Hi friend, imagine we’re sipping hot coffee. Tell me about your ideal customer. Could you answer me in a few short sentences before your next sip?
Do you have a clear picture of who you are serving with your legal work? I mean, really know?
I’m going to introduce you to a practical tool used in legal design called a customer persona. (Some call it a buyer persona or customer avatar). It’s the way to hone in on your ideal customer and opens the door to your niche.
Understanding your ideal customer is vital to make a connection and build trust.
We all hope our legal services are so innovative, everyone is our ideal customer. It’s a myth. Do you want everything you see? Take coffee? There must be over 100 different styles across the world. Our needs, challenges and aspirations vary. Hell, not everyone even likes coffee. The struggle is real.
Creating your customer persona will save you time, money and grey hair. Once you understand who you want to serve, you design for them and market to them. They want your service because they value it. It’s your niche.
Trying to connect with everyone is the same as shouting off a rooftop, hoping someone will hear you.
What is a customer persona?
Customer personas are fictional characters representing your ideal customers. You can have more than one if you prefer, though I like to start with one. Something Simple First, right? Your customer persona helps you understand your customer. And builds on the understanding in your legal design process.
Your persona is not a random collection of details about demographics. Customer personas are often misused and misunderstood. The emphasis is on external stuff like postcode, occupation and income.
In legal design, we focus on the internal, invisible and much more meaningful stuff. We soak it up interacting with our customers every day in our work, without even knowing.
You may already have experiences with clients forging a picture of who you love to work with. And you may have a clear idea about who you don’t want to work with down the track.
Your buyer persona crystallizes the most relevant needs and goals of your customer. From there, it leads to how your legal service will serve and benefit them.
When you begin, you’ll feel like you are making things up. It’s normal. You will need to make assumptions in the beginning. You need to confirm your assumptions by talking to real people. They enrich your understanding and data so much. This is not an armchair exercise, my friend.
You’ll develop a relationship with your persona and engage with their needs on a new level. Name your persona. Sounds odd, but it’s fun to think of your personas as people. Once it’s rock-solid your niche will appear.
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Why create a customer persona?
I get it. Building your customer persona may sound strange. Create a fictional person and give them a name? How could it help me? Are you mad? Hear me out, ok?
I’ve not lost the plot. It’s the world best practice. All successful small and mega businesses have them.
Once you do this, you:
a) understand why you need to do customer research (as I explained in my post How to create a service with legal design – don’t miss the first step
b) have in-depth clarity on the behavior, struggles and goals of the people you are trying to reach with your work.
Reaching and serving your ideal customers is easier if you take the time to understand them on a personal level. No longer nameless and faceless strangers. They are a real person you empathise with and connect with.
In a nutshell, customer personas help you hone in on the ideal customers you want to reach and serve. And give you clarity about the services your customers want and need.
The foundation for any successful business, right?
How do you create a persona?
Start with a draft using your assumptions
First of all, this is a process. And it won’t be perfect in the beginning. Create one, using the assumptions you make about your work and life experience to date.
Once you start drafting your personas, you’ll see what information you need. It’s time to create.
Start talking to real humans who have accessed the legal system in some way
Now you understand why you need to start talking to your customers, yes? Time for real data. Encourage storage and deep discussion.
Once you have some data, start processing it. Listen to what the data is telling you.
Start with the basics:
- Behavior: where do they work? Where do they buy legal services? How often?
- Needs: what is important to them? What do they need help with?
- Goals: how do they want to feel? What do they want to achieve or be?
Then dive deeper:
- Dreams: what are their dreams in life?
- Fears: what keeps them awake at night?
- What brings them joy, and what are their values?
- What are their struggles or the biggest challenge?
Collate the data
Grab some paper. Assign each of these answers to your personas under the appropriate themes. Keep it simple with sections for the key themes. You will come up with more than one persona with their own set of answers. Here you’ll start seeing what separates your ideal customer from other people.
Quotes are powerful. If one of your customers makes an “aha” statement, include it in the persona detail. You can use as the “motto” for the persona who said it.
We don’t usually focus so much on demographics in legal design. But if you want to add age, gender and occupation, go ahead.
After the first couple of rounds, you may notice you lack details. You can talk to your customers again. In the meantime, use what you have: your best understanding and assumptions. Customer personas are never 100% ready. They are an iterative tool that develops and grow with your business.
Finally, give your persona a name and attach an image to it. Help the persona come alive. This will help you to create empathy and connection to your persona. You see how powerful that can be?
Here’s an example from my own work. Meet Anna:
She’s one of the customer personas for a service concept I’m working on.
Lovely, isn’t she?
The power of niching down
”But wait, I want to serve a larger audience, not one person.” I hear this all the time. Sounds counter-intuitive, I know. Design your services or content for one person and you’ll serve more people well. Once you understand who “your person” is, you’ll find more of the same.
Creating customer personas is also about focusing and framing the possibilities. It is excluding characteristics and making choices. This is essential in the legal design process. Limiting the personas you want to serve is liberating. You get more creative the more limited set of options you have. Once you understand who you want to serve and don’t want to serve, the possibilities for your niche appear.
So, I challenge you to try to create the customer persona of your own legal service or work. See what happens and what you learn. You’re already a lawyer, so you know people you can talk to. You have particular customers who stick in your mind, for some reason. Long after you closed their file. Don’t take it too seriously or stress about it. Have some fun doing it. We all love coffee conversation and good chats? Well, get tea for the people who don’t drink coffee.
Most of all. Have fun and remember it’s not about using any fancy tools for this. A pen and paper or sticky notes will suffice.
And once you’re done, let me see it! Send me DM and send it over – I’m happy to share my thoughts on it.
Grab a virtual coffee with me and let’s figure out the next step!