7 Awesome Free Tools To Create Buyer Personas

Free tools and resources to create and share buyer personas:

A buyer persona is a great strategy for improving your understanding of your important customer segments and communicating  this knowledge to the wider business. I have previously outlined a process for creating and using buyer personas to improve conversion. But if you need a tool for building buyer personas from the segments you have identified here are some excellent free resources.

Below are 7 free tools for you to create and share your buyer personas. I have summarised each one to provide an indication of what they offer.

My personal recommendation is Xtensio as this has an excellent template that is easy to complete and customise. You can also add new sections as required.

Buyer persona template from Xtensio.com

The Magnificent 7:

 

1. Kayak: This tool uses a question and answer approach, though the number of questions and topics is not very comprehensive. This does make it a quick tool to use, but not all the questions will be relevant to all personas and there does not appear to be a way of changing the questions.

There is also no save functionality on the site as your persona is emailed to you within half an hour of completing the process. The lack graphical formatting or a one page summary does limit the use of the tool, but it can be used to help start the persona building process.

Image of Kayak.com buyer persona creator

 

 

2. Makemypersona from Hubspot: This is a free step-by-step wizard to take you through the process of creating your own buyer personas. In addition Hubspot offers a free downloadable template in exchange for your name and email address. The online tool is very intuitive and easy to use. The tool allows you to select a stock photo to represent you persona and emails you the completed persona as a word document after about 15 minutes.

Makemypersona.com homepage

3. Personapp: A free web based app for creating informal personas and sharing with your colleagues. Join up and start creating single page personas in a matter of seconds. You can easily add new sections to customise the template for your specific needs.  It allows you to save your personas online, share, print and save personas as a PDF document.

personapp.io homepage

4. Up Close & Persona: A free app that asks you questions to help you understand what motivates your audience. The interface is simple to use, though some of the questions have too few pre-set answers (e.g. there are only 3 age ranges). The app does have a fairly extensive range of questions and displays the full persona when you submit at the end. The persona is also emailed to you, but it would benefit from a 1 page summary of the persona rather than having to scroll down through multiple pages.

Upcoseandpersona.com homepage

5. Userforge: One of the most  flexible tools for collaborative user persona development. By using URLs rather than static documents it allows everyone to easily access the latest iteration of your user personas. The wizard only asks a few simple questions, but you can then add as many sections as you need using your own headings for a comprehensive user persona.

Userforge.com homepage

6. Xtensio: A free forever buyer persona creator tool to build as many personas as you like. Also has a “How to guide” to help you with the process. This is one of the better online tools as it asks you to complete an online template to create each persona. It has an extensive range of questions, but each field can be amended to suit your needs.

xtensia.com homepage

7. Youandco: A simple step-by-step wizard allows you to create your buyer persona and then send it to you as a word document. This is a fairly basic persona, but once you get the word document you can then add more detail to create a more comprehensive persona.

Youandco.com homepage

Bonus resource:

Learningspacetoolkit: This is a great free resource website which includes PDF guides on creating personas and running workshops to create user personas.

There are some excellent free tools here to help you create buyer personas. To get the most from personas see my article how to create a buyer persona to improve conversions. This will help you complete a customer  journey analysis to significantly improve your sales and revenues. Although it’s not an easy process and it will take some time to complete, it will definitely be worth the effort as you should see substantial benefits for your organisation.

Thank you for reading my post and if you found it useful please share using the social media icons on the page.

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.

To browse links to all my posts on one page please click here.

  • About the author:  Neal provides digital optimisation consultancy services and has worked for  brands such as Deezer.comFoxybingo.com, Very.co.uk and partypoker.com.  He identifies areas for improvement using a combination of approaches including web analytics, heuristic analysis, customer journey mapping, usability testing, and Voice of Customer feedback.
  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to neal.cole@outlook.com. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch and view his LinkedIn profile.

How To Use Personas To Improve Conversions

Personas and website optimisation

 

Why is it that there is so much talk about buyer personas and yet I often see little evidence that they are utilised effectively to improve the bottom line and significantly increase conversion rates? They make a lot of sense but rarely do they appear to be discussed when companies create website optimisation programs. Rightly or wrongly they seem to be primarily the domain of UX people rather than optimisation teams.

This represents a missed opportunity for conversion optimisation as when used wisely buyer personas can help identify the gap between your brand narrative and the actual user experience. Such analysis can be invaluable for creating targeted content and for developing ideas for A/B test hypothesis and general improvements to the user experience.

In this post I cover:

  • how to create buyer personas,
  • how an innovative approach by Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg  to customer journey analysis utilises personas to their full potential to improve conversions.

So, what is a persona?

A persona is a detailed portrait of the characteristics, needs, motivations and environment of intended or important user segments. It should include their name, age, career, income and other relevant characteristics such as their goals and values. It should not be made up of the average customer as the mean is skewed by outliers and so you are unlikely to find many, if any, Mr or Mrs average customer.

A buyer persona created by personapp.io

How do you create a persona?

Personas can be as simple or complex as you want them to be, the important thing is that you use data you hold on customers and interviews with customers or prospects to build your personas. The biggest mistake people often make is that they assume they already know who their customers are, what goals they have etc. Neither do you have to conduct expensive market research or cluster analysis.

You don’t need a large budget to create a buyer persona as you can gather data on customers yourself and group your findings in a spreadsheet. There are many sources of data that you can use apart from customer account information.

Google Analytics Affinity Category report

Look at your web analytics as the Audience section in Google Analytics has information on demographics, interests and geographical location and language.  Contact your Customer Service agents as they talk with your clients on a daily basis and check out  social media to see what they say and look at their profiles. Find out where your customer hangout (e.g. online forums or societies they are members of) as again there may be a wealth of free information available here.

Use descriptive headings that relate to your area of interest, such as device, time of day, behaviour and career goals. As you build up data on different characteristics or behaviours you will start to see patterns emerge that could suggest relationships between the profile make-up of customers and their needs and motivations.

Don’t just look at demographics as often behaviour is the most important characteristic of individual customer segments. However, these patterns will help you begin to identify customer clusters that you can investigate to understand what they have in common and how they differ from each other.

Voice of Customer:

Image of young women on a laptop computer

Now that you have an idea of potentially different customer segments you should get out and interview a small sample of customers or prospects who roughly fit the profiles you have so far. Ideally you should go and meet customers in their natural environment (i.e. where they normally browse your or your competitor’s website) as much of our behaviour is contextual and observation is often more insightful than asking direct questions.

Image of hotjar.com homepage

If for whatever reason you can’t visit your customers there are many low-cost Voice of Customer tools, such as Hotjar that allow you to recruit customers when they are on your website. You can then arrange for a Skype call or web meeting to conduct your interview. Draft a short discussion guide to ensure consistency of your interviews, but ensure you keep most of your questions open-ended to allow users to express their opinions.

If you give them a task to complete you can ask them to give a running commentary as they browse. This can help you better understand how they behave and identify potential pain points in your user journey. You may also pick up on the language they use for your sector.

Add this information to your spreadsheet to give more depth to the personalities of your customer segments and their buying style. Building personas is an iterative process and so your customer interviews are bound to result in some changes to your segments. However, try not to create too many different segments unless you have evidence that each is reasonably large and important to the sustainability of your organisation.

 

How can I use personas to improve conversion?

 

jane-brooks-buyer-persona

Personas need to be shared throughout an organisation if they are to have a significant impact upon how people think about your customers. However, they also have an important role to play in your optimization program.

Conversion experts Bryan and Jeffery Eisenberg  have created an agile business process for using personas that improves communications, execution, testing and makes more money for your organisation. Rather than following the normal approach of customer journey analysis of going down the happy path (i.e. the preferred user journey), they suggest assuming your prospect failed to convert with your brand. This allows your team to focus on what can go wrong rather than how great your preferred user experience is.

Image of Buyer Legends process

This is a team exercise so get stakeholders from all key areas that influence or control the user experience together in one place. Make sure you get the support of key stakeholders first as this often helps to obtain cooperation from different departments.

Step 1 – Buying style:

Firstly consider the buying style of your chosen buyer persona. It is important to define this as it will influence how your customer responds to the user experience.  Normally it is a good idea to begin with a enquiring, deliberative, detail type personality as they are most likely to uncover issues with your user journey (which is what you want). It is also necessary to choose a conversion objective so that you have clarity on the end-goal. Below you will see the four buyer styles based upon the work of the American psychologist, David Keirsey.

 

Image of Keirsey's four human temperaments
Image Source: Conversion Sciences

 

Step 2 – Pre-mortem:

The pre-mortem involves evaluating the customer journey on the basis that the customer did not convert with your brand. This gives everyone permission to raise doubts and concerns about the current user journey so that you can generate a list of what went wrong with the existing customer experience.

Relate any frustration, wrong turn or dead end back to your chosen persona by imagining what would happen, how would the customer feel about it and at what point would the issue result in the customer dropping out of the conversion journey.

Once you have gone through the full customer journey focus on generating a list of possible changes, fixes or solutions for each failure point. They may not always be ideal, but they can be evaluated later on in the process.

Step 3 – Outline a user story:

Now describe the user story using reverse chronological order to work backwards from a successful conversion. This has the advantage that you have to be more thorough in specifying customer actions and their rationale for each step in the user journey. It also helps you view possible alternative user paths generated from the pre-mortem analysis. These may require additional interventions or new branch paths.

Step 4 – Write the Buyer Legends:

Now that you have outlined the user story it is time to write a draft  of the Buyer Legends in chronological order. This allows you to create a narrative of a successful user experience which explains what happens to the customer and how it makes them feel at each step of the user journey. Use the check list below to ensure you cover all the key elements of the legend. As you go through this process also consider:

  • What actions need to be undertaken for the customer to complete your goal?
  • What opportunities may have been missed?
  • What shortcomings of the user journey might prevent them from purchasing?
  • Where are their opportunities for upsell or upgrade?
  • How could we reduce friction in the user journey to make it easier for the customer?

 

Buyer legend 1.     Person Use the persona to describe who the customer is.
2.     Their purpose What are their larger goals?

How do they define them self?

What are they trying to accomplish on a larger career-wise, personally or socially?

This defines the context of the purpose and motivation

3.     Objective of interaction What are they trying to achieve by dealing with company?

What is your conversion goal at this stage

4.     Sequence of steps Describe the story of what the customer is doing at every step of their progress through the process
5.     Rationale behind identifying the problem & solution Describe how the person is thinking at each step in the process
6.     Key decisions Outline the key decisions the customer has to make to complete and what she needs (features, benefits, testimonials, reviews)
7.     Emotional struggles What are the emotional dynamics – strongly felt need, pressure from others, trust, time vs money?
8.     Anti-goals What concerns and anxieties around what they don’t want to happen (reliability/break down)
9.     Constraints Any additional constraints or limitations that the customer has to consider?
10. Alternative options What alternative options does the customer have? What would an experience with a competitor look like?

 

Ensure the legend is easy to read as this will help everyone follow the story line.

Step 5 – Measuring the Buyer Legends:

Image of tape measure
Source: Freeimages.com

To ensure the Buyer Legends is measurable and actionable here are some important definitions to use during the process.

  1. Catalyst: This refers to the place where the customer first identifies your brand or organisation.
  2. First measurable step: Usually a landing page, but this is the point where you customer enters the measurable part of the journey.
  3. Road signs: These are important stages in the user journey where customer expect and require certain information to continue with the process.
  4. Detours: Many customers will not blindly follow your preferred user path and so it is necessary to construct paths to deal with these forks in the road as otherwise customers may abandon your website and never return.
  5. Measurable step: Whenever a customer leaves behind evidence of an interaction (e.g. via web analytics) with your brand.
  6. Forks in the road: Decision points create forks in the road where customers have a specific question, need or concern that can lead them away from the desired path. People don’t like being forced down a path if they are not comfortable with it and so it is essential to create detours that can nudge the visitor back down the preferred path.
  7. Destination:  The end game and final measurable touch point where the user converts.

Use these definitions to help dissect your Buyer Legends and generate discussion around potential improvements in the user journey.

Step 6 – Review and prioritise:

Going through this process will undoubtedly generate lots of ideas and discussion along the way. Ensure you capture these ideas and insights so that they can be fed into your optimisation program.

Interestingly Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg have found that the Buyer Legends is often the tipping point for a significant improvement in sales and for effectively communicating the marketing vision to the business as a whole. Specifically the Buyer Legends is beneficial because it:

  • Helps everyone see the user experience from the customer’s perspective.
  • Enables marketers, designers and other teams to visualise and better understand how the user experience differs for individual customer segments.
  • Allows marketers to consider the language your customers use to ensure  content resonates with your target audience.
  • Segment content by different personas using the Buyer Legends to identify their specific concerns and hooks that motivate them most.
  • Improve the quality of content marketing as the Buyer Legends process brings out the personalities and interests of customers.
  • Identify missing content, steps or dead ends in the user journey that need your attention.

It is likely that you will have many more ideas than you can cope with and so it is worth using a prioritisation approach such as P.I.E to manage the flow of ideas and allocate resource accordingly. Once you have completed this process with one persona you can repeat it for other buyer personas to further enhance your understanding of key customer groups.

For more details about Buyer Legends get the book; Buyer Legends by Bryan & Jeffery Eisenberg with Anthony Garcia.

Although it requires a good deal of thought, and it will take some time to complete, it is definitely worth the effort as you should see substantial benefits for your organisation. If you need help in going through the journey yourself contact Bryan or Jeffrey via Twitter or go to the Buyer Legends website.

Thank you for reading my post and if you found it useful please share using the social media icons on the page.

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.

To browse links to all my posts on one page please click here.

  • About the author:  Neal provides digital optimisation consultancy services and has worked for  brands such as Deezer.comFoxybingo.com, Very.co.uk and partypoker.com.  He identifies areas for improvement using a combination of approaches including web analytics, heuristic analysis, customer journey mapping, usability testing, and Voice of Customer feedback.
  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to neal.cole@outlook.com. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch and view his LinkedIn profile.

How to improve site load speed to increase conversions

Does site speed matter?

A slow loading webpage creates a poor user experience, but does it really make a significant difference if you have an awesome proposition, product or website? Well, Google discovered that page speed does matter big time and it shelved a potential improvement to its search engine results page as a direct result.

After listening to customers in research express a clear preference for 30 rather 10 results on Google search, Marissa Mayer, Director of Search Products and User Experience, decided to A/B test displaying these two options. The experiment showed that displaying the extra 20 search results increased the time for the page to load by 0.5 seconds. Shockingly this led to a 20% fall in full page renders when 30 results were displayed.  In other words one in five users searching on Google were not willing to wait an extra 0.5 seconds for a page to load.

Google SERPs page

So how quickly should a webpage load? Research for Akamai and Gomez.com found that almost a half of users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less and that many will leave a site if it hasn’t loaded within 3 seconds. This demonstrates that users have relatively high expectations and could help explain the impact on conversion of slow loading websites.

As a rule of thumb if your site loads within 3 seconds that is pretty good performance. More normal is between 4 to 7 seconds, but don’t be satisfied with that, look to reduce it. Anything more than 7 seconds and you definitely should be looking to take action to reduce the time your visitors have to wait to interact with your website. You should seek to reduce load speed provided the ROI makes sense. This can be assisted by A/B testing identical pages that have different load speeds. Provided you see an uplift that outweighs the cost of improving the load speed then it is worth continuing the process.

How to measure load speed?

Image of tape measure
Source: Freeimages.com

All web analytics tools should allow you to see your individual page load speeds. If you are using Google Analytics go to “Behaviour” and select “Site Speed” and “Page timings”. In the drop down menu select “Average Document Interactive Time” as this is a measure of how long before a user can begin to interact with the page. This is a more meaningful indicator of load speed as many sites have content loading in the background well after the page appears to have loaded to a visitor.

 

Google Analytics site speed overview
Google Analytics – Site speed overview

 

Other tools to measure load speed:

  1. Google Developers: Free resource that rates your page speed for desktop and mobile devices. Generally your site should get a score of over 80 to be performing well, but see how you compare to your major competitors to benchmark your site speed.  It also provides recommendations for the main areas to investigate to improve your load speed.

Google Developers Page Speed Tools

  1. WebPagetest: Free tool for the more technically minded user that allows you to define the geographical location and to test different in different browsers. This gives you a detailed breakdown of the load speed of individual elements on the page.

 

  1. OctaGate Site Timer: Provides a Free evaluation of the impact on load speed of images, frames, iframes, script files and it also follows redirects. It also helps you identify the key offenders for you to optimise.

 

  1. YSlow: This gives you a Free analysis of load speed and indicates why page speed is slow based upon Yahoo!’s rules. It also enables you to select the browser you wish to test the page in.

 

How to speed up your site:

1. Minimise page size:

image of 2 weights
Source: FreeImages.com

1.1 Use GZIP compression – Check if your web host is using GZIP compression and deflation as this can reduce file size by up to 70% without adversely affecting the quality of images of videos.  Enter your site URL into the GZIP test tool to find out if your site is already GZIPPED.

 

1.2 Use JPEG rather than PNG images – PNG images don’t compress photographs anywhere near as much as JPEG files can and so make sure you use JPEG’s when you can. Smaller file sizes can help improve load speed markedly.

 

1.3 Adjust JPEG image quality – By setting the image quality of JPEG’s to 50-75% you can often significantly decrease the size of your images without any obvious reduction in image sharpness.

 

 

1.4 Avoid single page websites – Trying to get all your content on a single page is problematic at the best of times, but it also tends to result in very slow loading times because the page is often long and there are no other page to move content to.

Image of popcorngarage.com

1.5 Remove extraneous metadata from image files – Designers often leave a lot of metadata in image files, including comments, thumbnails and other information that they may find useful, but just adds to the file size. Get your designer to create a backup a copy for themselves and then put the website image version through image optimization software to minimise the file size and remove ancillary chunks.

 

2. Reduce the number of browser requests:

 

2.1 Enable browser caching – Provided your page dependencies don’t change too often you should look to enable browser caching so that the browser doesn’t have to dynamically generate the page every single time it loads. Contact your server admin or if you use WordPress you can use plugins like WP Super Cache to significantly improve page load times.

 

2.2 Use CSS sprites to combine small images into one file. Most websites have lots of small images (e.g. logos, icons, buttons etc.) which normally have to be fetched individually from the server. CSS sprites significantly improve performance by combining all the small images on a page into a single file called a “sprite”. This reduces the overhead of having to fetch multiple image files.

 

2.3 Merge related CSS and JavaScript files – Combining individual CSS and JavaScript files can reduce the number of files and thus help your browser load much faster.

2.4 Minimise the number of redirects – Multiple 301 redirects can confuse your browser and slow page load dramatically. Be careful not to create too many redirects as this can kill load speed.

3. Minimise the distance to your site:

3.1 Reduce the distance to your site – If you have users spread out around the globe consider a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to allow access to a server near the geographical location of your visitors. CDN providers such as Amazon Cloudfront and Softlayer provide competitive CDN services that can significantly improve site load speed.

Conclusion:

The evidence is clear – load speed is an important driver of bounce rates and conversion. Don’t let a slow site speed harm your conversion rate as there are plenty of ways to improve load speeds. Make sure you regularly check our site speed and use the above strategies to improve your site’s performance. It could make a large difference to your conversion rate.

Here is a great infographic from Skilled.co on how load speed affects your website.

Thank you for reading my post and if you found it useful please share using the social media icons on the page.

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.

To browse links to all my posts on one page please click here.

  • About the author:  Neal provides digital optimisation consultancy services and has worked for  brands such as Deezer.comFoxybingo.com, Very.co.uk and partypoker.com.  He identifies areas for improvement using a combination of approaches including web analytics, heuristic analysis, customer journey mapping, usability testing, and Voice of Customer feedback.
  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to neal.cole@outlook.com. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch and view his LinkedIn profile.