Step into your buyer’s shoes: Creating actionable personas

LIsa Vitale marketing GuruThis month, the Strategyzer team[i] provides us with an elegantly simple approach to create actionable customer profiles. The team, widely known as the authors of the international bestseller Business Model Generation[ii], have complemented their growing toolkit with the release of their new book, Value Proposition Design (a free 100-page preview is available here). This fresh highly-visual approach provides readers with a unique and simplified perspective on creating customer value. The book describes four phases for designing a value prop (canvas, design, test, and evolve). We’re providing you a brief synopsis of their 4-step approach to creating actionable customer profiles for your chosen segment:

Customer profile value map

  1. Identify customer jobs. Considered from the customer perspective, the Strategyzer team defines jobs as “things your customers are trying to get done in their work or in their life.” They identify three primary types of jobs:
    • Functional jobs relate to a specific task or the solving of a specific problem (e.g. evaluate a data set, design a campaign).
    • Social jobs are all about how your customer wants to be perceived and helping them achieve that (e.g. cutting edge, socially-responsible, fun, or professional).
    • Personal/emotional jobs address the individual buyer’s needs and desired emotional state, such as being a better leader, having a sense of accomplishment, or feeling confident in a buying decision. These jobs focus on personal benefits concerning professional, emotional, and self-image issues.


  1. Identify customer pains. Pains are defined as anything that interferes with the process of successfully undertaking and completing a job, including potential risks. Pains fall into the following categories:
    • Undesired outcomes, problems, and characteristics. The Strategyzer team reminds us that pains often mirror the jobs to be done: functional pains (e.g. the solution doesn’t work, or the negative consequences outweigh the benefits), social pains (“I look bad doing this”), or emotional pains (“I feel bad doing this”).
    • Obstacles inhibit successful job performance and/or completion.
    • Risks describe potential and important negative consequences.


  1. Identify customer gains. “Gains describe the outcomes and benefits your customers want…[including] functional utility, social gains, positive emotions, and cost-savings.” The Strategyzer team suggests you define the following gains in terms of outcomes and benefits:
    • Required gains – the minimum needed for a solution to work.
    • Expected gains – the perceived norm that, while not necessarily required, are nonetheless expected.
    • Desired gains – the ‘nice to haves’ which might be considered premiums.
    • Unexpected gains – the benefits customers don’t even know to ask for. Unexpected gains provide true points of differentiation.


  1. Prioritize jobs, pains, and gains. To really deliver value to your customer, you need to gain a collective understanding of your segment’s preferences – what do buyers really care about? Rank the above findings according to the following scales:
    • Job importance – from insignificant to important
    • Pain severity – from moderate to extreme
    • Gain relevance – from ‘nice to have’ to essential

In creating your customer profile, the Strategyzer team offers a few cautions, including:

  • Take care to adopt your customer’s perspective and not identify/define jobs, pains, and gains as they relate to your value proposition.
  • Don’t mix multiple segments into one profile.
  • Don’t confuse jobs and outcomes.
  • Don’t focus primarily on functional jobs – rather be sure to lend equal weight to the social and emotional considerations which can provide important differentiation (read our post, How psychographics and insight selling drive B2B behavior).

In seeking to create your actionable customer profile, step into your buyer’s shoes and learn what their needs, challenges, goals, and motivating influences are by deploying a carefully crafted SimplyDIRECT prospect survey.