How to meet customer expectations and improve sales?

 8 Dec, 2019

The idea for business stems from the realization of the demand for a product or service. A scarcity of supply creates an opportunity for organizations to capitalize. This opportunity is around which the entire business is built and operates.

But what about after? Your evaluation of the market presented you with a bright opportunity. However, how do you know that the customers even like your product? Unlike the time before we had internet where organizations produced goods and customers accepted it because there were no other options, things have changed. There are millions of sellers to choose from and the business now has to compete with global brands. In this modern age, you cannot just put together anything and pray it works, the business, startups or established businesses need much more substantial foundation for their product.

PERSONAS VS. PROTO-PERSONAS

Before we get you riled up for the difference between the two, you will first need to know what they are actually and how they fit in your organization or how they can help you improve sales.

Well, it is not that simple connection. Very often than not, during the whole development process organizations find themself asking, Why are we doing this again? Or Who are we doing this for? Very valid questions but answering them is a whole another story.

The development and production of a product or service take a lot of work and capital. Doubting the project midway is never a good sign. It shows that not everyone in the organization shares the same vision and cause differences.
Everyone in the organization has different views as to what and how the customer desires their product or service, which is fair, considering everyone has the best interest of the organization in mind. But which option will you prefer to choose, when the market is ever-changing and no amount of experience can help you prepare for the fluctuations in trends.

PERSONAS VS. PROTO-PERSONAS

This is where persona and proto persona come in. Organizations invest huge amounts of effort and capital in the development of the product. Sometimes the entire fate of the organization hinges on the success or failure of the product. With so much at stake, no organization can afford to risk going in blindly.

Personas are an artificial collection of information from real people. It is a set of responses that the customer may have towards certain things. Sort of artificial personalities which can help you understand the real-life response of the customer towards the product via digital stimulation’s.

How do Personas work?

There are numerous types of customers out there in the market and there is no sure shot way to know how the customer will respond. But you can, however, categorize the reactions into groups. Suppose positive and negative responses. The personas are nothing but a set of patterns that the customer may follow. These are a set of patterns and choices the customer would make after they use the product or service. You can further cluster more categories together or declutter them depending on the deviation in the patterns.

Depending on how accurate you want your analyses to be, you can refine the personas on their uniqueness. It all depends on how much deviation you wish to allow on your parameters.

How do Personas work?

So if you still are having trouble understanding what personas are, here is a simpler explanation for you. Personas are a well-researched representation of the actual target audience. It helps the organization understand how the customer will respond to the actual product.

So what are Proto Personas?

If you run a business, chances are there are people who are interested in the success or failure of the organization. These people may have some investment in the business that they would like to earn from.

These people are known as the stakeholders and they can influence the direction the organization is taking depending on their own visions. These stakeholders have a personal stake in the organization due to their investment. So while most products are created with customer orientation, they have to be in line with the assumptions of the people who are paying for the operations of the company.

In other words, while personas are a representation of the targeted customer. Proto personas are a representation of the assumptions of the stakeholders combined with the market research and customer analysis.

The stakeholders are often the people who facilitate the function of the business by providing funding and have a say in how the organization is run. These are generally people with good business sense and have experience. It is only logical to respect their judgment.

While both PERSONAS and PROTO-PERSONAS are representations, Who they represent is the main difference between the two. There are many other differences that the two very useful evaluation methods have between them. But it was important to explain the meaning of the two before moving on to more advanced differences.

The Difference: PERSONAS VS. PROTO-PERSONAS

While both persona and proto- persona are very similar. There are many fundamental differences. Keeping aside their obvious similarities, here are the differences between the two.

Objectives

The most basic difference between persona and proto persona is the objective of their formation. Generally, either of the two is a representation of real-life people. The objective for their creation drives the people it will represent. While a simple persona represents the targeted customer. A proto- persona is a representation of the assumptions of the stakeholders. Both are a representation of real-life people that influence the business, but how they influence the business is the main difference between the two.

  • Both stakeholders and customers are a source of income for the business. The difference is stakeholders get returns on their investment and customer gets the final goods.
  • It is important to maintain a healthy balance between the sources of income and hence the needs and requirements of both the customer and the stakeholder should be kept in mind.
  • The main objective of a persona is to accurately represent the targeted audience, which may not always stay true as the market is very dynamic.
  • Proto persona, on the other hand, represents the stakeholder’s opinion which is collected directly from the stakeholder.

The objectives are one of the major splits between the two types and helps explain how the two function in the entire dynamic.

Research Methodology
In order to represent a real person, digitally. You need to research past responses and establish patterns that may continue in the future. The more extensive the research the better the chance of accurate representation and getting the desired results.

If we put PERSONAS VS. PROTO-PERSONAS into perspective there is a difference in the research methodology.

Persona research methodology

The more difficult of the two, to create a persona of the targeted customer. The organization has to go through the archives and establish patterns. Once they have various patterns. They are compared against the baseline and checked for deviation. The more a pattern deviates, the more chances to create a separate persona for it. Likewise the less the deviation the more chance to merge two or more patterns together. It is a very simple sounding process but very hard to actually implement as there is a lot that can go wrong such as

  • Insufficient data
  • Too many deviations
  • Difficulty in establishing a baseline
  • Too many patterns to consider
  • The sample size of the population

However, if done correctly. It can help the organization understand the behavior patterns of the customer and adapt accordingly. Research and persona development has become much easier with new methods of data collection. These help in collecting relevant data from the customers, evaluate and sort them for easier implementation. Some businesses already provide ready to use personas for various industries and businesses.

Proto Persona Research methodology

A proto persona is created to represent the assumptions that the stakeholders share. The stakeholders of a company are the people who are most likely to be well versed with the company and its products. These are industry veterans with enormous amounts of experience and knowledge. Hence the best-suited individuals to represent as personas for the products.

Proto Persona Research methodology

Generally, proto personas are created by conducting direct interviews with the stakeholders or via a questionnaire method. In any case, the data is first hand as the source is willing to cooperate to provide it. The proto-persona of stakeholders is an accurate representation of what the stakeholders desire off the organization. This accuracy of representation helps the developers and management to mold and tailor-make the entire product or service to meet the needs of the persona.

While personas may paint a more accurate picture of the market and the customer. A proto persona is a result of a brainstorming section of the people who run the company. This may not be a very accurate assumption of the response of the customer but when it comes to data collection and representation in a very dynamic population. It is very difficult to be certain about any results.

Key characteristics

Both persona and proto persona share the same foundations. But when it comes to application, the characteristics vary from each other such as

Orientation

Persona representation has to be an image of what the customer stands for. It is a simulated scenario of how the customer will possibly react to the product. Hence it should be as close to the actual customer response as possible. To attain accuracy in the representation, the persona should be very detail-oriented. In other words, specific attention should be given to deviation patterns and ones that deviate too much from the baseline should be categorized as separate personas. There is no point in creating incorrect personas.

Proto personas are judgment oriented. These are representations of what the stakeholders think about the product. The judgment of the stakeholders is generally based on their experience and knowledge of the industry.

How often is it Requirement?

If the resources are available and it is possible to create personas for the representation of the customers. Then every time a new product is launched, it is required to be created. The data on customer preference may change over the course of time and relying on the same old personas may render it useless. In order to get the best results, a fresh start for persona creation is needed.

When it comes to proto persona, as need be approach can work. The assumptions of the stakeholders are brainstormed in one room and it is very rare that it changes over a short period of time. Considering this, a proto persona can be created as and when needed.

Accuracy
The market is very dynamic in nature and can change within a matter of hours. There are various elements that can sway the opinion of the customers and no one can guarantee the accuracy of a persona that represents a customer. Also, a third party professional is hired to collect the data that will ultimately be the persona of the customer. Chances of inaccuracy increases as it is prone to misinterpretation and human error.

However, the accuracy of proto personas is quite accurate as the source of the information is directly involved.

In the end

To be honest, a discussion about PERSONAS VS. PROTO-PERSONAS, it is just a discussion about the differences between the two and by no means a measure of which one is better. Both have their pros and cons. But must be noted that using both together is the best approach to follow as it will render the best results and can help get an accurate read on how the market will react to your product. Although, if it comes to which one is better. Then the basic difference of lack of research puts proto persona at a disadvantage. However, it can be subjected to change and up-gradation over the course of time to make it more accurate.

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