How to Define Your Persona (Part 2)

March 13, 2015 Lauren Glichrist

This post is the second in a series of blog posts that outlines a step-by-step process to define your value proposition. You can see the rest of the series or read more about what value proposition is and why you need one here: How To Define Your Value Proposition.


A persona is a specific, fictional representation of a person who is very likely to represent your ideal customer. A persona is a prototype of your user.


When you think about who might use a new product, you tend to think in broad strokes. It’s logical to think that your product will be more successful if it appeals to as many people as possible.

Unfortunately, the opposite is true: a product that appeals to everyone is actually a product for no one. Don’t waste time and resources trying to build a product that appeals to everyone. Your total addressable market is not your user.

You need to find a specific cohort of people for whom your product offers value. A persona helps you clarify who, exactly, is in that specific cohort. Creating a persona will help you answer the following questions:

  • Who is my ideal customer?
  • What are the riskiest assumptions I am making about my ideal customer?
  • How can I find my ideal customer in real life?

A thoughtful persona is the first step to create a value proposition; it defines who uses your product. Your end goal of creating a persona should be to find potential users of your product in real life, so you that can validate your solution with real people.

How do YOU CREATE YOUR Persona?

At Pivotal Labs, we use a framework for generating personas that was developed by our colleagues Jason and Janice Fraser, formerly of Luxr.

The Frasers taught me that a good persona contains the following:

  • A person with a face and a name
  • Demographics
  • Behaviors
  • Needs & Goals

Here is an example of a persona that Pivotal Labs created for the Tampon Run founders, Andy and Sophie, as we kicked off development for their new iOS app.

Persona for Tampon Run

Start with a Person

All personas begin with a stick figure. Try to envision a specific person who would use your product. Are they indoors? Outdoors? What are they wearing? What are they thinking about at this very moment that makes them likely to be a user of your product?

Make sure you give your stick figure eyes, a nose, a mouth, and a name. While these details may seem silly, they actually help our brain to recognize another human being, and therefore to be more empathetic when exploring their needs and goals.

Add Demographics

Next, write out five important facts about your user. Demographics are facts that could be found in a police report or a newspaper article. Demographics should answer the following questions:

  • Where does this person live?
  • Who does this person live with?
  • Where does this person work?
  • What’s this person’s income?
  • How old is this person

Demographics help make your persona “real” and help you define where to start finding your real-life users.

Add Behaviors

Next, write out five behaviors about your user. Behaviors are more specific than demographics; these are details that make someone an ideal user for your product. Behaviors should answer the following questions:

  • What does this person do habitually that makes her an ideal customer of yours?
  • How does this person currently solve problems in her life?
  • How would you recognize this person on the street?

Behaviors are also the first clues to how you would find your ideal users on the street so that you can interview him or her.

Add Needs and Goals

Finally, write out five needs and goals that your user has. Needs and goals are what drive the behaviors that you have previously listed. Needs and goals answer the following questions:

  • What drives this person’s behaviors?
  • What does this person hope for?
  • What does this person aspire to be or do?

Needs and goals explore the driving forces in your persona’s life, and are the key to unlocking the solution encompassed in your value proposition.

3 Gut-Checks

You’ve now completed your first persona! Here are three things to double-check before you move forward:

  • Can you find real people to talk to who fit this persona template? Your persona should be specific enough that you can find actual people in real life that resemble her, but not so specific that searching for that person will be impossible.
  • Is this a person you already know? Your persona should be generalized enough that you aren’t falling victim to the details and specifics and of one individual.
  • Is this a caricature? Make sure your persona is not exaggerated unnecessarily. You need to be able to like this person, as you are going to be spending a lot of time understanding his or her problems and solutions.


Absolutely! Here are two scenarios when creating multiple personas can help you get more clarity on who your ideal user should be:

  • You have a two-sided product: For a product that offers value to two different users, such as a marketplace (buyer vs. seller) or a transportation app (driver vs. passenger), you should create one persona per user type.
  • You have a working product, but don’t know who your ideal user is: If you have already created a functional prototype or a MVP, but you don’t know who your ideal user is, or you can’t agree which user you should target first, you should create one persona that represents each potential user. This is particularly true for hardware products! Putting your assumptions on paper allows you discuss the benefits and drawbacks of each potential user more objectively.

What do YOU do With YOUR Persona?

Stay tuned for Part 3 of this blog series, How to Map Values To Your Persona, where we’ll outline the next exercise that will help you define how your persona perceives value from your product (otherwise known as the “what” of your value proposition).

Interested in working with us? Pivotal Labs now offers Innovation Workshops, which facilitate your team from ambiguity to clarity on strategic product decisions such as value proposition and product definition. To learn more, contact us.

About the Author


Talking Pivotal Cloud Foundry 1.6 With James Watters
Talking Pivotal Cloud Foundry 1.6 With James Watters

With a new version of Pivotal Cloud Foundry® (PCF) out, host Coté caught up with James Watters to discuss w...

Pivotal Cloud Foundry 1.6 Technical Blog—New Runtime, Services, .NET & More
Pivotal Cloud Foundry 1.6 Technical Blog—New Runtime, Services, .NET & More

This week’s release of Pivotal Cloud Foundry 1.6 adds a host of new features for developers and operators o...