Six Rules to Creating a Successful Persona

You can often determine whether a project will be a huge success or an epic fail from how it starts. If everyone on your team isn’t on the same page from the very beginning, then it’s more likely that things will go wrong. We’ve all been in or heard of a project being derailed by an executive who thinks they know best, and changes the entire scope of the project.

This happens all too often in business and it’s why so many startups fail.

To ensure this doesn’t happen to your next project or business idea, you need to get your shareholders and executives working together and on the same wavelength.

How? By creating goals and ad-hoc personas combined with using these six simple rules.

1. Write down your goals

If you don’t have a clear goal in mind for your project, it will come undone.

Most employees don’t know their company’s goals. If they aren’t defined from the very beginning, the foundation of your project is being built on shaky ground.

Write down what your goals are or what you think they should be. Once they are brought into reality, they are much easier to measure and put into action.

Your project goals should include the following things:

Business objectives – These can be quantifiable objectives such as generating $500,000 in gross profit in 12 months, or it can be a statement of purpose such as entering global markets by 2020.

You want to have three core business objectives.

Brand objectives – Focus on how your business wants to be perceived by customers and important people within your industry. For example, do you want to be known for having high-quality products (think Bose, Nike, and Apple), products that are a little more unique and quirky (Dollar Shave Club), or products that are value oriented (Walmart and Best Buy)?

Again, you will want to have three brand objectives that can be measured.

A clear USP – You can’t sneeze today without propping up your head and seeing a new startup being formed. With so much choice for consumers, you need to have a clear, well-defined, unique selling point.

In an overly crowded marketplace, Bose are known globally for their extremely long-lasting products and warranty. For specific products, they give customers a five-year warranty from the date of purchase. As well as being a USP, it also doubles as a great branding tool because a warranty of five years shows the confidence they have in their products.
The goal(s) of your project or business needs to be created with your shareholders and executives. As they helped create the goals, it becomes incredibly difficult for them to later change the focus of the project.

2. Get the C-levels on board to create business level idealized personas

With your goals written down, the next step is to round up your c-level executives to create your idealized personas.

Ad-hoc personas are similar to data driven personas with one key difference: idealized personas are devised around a story and are prioritized against the goal of the project as opposed to built by buyer data.

Start by getting each executive to write down their assumptions about your ideal customer and to organize them in order of most importance. The purpose of this task is to allow them to justify and potentially reveal how limiting their thinking actually is when it comes to knowing how their ideal persona thinks.

Why ask c-level executives to jot down what they think their buyer persona is rather than using the data your business already holds?

There are three reasons. Firstly, with the tools we have on-hand today, businesses aren’t suffering from a lack of information; they suffer from a lack of focus. Many are already bamboozled by the data they currently have, and getting more isn’t the answer.

Secondly, creating idealized personas with your executives allows them to better understand your goals and how to reach them with the persona in mind (as you’re about to find out in step 3).

Finally, since they have helped create the buyer personas, it minimizes the likelihood of the project changing direction in the weeks or months ahead.

3. Align the buyer persona with your goals

A fundamental error made by the majority of businesses is thinking too much about their goals and not enough about their buyer persona. For example, it’s not uncommon for customer service departments to have KPIs such as:

  • Spend no longer than one minute on a consumer help transaction

This KPI focuses primarily on the business, not the customer. If a customer has a serious problem, they may require several minutes on a call to resolve their problem, which goes against the KPI set by the business.

Create customer-oriented KPIs such as:

  • If the customer is not satisfied after ending their call, we’ve failed.

With this new objective, support teams are not worried about spending too much time with a customer. Instead, their focus is on a value-first approach with the customer’s needs ahead of the company.

Have your persona’s interest as the main priority instead of your own, and your business’s growth will compound over time.

4. Use a persona-weighted feature matrix when adding new features

Knowing which features to add to your product or service is always tricky with every c-level executive again thinking they know best.

The most effective way to know which features to focus on or drop is by using a persona-weighted feature matrix.

A persona-weighted feature matrix works by taking data from your executives and thinking about each persona and how they would react to each new feature. Once the data is collected, a table is created revealing which product features your buyer persona would like most or least.

To start the exercise, each executive is given 100 points, which they must allocate to all of your personas based on importance. For example, the most important persona may receive 50 points, whereas a less important persona may receive 30.

In the end, this will give each persona a weighting score. The higher the weighting, the more important they are to your business.

Next you will list all the new features you plan to introduce, and the executives will make assumptions on whether each persona will love or hate it. This is done on the following scale:

  • 2 – love it
  • 1 – it’s fine
  • 0 – doesn’t affect the persona
  • -1 – hates it

What you will end up with is something like this:

Jane Papermill
Weight = 50
Bob Lawyer Inc.
Weight = 30
Lucy Grocery store
Weight = 20
Weighted Priority
Feature 122-1140
Feature 2211150
Feature 3022100

In the example above, Feature 2 has the highest weighed priority (150) and Feature 3 has the least (100). This shows that Feature 2 will have the most positive impact on your business and will help your customers.

A persona-weighted feature matrix will reveal to you which features are most likely to be a hit or miss based on rational logic from executives.

5. Remind everyone where your goals came from

You have now prioritized your features – which have been prioritized by your buyer persona – based on your goals that have been approved by your executives.

You need to remind them that you have come to this stage of the process based on their input, so nobody can turn around and change the scope of the project because they ‘disagree’ with it.

You can take the matrix one step further by mapping out which goals are easiest to achieve, hardest to achieve, and the impact each goal will have on your business.


You will end up with four segments (as shown above). You can get to work on the most important features right away, and place less emphasis on features that won’t impact your business as much.

6. Create a story

A persona is a character, and like any character, they are part of a story (customer buying journey).

Where do they start their journey: social media, search engines, or web forums?

What questions do they ask at each step? How are they thinking at each step and how can you place your brand at every touch point, guiding their actions to your business?

The best way to know is to physically draw out the journey of each customer persona as this will help you understand them better.


Stop guessing what your customers want because the truth is, most executives don’t know. Whether it is because of their old fashioned thinking or their egos getting in the way, their actions are hurting your business and projects.

When you start a new initiative correctly, goals are much easier to achieve and reach. Using these six rules to identify your business’s persona will reshape the thought patterns of shareholders and executives, ensuring everyone is pushing in the same direction.

The secret to these six steps is that each rule takes input from your leaders at every point, minimizing the chances of derailment and merging everyone’s ideas together.

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Author image: Joshua Goldfein
About the author

Joshua Goldfein is the Founder of WPHelp Center and CEO of Mercury Digital Agency. Joshua has over 15 years of experience helping businesses the world over strengthen their digital brands and improve customer experience.

Joshua Goldfein CEO / Founder mercury creative