creating a user persona is not a set-it-and-forget-it exercise. Users’ needs change. Their companies’ priorities evolve. The ways and places they interact with your product won’t stay the same forever, either. The last couple of years has given us significant examples of changes like these.
You need to regularly revisit the persona details you’ve drafted and make sure they still represent your product’s users and what they care about. In this post, we’ll suggest a few things that could be out of date, and what to do about it.
3 Reasons Your User Personas Might Have Changed
Note: We’ll assume your company sells B2B SaaS software. But many of the issues and tips in this blog will apply to whatever product you’re responsible for.
1. Your users are now remote.
Few companies in any industry, anywhere in the world, still operate today like it’s 2019. The pandemic and lockdowns affected everyone and every business in some way. One of those ways might be where and how users interact with your product.
Let’s say that when you drafted the bio for your persona, you had learned that the typical user of your B2B app would be using it in an office. You interviewed many of these people. You even visited some at their workplaces.
Knowing these users would be in a corporate building, here are a few things you concluded and placed into the persona bio you wrote.
- The company would have a firewall, in-house IT staff, and plenty of onsite cybersecurity.
- Your user’s company-issued computer would be password-protected.
- Your user would be interacting with your app on a large desktop screen, capable of clearly displaying your app’s entire dashboard.
But that has all changed since 2020, hasn’t it?
Now your user could be working on your app from home or on the road. That change to their environment could affect all the details above that you originally included in your persona bio.
What this means for your user persona bio:
You need to take another look at your persona write-up to see if the major post-COVID changes have affected how that user interacts with your product—and how much value they’re getting from it.
Note: If you’re selling B2B products, you probably have different messages for your user persona vs. your buyer persona. That means you should also review and update your buyer persona. If your product offers a different value proposition for remote work—privacy, mobility, easy onboarding—you’ll want to freshen up those messages for your buyer persona.
2. Your users are new to the company (and maybe new to the field).
With the Great Resignation, the Great Resort, or whatever term the popular culture will adopt tomorrow, chances are your business customers are dealing with a lot of employee turnover. That could mean your customers will be filling roles with people new to the field.
As you researched your user persona the first time, you might have concluded that the typical person in this role had five years of experience, maybe even 10.
But now, with all the job-hopping, your typical user might have only three years of experience. Or maybe none. Some companies eager to hire might choose to give the people who will be using your app their first job in this role.
What this means for your user persona bio:
If you learn your business customers have replaced many of your product’s users with less-experienced employees, it’s time to ask yourself a few questions.
- Are your training and onboarding materials as user-friendly as they can be?
- Do your sales reps know to amplify the message that your app is intuitive enough for someone new to the professional to learn quickly?
- Is your marketing team creating educational content for the market—webinars, how-to videos—to make your app seem less intimidating to new users?
3. Your enterprise customers’ priorities have changed.
The chaos of the pandemic forced many companies to change their business models and priorities. Some organizations (think Zoom) went into aggressive, hyper-growth mode. Others (think travel companies) had to play defense, shifting into survival mode.
What this means for your user persona bio:
If you learn that your customers have changed their focus in response to the pandemic (or for any reason), you’ll want to review your user persona bio to figure out how those changes affect your persona’s use of your product. For example:
- Does your product have features that have become more relevant based on your customers’ new priorities? (If so, better make sure your users know about them.)
- Have your users found different ways to engage with your product to meet the changing demands of their companies? (If so, better update the persona with these new details.)
5 intel-gathering tactics to update your user persona
To update the details of your user persona, you’ll use the same processes you used to develop your persona bio in the first place. In case you need a refresher on that process, it can involve any or all of the following tactics.
Here’s the bottom line, though: Get out there and talk to your persona.
1. Interview existing users.
Find a few users of your product willing to meet with you for an in-depth discussion. You’ll want to ask them how they use your product, what they like and don’t like about it, what they would see added to it, etc.
But for this conversation, you also want to find out what if anything has changed for them in recent years. Has their job changed? Are they working remotely? Has their company bought new apps that are adjacent to yours—or even that have taken over some of your app’s tasks for them?
If you can pull it off, ask if you can meet these users in their workplace environment. You want to observe them in their typical workspace interacting with your app. That could give you insights and ideas for your product. If these users are working from home, well, that might be too invasive. Maybe just suggest a phone call or Zoom meeting.
2. Survey your user group.
Here you’ll prepare a short set of survey questions and send it out to a representative sample of your users. Offer incentives—a gift card, for example. People value their time. And you want to show your users you value theirs as well.
And remember, a survey is an art form. Ask too many questions and you’ll turn off a lot of respondents. Ask too few questions, or the wrong ones, and you won’t learn as much as you could.
If you’d like some help here, check out ProductPlan’s article on how to craft a great customer survey.
3. Ask for industry feedback on social media.
Go out to LinkedIn or your favorite social platform. Find professional groups or communities where your user personas hang out. If you offer a B2B app to data engineers, for example, find a data engineering community online.
Then create a very short survey—maybe just one key question—and publish it. The answers you get back will be valuable, but you’ll also want to monitor the community’s comments about the question. See where the conversation takes them. You can glean valuable insights that way too.
4. Talk to your sales reps.
Your company’s salespeople can serve as an early warning sign of new trends, shifting market needs, threats, and opportunities. In this case, they can help you learn if your user persona’s characteristics or needs are changing.
Your sales reps can tell you, for example, if the typical questions or objections they’re hearing from prospective users (and buyers) have changed. Maybe none of your reps have spotted the trend. But if you speak with several of them, you might find see it.
5. Talk to your customer success agents.
Here’s another great way to find gems of business intelligence you might never otherwise uncover.
Let’s return to one of our hypotheticals above. Your enterprise customers are losing some of their most experienced employees in The Great Resignation. Those longtime employees are moving on because other companies are luring them away with better pay or other perks. To replace them, your enterprise customers are hiring people much newer to the profession.
If your customer success reps are fielding more basic questions about your app than in the past, that could be an indicator that many of your users are new to your customers’ organizations.
This is just one of many reasons to regularly talk with your customer success team and learn what they’re hearing on the front lines of your customer base.
Your user personas evolve just like your product
Your product will evolve, and so will your users. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that because you have a user persona document, you know all there is to know about your users.
Check-in with them. Make sure they’re still using your product the way you think they are—and that you have an up-to-date picture of what they need and want from your app.