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How to Create a User Persona (+Template and Examples)

A user persona template is an effective tool for startups looking to achieve product market fit.

Building out user personas helps your team analyze and understand your target audience’s behaviors. You can prioritize your product development and target your sales and marketing more effectively when your organization is aligned on these personas.

Every startup needs to identify its personas, but it’s not always easy. In this article we’ll explore the key elements of a persona, examine some user persona examples and provide you with a downloadable user persona template to help you get started.

What Is a User Persona?

A user persona is a set of profiles that reflect the needs and pain points of the people that will actually be using your product to get their job done.

It’s important not to confuse user personas with buyer personas, which represent the decision makers in the buyer’s journey. The user typically cares about how your product works and how it helps them get their job done, whereas the buyer is more concerned with the macro effects of your product (driving more revenue, making teams more productive, etc.).

Perhaps you’ve built a DevOps SaaS application. It’s too broad to say your ideal customer profile is a developer. It’s much better if you know that you’re targeting people like Samantha, a site reliability engineer at a medium-size tech company whose top priority is automating more tasks for her team.

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Elements of a User Persona

Every startup will build its user personas in a different way. At York IE, we focus on the following areas:

  • Job title and description
  • Pain points
  • Existing tools
  • The “why yes?” and the “why not?”
  • Other players in the decision-making process
  • Likeliness to buy

Job Title and Description

What’s the role of your target customer? Sticking with our DevOps SaaS platform example, are they a platform engineer, a security engineer or a CTO? This will help your sales team identify prospects.

Try to think about your user’s day-to-day responsibilities. Are they heads-down developing an app platform or engaging with customers on a daily basis? Put yourself into the mindset of an ideal customer.

Pain Points

What problem is the user trying to solve when considering buying and implementing a new product or service? Without a sufficient problem to solve, it’s unlikely anybody is going to buy anything.

In fact, one of the biggest reasons that sales opportunities don’t close is often “no decision” — in other words, the buying company decides not to buy anything because they don’t have a strong enough reason to justify the purchase.

Existing Tools

It’s possible your user’s company doesn’t have anything in place to address their pain points. Most likely, though, they already have a product or service that isn’t quite meeting their needs. Whatever they’re using might not work well, isn’t well integrated into their systems or perhaps is just too expensive to keep using.

Understanding how they’re trying to solve the problem today gives you insight into potential product and feature requirements, as well as how you should position your products relative to the ones they’re trying to replace. In fact, there’s a good chance there’s overlap between their pain points and their existing tools. Uncovering these will add a lot of intel about how to position, market and sell your products.

The “Why Yes?” and the “Why Not?”

Pain points and existing tools are two major elements in each user’s stance towards your offering. Of course, you’ll be able to come up with many reasons why each user persona would want your product or service. You should have your value proposition and differentiators — also known as the “why yes?” — down cold.

Identifying the “why not?” is also a helpful exercise. Why would a prospect avoid your offering or go with a competitor? Perhaps they’re concerned with implementing a new product, tight budgets or a lack of helpful product features.

Other Players in the Decision-Making Process

If you’re learning all about your users, it’d be a mistake to not also understand their role in the purchasing process.

There are four primary roles in the persona universe:

  1. User
  2. Buyer
  3. Influencer
  4. Blocker

When thinking about your go-to-market strategy, you’ll want to understand each of these functions and how they interact.

Users (such as an engineer) handle your product daily and are the main focus of the user persona exercise. The buyer, however, might ultimately be a high-level manager or CTO. Influencers could have a say in product selection, even if they’re not the end user. Blockers wouldn’t champion your product or service because of cost concerns, distrust of new technology or other reasons.

Likeliness to Buy

Add up all of those factors and assign each persona a score from one to five, with five meaning they are highly likely to buy.

How to Build Your User Personas

Now that you know the core elements, here’s how to build your user personas:

  1. Define your goals.
  2. Get feedback from across your company.
  3. Identify real people to fit your personas.

Define Your Goals

What is your goal for the personas? Will they be used to help define your product requirements, position your company in the market, identify your ideal customers or produce highly engaging messaging?

Ideally, you’ll be able to use your personas for a variety of purposes. Considering the intent upfront may help you decide where to start. For example:

  • Do you have website analytics specific to this persona?
  • Are there opportunities in your CRM that can offer insights?
  • Have users submitted product feature requests that pertain to this persona?

Get Feedback from Across Your Company

It’s essential to work with several different parts of the company to get a variety of perspectives. Sales reps, developers and customer support staff see different sides of your personas. Each can offer real insights into what the personas are looking to accomplish and avoid with any product.

Identify Real People to Fit Your Personas

It’s always better to identify real-life examples of your personas, as opposed to an entirely theoretical profile. Ultimately, it would be great to try to validate your information with a few people who fit the persona (either directly or indirectly).

Interviewing customers and non-customers is a great way to start. Try to understand their priorities, how their organization works and why they would or wouldn’t choose your product or service.

User Persona Examples

Let’s try building out some user persona examples. While you’ll ultimately need to generalize to some degree, you usually want your personas to be as narrow and specific as possible — as long as they’re accurate.

Often, companies settle on being more general with their personas because they lack the intel to get really specific. The goal should be specificity. Generalized personas make your messaging broad and redundant to that of your competitors.

Here are three user persona examples:

Site Reliability Engineer (SRE)

Responsibilities: The SRE’s job is to diagnose incidents within the code/platform and guide the development team on potential fixes.

Pain points: They love products or services that help them automate tasks, but they’re worried that too many dev tools will lead to confusion.

Needs: An SRE isn’t the final decision maker in this scenario. That’s the CTO. They’re interested in tools that make their job easier, but also ones that their CTO can get on board with.

Security Engineer

Responsibilities: Security engineers are responsible for making sure all development activities comply with pre-defined security guidelines and best practices.

Pain points: These users often resist adding tools that introduce any additional risk to their environments and may lean towards more established vendors with a strong track record of securing highly valuable environments.

Needs: They often focus on tools that emphasize encryption, authentication and access control.

Content Marketing Manager

Responsibilities: This marketing professional is responsible for creating leads that fit their company’s target audience. They’re producing and promoting marketing content such as eBooks, blog posts, and social media.

Pain points: They have an ongoing need to prove the value of their marketing programs.

Needs: The content marketing manager needs a tool that maximizes their budget and helps supply sales with the best leads to fit their target market.

a template for creating user personas

Get Your Free User Persona Template

Follow the three steps we outlined: define your goals, align with your team and find some customers and non-customers to interview. Once you’ve gathered this information, a user persona template can help you organize your thoughts.

Mapping your audience with personas will help you focus your energy on the most important product features, prospects, messaging and positioning. You’ll be on your way to product market fit once you know what personas to target.

Download the user persona template from our Fuel platform here.

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