Creating buyer personas is a critical first step in any organisation’s marketing and communication efforts. The previous two articles discussed why personas are even more relevant in the Digital Marketing world, and how to create Personas in five quick steps. Several sites offer free tools for crafting your personas from a template set of characteristics. We take a look at four and assess which of them is the best to get started quickly with your development.
Doing your homework by meeting and interviewing your customers, remains the first step. After completing this use teh following tools to help craft persona summaries by filling in the templates, and creating the documents you will need to drive their use within your organisation.
For this review a set of 10 criteria were used to evaluate each tool. These being: ease of use, speed of use, thoroughness, adaptability, help/plain English, printable, ability to save results, graphic format, result clarity, and immediacy of results. For each tool, a score of 10 possible points was awarded for each criteria. Hence an overall possible score of 100.
Congratulations to Xtensio – on being the best of the four reviewed online tools, with a score of 85.
Grayscale.com provides a highly intuitive site, asking various questions to develop the persona summary. Each question is written in understandable common English – avoiding marketing jargon. Given the intuitive language, there is no need for a help function. Another positive of Grayscale’s tool is the structured approach. This is most helpful to anyone new to marketing persona building.
Where Grayscale’s tool comes in short is the lack of a graphical format that you can see at the outset. The website / tool jumps into the persona questions without giving the user a view of the outcome view. Although additional fields can be added, the age range is a fixed fields (at time of evaluation). After completing entries for all fields, I was frustrated at the lack of immediate results. Instead the application requested your email and name, then advised that the completed persona summary would be provided at a later point. For this evaluation – a report did not arrive after several days. Default scores of zero were applied to the Print Results, Save Results, and Results clarity criteria.
Without being able to evaluate the results page, Grayscale’s persona tool rated a 40 out of 100. It provides the user with good questions to consider for your persona research. Should the results arrive shortly after posting this article, an update will go out with the revision. Given that Grayscale is in Beta it could be a small snag that will be fixed shortly. If you are currently working on a Persona project and need results quickly, you may want to avoid investing time in Grayscale, right now.
Of the four tools reviewed, Xtensio received top marks for ease of use, speed, thoroughness, adaptability, graphic format, clear results and immediacy of results. Xtensio’s greatest asset is providing a persona building tool – in which you work on a very easy to use, intuitive, and graphical template – to complete each persona. Xtensio’s approach is to simply have you fill in the online template – which will be your persona summary. They do a great job of capturing many different perspectives to profile the ideal customer. Better yet, each field can be changed to suit your needs. Nice job catering to your customer’s needs, Xtensio!
Xtensio’s first page claims to have a “Super Easy Editor” which is accurate. It is intuitively easy to fill out the template, and to make the adjustments. There are additional side menus which also help users customize the look and feel, or content of the summary.
Unique photography or images can be uploaded – as shown below. For this test, I used the Chad persona used in the previous blog post. Sliders and graphs are a great way to help represent some of the qualitative information about the persona in question. Xtensio makes adjusting these super simple too. All you have to do is use your pointer to click, hold and slide to the area or level that seems appropriate for the persona you are creating. Like all other parts of the personal generating tool, the sections can be adjusted to reflect what is important to your industry, customer set, or grouping.
Xtensio’s tool provide a visually impactful, simple to create and use/understand – persona summary. A minor request would be to provide a summarized view of 2 or 3 personas on a single page – for side by side comparisons. Although the template was reasonably self-expanatory – it would benefit from a help menu to provide some additional commentary and details. For example some customary examples might be helpful to interpreting the various sections on the template.
Although it is possible to do a screen capture and printout of the results… there is no print button readily available to capture the persona summary. Also, there is no readily available save feature – allowing the user to partially complete the persona and come back to it at a later point. Xtensio does provide a sharing feature for either social media sharing or to share with an email address. This stores your persona work on a static webpage – for future access. At the time of this writing, it was not possible to go into the previous work and adjust it for new information. Xtensio may offer a paid version where this is an option.
Overall, Xtensio has done a great job on their persona development tool. It is graphical, visually impactful, intuitive, and fully customizeable – with no need for a learning curve. As soon as you see it and start working on it, you can figure out how to change all the sections to suit your needs. Xtensio scored highest of the four evaluated, at 85 out of 100 points – and is the free persona building tool I recommend. Well done Xtensio!
This Persona building tool by Xtensio can be found at: https://app.xtensio.com
What Hubspot did differently from the other solutions is to offer a downloadable template – if the user does not start typing information within a few minutes. To get the free template you must enter personal details as a fair exchange. The downloadable template is a very handy alternative – and clever of Hubspot to make the persona building process as adaptable as possible to their clients.
Hubspot’s tool scored well on ease of use (specifically the flexibility described above), plain English style, and both the printable and save-able results. Tone of voice and style are consistent across all of Hubspot’s web assets, papers, articles, blog posts, and the persona development tool. It is a playful, light and easily understood – plain English style. Although it was intuitive and easily understood, a help function could improve the tool, further.
Hubspot’s template is readily printable and can be used to save your data as you go, and as often as needed. However, for the online version I did not receive the web tool results within the 15 minutes promised. Strangely, it just did not show up at all, hence poor scores on the graphical format, clarity of results, and immediacy of the results. Should the results arrive in the following days, I will update this post to reflect them.
Fortunately, the downloaded template is fully adaptable to whatever the user required, but the web version did not seem to provide this flexibility. There were many good questions and since it is a powerpoint template, the user can add fields they feel are needed. Regarding the online tool (which holds great promise) I look forward to reviewing it in the future. Immediacy is important when working with such a tool. The redemption in this case is the backup template. Although clear results could not be assessed for the web portion of the tool, the template version provided an adequate and consistent format. Here too, I had hoped for a cleaner and more concise summary like that provided by the one page Xtensio view.
With a few shortfalls, Hubspot scored 62 points out of a possible 100. Hubspot’s persona building tool can be found at: http://makemypersona.com/
Kayak’s online tool scored well on the dimensions of ease of use and plain English questions. Of the tools reviewed, Kayak had the most easily understood topic descriptions. Like most formats reviewed, the approach is a question and answer site. Speed of use and thoroughness scored well. The number of questions and topics were not extensive – hence making it a quick tool. As I reviewed the tool I did find that some of the questions were not necessary for all persona build cases, and there does not seem to be a means of changing or adjusting these questions.
There is no save feature available on the site or account. However, after completing the profile, an email message is sent with the resulting ‘digest’. Naturally the email can be archived. This digest is a summary of the answers provided, and Kayak Creative creates a story in the email digest – to help humanize the persona. A humanized story can be useful as a good way to introduce the persona research to an organisation for the first time.
Fortunately, Kayak did send the results within 15-30 minutes of completing the survey. Although good, immediate results would still be an improvement. Results were clear, but aside from the storyline provided for the persona – the Kayak tool is meant merely to help in the persona creation – rather than providing a summary. The email received does not include graphical formatting, or a one page summary. Kayak Creative’s email does offer consulting services to help create buyer personas for your organisation (for a fee). Hence a poor score on the graphic format dimension for the online tool.
Overall Kayak scored 57 out of 100 points. Despite a promising start with a good and reasonably thorough set of questions, Kayak faltered on the lack of immediacy, summary or graphical formatting (for ease of comprehension and use). It could be useful for the storyline that it creates, to humanize your personas. This may help in the persona adoption within your organisation.
Find Kayak Creative’s tool at: http://www.kayakonlinemarketing.com/marketing-persona-creation-tool
In a side-by-side comparison – Xtensio is the clear winner – with the best Persona build results. Xtensio too has room for improvement – like allowing the user to save and print directly after completing the persona build. However, these features may be in Xtensio’s full paid version.
If you are in the process of creating buyer personas, and need a quick tool to get started, and to be able to graphically represent the persona results to your organisation – Xtensio is your best bet. Each tool reviewed had strengths and weaknesses. Before beginning your own customer interviews, you may want to review the questions asked in each tool – to guide your own interview questions, to help develop your organisation’s personas.
Thank you to each vendor, for the use of their free online / template tools.