Why Buyer Personas are Essential to the Customer Journey Map

March 22, 2016 Nicole Klemp

buyer personas

According to Forrester Research, 63 percent of companies in an online survey reported using customer journey maps as part of their Customer Experience efforts, and 48 percent use personas (commonly referred to as buyer personas or design personas) to represent their target customers. Should your organization be using one or the other… or both? Can one effectively exist without the other? Well, that depends.

Customer personas vs. customer journey maps

Personas describe the attributes and personalities of key customers, while customer journey maps look holistically at customer lifecycles and interactions, and identify gaps, opportunities, and pain points. Owners of a local hardware store, for example, will likely know most of their customers personally, and therefore have little need for personas. (Though they may still benefit from journey mapping.) But the bigger a company is — and the more customers they have — the more they will benefit from the combination of customer journey maps and personas.
According to Forrester, personas model the key behaviors, attributes, motivations, and goals of your target customers. They should be created by researching real customers, and give detailed descriptions of individual people to represent segmented groups of customers. 

If your company has neither personas nor journey maps in place, Forrester recommends building personas as a first step. This allows you to first understand who your target customers are and what their goals are before determining the steps required to help achieve them. Many companies have a natural tendency to be internally focused, so personas and journey maps are essential to providing a customer-centric perspective. By focusing on the needs and wants of target groups of customers, you can create better experiences at every stop on the customer journey. And investing time and resources in creating personas and journey maps to customize different customer channels is likely to pay off. Forrester found that using personas when doing a website redesign can provide a return of up to 4 times more than a redesign without them. If customers are at the center of your intentions, the revenue will inevitably follow.

To keep personas and journey maps fresh and relevant, companies should do regular customer research and incrementally update them as needed. As technologies and customer habits change, customer journeys should be adjusted accordingly. The important thing is that organizations keep their finger on the customer pulse, and that their needs are at top of mind when organizational changes or important business decisions are made.

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