Whenever we interact with a product or service, we behave in a certain way depending on the type of user we are at that time. For example, if you’re shopping online then you’re behaving as a consumer. If you’re interacting with features in your favorite app, then you’re behaving as a power user or occasional user.
For businesses, understanding user behaviors and building behavioral personas is an important step in optimizing users’ experiences. By grouping personas together, you can understand how people interact with your product or service. With the right approach, you can then optimize your experience, messaging, offering, and value to drive growth and stand out in the market.
In this blog post, we’ll dive into user behavioral personas, why they’re important for your business and product, and also how to create the right behavioral personas for your business.
What are user behavioral personas?
Before we get started, let’s run over what user behavioral personas really are.
When creating personas, companies have a wide range of criteria they can use. Companies may segment along a range of axes, including:
Sometimes if a user doesn't complete a certain step in the customer journey, it can help the team figure out what to do next to help them move forward.
For example, if someone starts filling out a signup form but doesn't finish it, the team can measure how many people usually finish the form, and then send an email to the people who didn't complete it with clear instructions and a video to help them out.
By doing this, the team can figure out why users might be struggling - maybe they need more motivation, or maybe the process is too hard. This can help the team investigate further and make improvements.
Some groups of users find certain features or products more valuable than others. By identifying these groups, you can learn more about what's working well and what's not.
You can also use this information to create new pricing or packaging offers for different groups or add new features that will be especially helpful for your most engaged users.
In this blog post, we want to focus on the second type: behavioral personas. User behavioral personas are segments of users defined by how they interact with your product.
Why is segmenting user behaviors important?
When you take the time to segment user behaviors, you unlock a whole new level of growth potential. This methodology allows you to craft custom and personalized user journeys and experiences. Users can then get to value faster, which improves satisfaction and increases motivation to convert.
For example, first-time shoppers would need and want to go through more of an exploration flow, while long-time customers would want to see a more curated list of options, tailored according to their past purchases.
The same goes for different users on a SaaS platform - admins, who have certain Jobs To be Done (JTBD), we need messaging and assistance around setup, installation, and user management or billing, while common users would need assistance in learning how to use your product for their daily needs.
How to choose the right user behavioral personas
There can be endless possible segmentations when it comes to your users. To avoid boiling the ocean and getting spread thin, it’s helpful to identify your top priorities and focus on the behavioral segments that will make the biggest impact on your bottom line.
Let’s look at an example. Say you run a project management platform, where you have users that broadly span fall into the following segments: administrators, creators, and consumers. Given the nature of your work, you don’t have endless resources and you can’t improve everything at the same time–so where do you start?
Mapping your current business needs can help you prioritize which behavioral segments to focus on to drive your company goals. For example, are you looking to drive growth through a new logo acquisition, user acquisition, or going upmarket? This will inform your focus for the next quarter.
To help you, we’ve laid out 4 key steps that make up the framework for choosing the right user behavioral personas.
Step 1: Brainstorm key behavioral personas
This first step isn’t data-based, but instead is valuable time with your team to brainstorm what potential behavioral personas make sense for your product and business. This might be power users, occasional users, or inactive users for example. You’ll base these personas on your understanding of different use cases and the corresponding value propositions.
Discussion points include:
What are the main use cases?
What are the main value positions per use case? How do they get value?
Which personas or product roles use which ones?
Do some of these have similar use cases and value propositions? Where is the overlap?
Here’s an example of what that looks like in practice. Let’s say we make project management software. What might our use cases and value props be?
Step 2: Discuss ways to map behaviors to your persona group
Now that you've identified the groups (use cases and roles) that matter most to your business, it's time to map them to actions in your product. This takes some iteration, so start by hypothesizing the number and type of actions that define each group, then validate your hypotheses by looking at the data.
Begin with the actions you identified when segmenting your users. Which actions are essential for getting value from your product? Check to see if those actions are the ones that matter most for each behavioral group.
Pay attention to frequency, too. Sometimes, behavioral personas are distinguished not by the actions they perform, but by how often they perform them. You may also find that some groups are best defined by inclusion and exclusion. Are there groups that would be expected to do action X but not action Y? As you work through this process, don't be afraid to have robust discussions and disagreements.
Discussion points include:
Which actions do they need to take to get to value?
What are the Jobs To Be Done (JTBD)?
Here’s an example, again pretending that we build project management software.
Step 3: Map behavioral usage patterns - with data
After you’ve created the outline of use cases and jobs to be done, it’s time to dig into the data and start querying your dataset to validate your hypothesis. You’ll also use this step to learn about the number of users and the frequency of usage of each group.
The goal here is to find distinguishing characteristics that separate groups from one another. For example, does a user completing an action six times make them a power user, or seven?
Discussion points include:
How many users do we have per group?
What is their overall percentage in our install base?
How many of them get to value the first time? (Activation)
What is the frequency of usage per use case? Per JTBD?
How many of them get to value on a regular basis?
What is their engagement frequency?
Can we see patterns of having casual vs. frequent users? Can we find the reasons?
While you may want power users to run reports every day, occasional users might be ok with running a single report a week.
Here’s an example of what that looks like in practice, using our same project management example.
Step 4: Prioritize actions and investments
After mapping your most common and crucial customer journeys, the size of the groups, and baselining their overall performance, you are ready to take a data-driven decision about where you’d like to invest next to unlock further business growth.
As an optional extra, assessing the performance of the entire customer journey is the most effective way of prioritizing product, growth, and GTM investments. Ideally, you’d review data such as website visits, conversion, and sign-up flows in addition to the behaviors laid out in this post already. The more visibility you can get, the better you understand how to use your resources to drive business growth.
Discussion points include:
How do we perform compared to industry benchmarks?
How do we perform compared to the company goals and board commitments?
Where is the biggest opportunity to drive up Acquisition, Engagement & Adoption or Monetization?
Calculate the impact of improvements on planned changes - will addressing a certain friction point yield the desired results? Can we measure it? How? What would it take?
How does each option marry our upcoming go-to-market efforts and plans?
And there you have it! By focusing on key behavioral personas that align with business goals, you can prioritize resources and make impactful improvements to drive growth.
Remember to start with brainstorming potential behavioral personas relevant to your product and business, identify the key use cases and value propositions, and look for overlap between different personas. With the right approach, behavioral personas can be an effective strategy for improving user experiences, increasing business results, and standing out in the market.