Friday, May 23, 2014

Being clear about your clients

It is popular these days to imagine everyone having a "client" for their work, whether you work directly with customers or not. The imagery of an "internal client" can be useful in framing questions such as "what is valuable to our client, and what is not?" In associations, the equivalent is "what is valuable to our members?"

But those seemingly straightforward questions have some big assumptions built into them, especially if more than one person is involved in the evaluation: the words "client" and "member."

Both those questions imply that we 1. have a clear picture of "client" or "member" and 2. that our pictures are the same. But since we have different filters, odds are our pictures will be different.

A way to deal with this challenge is provided by personas. Three years ago when I was on the National board of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers I spearheaded an effort to explicitly identify our "members." Over the years I had seen many discussions about who our target/ideal members were, and what were their characteristics. Usually the discussions eventually devolved into a debate over "veteran speakers" versus "newbies" or similar terms. 

I expect you can imagine all the different interpretations of the phrases "veteran speakers" and "newbies." But by creating a list of important parameters such as years experience, type of speaking, income level, and so on we created typical member personas from likely combinations of the parameters. We wrote descriptions of their "personalities" and even added photos.

The result was an initial set of nine personas which were then whittled down for different applications. The descriptions and photos resulted in true clarity when people talked about existing and prospective members, and were a real hit!

Are you clear who is your client? And even if you are clear, are your colleagues viewing the same client?

If you'd like to learn more about personas, I am presenting on the use of personas on Tuesday May 27 at the Toronto Product Management Association in downtown Toronto. Details are here:

Good Thinking!

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