Platform Strategy and User Personas

When building a new platform that focuses on a supply – demand model, its important to focus on an initial hypothesized set of users grouped by similar characteristics, behaviors and goals. Focusing on a set of users for the MVP – Minimum Viable Platform is crucial in cornering a subset of the market and gaining traction progressively by horizontally expanding into complementary user groups.
 Using the same example of the start-up I advised – the goal of the platform was to connect knowledge experts with knowledge demand i.e. users with expert knowledge in specific areas providing advice to clientele. The suppliers were the knowledge experts and the demand side were the clientele like investment professionals, corporate professionals etc. The platform thus had to take into account a dual focus of user personas – knowledge providers and knowledge consumers. In order to further simplify the problem, reviewing the revenue model made it absolutely clear of initially focusing on the knowledge consumers market. The key questions that stood out were:

  1. Should the platform select an initial client type to focus on?  And if so, which type?
  2. How should we work with these initial insight seekers to seek feedback and iterate on the MVP?

In order to determine which client type to focus on, it was important to determine user personas of clientele who would naturally lend to deep development of the platform i.e. these clients would necessitate build out of core feature sets.  The goal was to build traction (revenues, rich data on the platform, network effects) before fundraising in order to demonstrate a solid, proven business model. The hypothesis for the initial client type focus was:  a mix of clients from Management Consulting and Investor personas that will drive towards initial platform adoption and growth along main metrics – Number of consultations / successful interactions & knowledge exchange and more broadly active knowledge demand users on the platform (traction).  The high level user personas were as follows:

Management Consultant Persona:
Needs and goals: requires quick insights / answers;
Habits: potentially unwilling to engage in long consultations; asynchronous request/response paradigm;
Must do / must never: must be able to provide data in quick manner / minimize unavailability of answers
User Experience Goals: Ability to search and quickly ask a question and retrieve answers

Investment Professional Persona:
Needs and goals: needs in depth research & consultation;
Habits: willing to engage in active consultations, deeper consultations (more detailed analysis), synchronous consultations
Must do / must never: Must be able to accurately match investor with best of breed knowledge expert / minimize failed consultations where investor need was not met
User experience goals: Facilitate a user experience allowing for easy, self-service consultation and communication

Therefore, platform build out should focus on MVP features carved out on a subset of the core target market needs. This ensures platform is developed as an MVE (Minimum Viable Experiment) and then iterated for the client personas above. To get feedback and iterate, you can employ some of the following:

  • Hold concept sessions to get feedback on the next iteration of MVP and observe clients’ reaction (e.g. storyline w/ images and actual actions)
  • Surveys based on interaction with a previous advisor (e.g. how comfortable would you be contacting a knowledge expert using our platform independently)
  • UAT type sessions where you can observe a subset of users trying out the platform and record behavior

Until then, happy hypothesizing and iterating.

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