You want to understand your market as real living, breathing, feeling people. Not as targets, demographics or data. Targets, demographics, and data won't buy your product...people will.
An emotional third article of from the Lean Brand Methodology series. Read about the session prior here: The Lean Brand Session 2: Personas and Competition.
Each of our six personas are presented to Jeremiah. We started by talking about each persona casually, like we know them, as they are becoming real. We aren't talking about why they would use our product, but rather who they are and why they got in a position to need a product. Jeremiah is asking questions that would catch us off guard like, "What does she do in her spare time?".
Pro tip: At this point, we have been using real life people as examples to formulate our personas. Looking back, I can tell you it's a good start, but once you start drilling into the emotional side of a personas, the real life people you placed there may end up not matching. It happened to 5 of the 12 real life examples, this forever changed the way I'll approach personas down the line.
How we discovered emotions from made-up personas
As we expressed each persona to Jeremiah, he would write down single words on sticky notes that represented key emotions he felt. When it was said and done we wound up with sticky notes that with words like: identity, self-esteem, professional, performance, accomplishment, flexible, etc.. The sticky notes represented the emotion that our personas would associate with in life, not our product. This is very different than the traditional approach on personas we've carried out for ourselves or clients in the past. This approach made us understand the people and their personal associations in real life.
Each persona was place under one of the two categories High Value and Low Value. The two categories helped us understand where each persona lands in terms of the product and growth strategy. Jeremiah then posted up the sticky notes next to their associated persona. Each persona than received a short description like "strives to provide more", or "wants to be a better professional". From here the conversation turned into a healthy argument about who is who, what is their value, how hard are they to approach, is our product actually right for them? Picking one will be critical because we (a bootstrapped startup company) only have the resources to approach one of the personas.
Side note: We are advised by Jeremiah to stop talking about function, though I couldn't help but see the sticky notes lined up with certain function in our product. Later that week Andy took it to the next level and started pin-pointing each feature in the system to each persona, which was awesome to see.
We are not done with personas yet. Jeremiah sent us off to explore the life stories of our personas with our team. This will lead into how each persona's relationship with our product effects them emotionally. We are told to not bring up function (this is becoming a major theme with The Lean Brand).
We had been toiling with the personas for three weeks, and at this point I felt I understood our product better and knew what was wrong our previous marketing efforts. We would have a very different targeted product if personas were conducted this way from the start. Knowing this now, I will never build another product without understanding the personas first.