Interview: How We Built Our Persona - Step by Step
In the interview below, you will hear from the man that stood behind the whole process of building personas in Kentico, our UX leader, Tadeas Kubat. He will tell us some interesting facts about where the initial idea of building personas came from, the steps we took to create personas in Kentico, and how important it was for us to think about their customer journey.
Hi Tadeas, today we are going to speak about how we built personas in Kentico a few years ago. I know that personas help us in many different ways when it comes to preparing the content of our marketing campaigns, organizing events, targeting people on our website, etc.
Yes, that’s right. Personas not only help our marketing team to look at the activities we do through our audience’s eyes. It allows us to deliver the right content to the right people.
So to start from the beginning... What was the reason for initiating the process of creating personas in Kentico?
Well, actually the biggest and foremost reason was our corporate website and its content. To be honest, after a couple of years since its launch, our old kentico.com site had become a complete mess. People would add content to the website without really thinking who the content was aimed at and what its purpose was. Moreover, based on some user testing we did, we discovered that it was not clear to first-time visitors what we, as Kentico, did. Most of them thought we were a digital agency with a focus on creating websites, not a CMS software vendor. Therefore, the only solution was to redesign the site and make sure that, one, we targeted the right people with the right message at the right time, two, we helped the audience to achieve their goals on the site, and three, we increased the website’s conversion rates. We believed that creating personas would help us reach these goals, as we would learn more about the website audience, their objectives, the journey they took on our website, and the challenges they had to overcome.
What did you know about the website’s audience back then?
We knew there were four different groups of website visitors: potential end-clients, existing end-clients, potential partner agencies, existing partner agencies. On the one hand, we knew how much revenue each of these groups brought to Kentico, but on the other, we did not know almost anything about who they were, how they got to our website, and what their journey through our site looked like.
So your goal was to learn more about all these groups, right?
Well, eventually one day, yes, but we knew that in the first phase of the redesign, we could only focus on one of them. So, after some discussions, we decided to start with potential partner agencies. We picked them because it was a group that had great potential to bring a lot of new business to Kentico and the newly redesigned website could help them decide whether to go with our product or not.
Alright, potential partner agencies were about to become your first persona...
Well, to be more specific, we focused on one particular person—the person that is responsible for selecting a new CMS at a partner agency. Only this way could we make sure that the newly redesigned website answered the questions of such a person and helped him/her decide whether to choose Kentico as a new CMS platform the agency they would work with.
Once you knew whom to focus on, what did you do next?
We started putting the information about this person together. First, we went to our Sales team. As they usually run product demos and talk to potential partners that are in the process of selecting a new CMS, the Sales team was the first source of information that came to mind. On the one hand, we got tons of useful information, particularly on who the person responsible for the selection of a new CMS is, what their role within the agency is, etc. Unfortunately, the sales team could not answer our questions regarding what content these people are mostly interested in on our website, what the selection process looks like step by step, or how they even get to our website. That was the information we were still missing.
So what did you do to get such information?
We put together a list of partners that had joined the Kentico partner network just recently (6-12 months). Then we wrote down topics/questions we wanted to ask and got in touch with those partners offering them some benefits (Partner points) in exchange for providing us a one-hour interview.
How many interviews did we run?
About 10. It does not seem a large number, but it was completely enough. We immediately started seeing common characteristics among the interviewees.
Can you reveal some of the questions we asked during the interviews?
Sure. The questions were divided into two categories:
- Information about the person and the company they worked for—we were interested in the role of the person within the company, what their responsibilities were, who they reported to and who reported to them, where they educated themselves, what the size of the company was, etc.
- Information about the evaluation process—in detail, we focused on how the process of selecting a new CMS went from the beginning till the very end, why the agency started looking for a new CMS in the first place, who initiated the process, who made the final decision, what helped them make the final decision and select Kentico
So what did we find out?
First, we learned that agencies started looking for a new CMS for two different reasons—the first one was because their current CMS did not provide the features they needed to in order to keep up with market needs. The second, because their current CMS stopped to be affordable for the agency. We also learned that the person tasked with selecting the new CMS was typically a person with the highest technical position in the company, usually a CTO, and that the process of selection usually took a few weeks.
What did you learn about the evaluation process? What did it look like?
Good question! We found out that the evaluation process usually started with shortlisting necessary questions, during which the person needed to learn quickly about some items on their list: “Is it really a CMS?”, “How long has the company been on the market?”, “Do they have a program for partners?” Only after that they started looking for information such as how much Kentico cost, whether it had the features they need, how customizable it was. If they were happy with the information they got, they usually passed the responsibility onto their developers to go deeper into the documentation and then into the product by verifying what they had learned using the Kentico trial. And if everything went well, they became our partners and started building their first projects.
After we got all this information, what did we do next?
Compiling all this information, we created a persona called Evan, the Evaluator.
(Note from Katerina: You can find a detailed description of Evan in the article Personas – Are they the right choice for your business?)
So, as soon as Evan was built, we started making changes to the content of the website...
Well, yes and no. The interviews allowed us to see some of the problems that we were able to fix immediately. For example, we learned that our licensing was very confusing for the majority of the people we interviewed. We did not hesitate and made changes under our Licensing section.
What we were not sure about, even though we had put together Evan, the Evaluator, was what content to offer to website visitors in each phase of their evaluation process and where on the website. We realized we needed a Customer Journey map.
Interesting, so how did we proceed to create such customer journey?
We divided Evan’s evaluation process into the logical steps that the persona went through in order to get enough information about Kentico. Each step was associated with a specific goal and a list of questions that the person had. Only when they found the answers to their questions, they moved to the next step. If not, the person left our website. Here is the customer journey as we put it together:
Evan, the Evaluator – Customer Journey
Goal of this step
To find out whether we look like a potential partner
To assess whether Kentico meets their requirements
To verify that the product works as they expect based on the evaluation phase
To utilize the benefits of the Kentico Partner Program
To succeed with their first Kentico project
Questions the potential partner has
What is your product?
Who is behind the product?
Do you have a partner program?
Does the product have all the features we need?
How customizable is the product?
How does it compare to our existing platform?
Who can join the partner program?
How does the product look?
How does it work?
How can I register for their partner program?
What are the conditions of the partner program?
What are the next steps after becoming a partner?
What do I need to start?
When can I start?
How difficult is it to start our first project with Kentico
I guess creating such the customer journey took some time, was it worth it?
Absolutely! Thanks to this customer journey, we were able to prepare the website content structure because we knew what type of information people needed to see first, second, third, etc. The customer journey allowed us to see the mistakes we had been making. For example, inviting website visitors to download our trial version was historically the first thing we would do as soon as they landed on our website. Understanding the evaluation process and putting together the customer journey made us see that the trial version is something that should be displayed to the visitor later on once they get enough information about Kentico, its features and documentation, and is ready for such content.
What was our biggest challenge when it came to creating Evan, the Evaluator and his customer journey?
It was definitely the time the whole process took. Putting together the list of partners you want to speak to, reaching out to them, scheduling interviews... all this administration around running the interviews took a lot of time. It is relatively easy to put the persona together once you have all the information you need but to get to that information takes so much time.
So here you go, this is how we created our first Kentico persona. You can see that the process is not easy, requires a lot of preparation and time, but if done well, it can bring incredible value to your business.
Have you already created personas? If yes, what steps did you take to create them? Did you face any challenges along the way? Let me know, I would love to hear from you!
By Katerina Foretova and Tadeas Kubat in Marketing
Posted: Thursday 13 July 2017