Why defining your target audience is important

This article discusses the importance of defining your target audience or Personas as they might be referred to by UEX and Product managers.
using personas to help define your target audience and better anticipate the user requirements that will need to be developed into your Minimum Viable Product.

Introduction

Envisioning your product also involves preparing your product requirements, which need to include a clear definition of your exact target audience. This is usually refers to the special characteristic that your target audience might have, which may include language, culture, age (whether they are kids, adults, or the elderly), the user’s web ability and several other criteria. These characteristics are important because they help you understand how to convey the product requirements into a set of functionalities that are prioritized within your Minimum Viable Product as features that are geared towards fulfilling your target audience’s needs.

Identifying your Personas

Personas are often used as a way to build more specific sets of characteristic around your target audience needs. Personas are fictional characters created to represent the different types of users within a targeted audience, these could be used to understand attitude and/or a behavior set of a person who might use a site, brand, or product in a similar way.

For example, in one of the mobile product projects I am working on, this new venture has two type of users that it is targeting. In this case, the target involves clients who are asking questions to a set of experts who are in turn answering them. Among these clients there can be identified several sub types which are differentiate them according to their exact needs and specific age group.

To make use of these definitions, first prepare a detailed description of each of the personas you are targeting. This process starts by imaging and creating a story behind each persona. Next, ask questions about what that persona is looking for and in what way our product can help with their search. Then describe all of the elements within this persona that relate to our product requirements, which then gives you an idea of the features that need to be specifically addressed in your Minimum Viable Product.
In our case example, here are some of the elements that factor into the decision making process

  • Days/Time that the product would be used
  • Mobile device type (brand / model / OS)
  • Age Group
  • Type of expert support required
  • Mobile apps Savviness

Between product requirements and personas

When preparing your product requirements, you may need to pause and review them from the point of view of the personas you have now created. This may transform your needs into more specific requirements depending on the user type your persona is targeting and this will also help in adjusting the requirements for the initial Minimum Viable Product. This will also help you identify what requirements need to be included as common dominators among all user types.

In some cases each persona will receive a unique user roll to play in the development of the product, allowing it to conduct different operations than what other users may be able to do. In the case with the above example, the expert has tools which will allow him to answer client questions and view client’s profile. This demonstrates that it needs to be addressed specifically in the product requirements.

Developing your Minimum Viable Product to the lowest hanging fruit

While identifying your personas and determining what your Minimum Viable Product functionality should include important so that you know which audience you should address first, the most common practice is to address the lowest hanging fruit. This means that the audience that is the early adapter of your product and the easiest to recruit are the ones that you should be targeting first.

Wireframing and user testing

Transforming your product requirements into wire frames will also need to include, from the perspective of each persona, the product UEX. Consequently it is sometimes a good practice to first conduct a walk-through of the product with different identified personas just to see if the product wireframes are coherent enough from the perception of those users that match the persona description. These people are most likely to help you see what is missing or unclear. Another suggestion is that you do the walk through in groups which gather the same type of users in one place. This will save you valuable time instead of testing every user separately and furthermore this can also encourage more group discussion.

Summary

While it is important to identify your target audience generally, you can get a more detailed understanding if you define them with personas that represent to you the specific needs of your target audience.

This is an important step in the process that identifies what your Minimum Viable Product should and should not include, helping you identify where your initial marketing efforts should be best spent.
By identifying your target audience according to personas you will also help your fellow venture team members share with you their specific feedback, that in turn help you maintaining a consistent understanding of your various target audience groups. This also aids the ways that the data you gather about the groups you are targeting can be put in a proper context, be understood, and be remembered in coherent stories or metaphor.

This will also yield proposed solutions that can be guided and informed according to how well they meet the needs of individual personas. Such features can then be prioritized based on how well they address the needs of one or more personas.

And last and most important, using Personas provide a human “face” to your target audience, helping you relate and focus your empathy upon the persons that are represented by your specific target audience.

  Contact JumpStartCTO if you need help with your venture

    About David Rashty

    David Rashty, an entrepreneur and one of the early web pioneers, has over twenty years’ experience as a CTO and a CEO. He has been involved in several start-ups and established companies and was the founder of two successful ventures.David is currently using his proven leadership and management skills to act as a Part Time CTO or "JumpStart" CTO for several early-stage ventures; this includes helping them design and develop their product and IT infrastructure.David holds a BS in computer science and an M.Sc in educational technology. He has been a adjunct university professor, given numerous workshops, written several books and articles on information technology and received numerous innovation awards.

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