Envision one of your main customers – someone with whom you regularly do business (a distributor, farmer, or store owner). What is their age? Are they a man or a woman? What is their main occupation? Do they own their land? What is their biggest concern about their farming business? What is their biggest everyday farming challenge? What are their business goals? What are their dreams?


These are the types of questions that help build your customer “persona”. Personas represent who your customers are to identify more effective marketing to their needs and wants. We gave an overview in this post about segmentation, targeting, and positioning and personas a part of segmentation. This week we are delving deeper into what a persona might look like for better segmenting a smallholder market. Please note that it is best to systematically collect information about your customers to build accurate personas. However, if you haven’t done so through a survey, it is still helpful to build out a handful of personas based on what you do know about your main customers - especially those with whom you regularly do business.

Let’s do an example of the latter - where results from a market survey are not available but it is important to think through main customer types. For example, the AgTechXChange has more than 1,500 users and yet we haven’t surveyed any of you (shame on us). However, as the community manager I try to monitor what posts are getting the most views, what types of content users tend to comment on the most, and how often users are checking out the Learn! blogs (last week, 150 of you viewed the previous Learn! post about market surveys for building personas!).

Based on my observations, below are three personas for who I think a typical AgTechXChange user/customer is. Notice that I have written them as stories so I can really imagine each AgTechXChange customer. Each persona is an example of who I think I work with at least a few times a week.

Hi, my name is Kwesi. I am a 40 year old man living in Ghana. I work for an international NGO to improve the lives of cocoa farmers. To do this I work with big chocolate companies in Europe and together we implement public private partnerships that support improved planting materials. My biggest challenge is finding more funding to deliver high quality programs to cocoa growing communities. My other challenge is balancing the needs of the private sector with my NGO’s sustainability goals. For my area, my income is average.

Hi, my name is Ben. I am a 35 year old man living in Tanzania. I have a small business selling improved seeds. We recently expanded our product line to include complementary fertilizers that can be used with our seed or other seeds. My biggest challenge is increasing demand for our products among smallholder farmers. We have strong agro dealer networks. For my area my income is a little below average. My biggest concern is that farmers get improved seeds so my country can be food secure.

Hi, my name is Barbara. I’m a 62 year old woman living in the United States. I work at a private company that implements contracts on behalf of the United States Agency for International Development. I work with companies (food companies, agro dealers, exporters, small- and medium-sized innovators), NGOs, government officials, and other USAID contractors on a daily basis. I work specifically to help bring technologies to smallholder markets so that farmers can be more productive and get out of poverty. For my area, my income is average. My biggest challenge is connecting companies to investors.

After I wrote these I looked at them pretty closely and noticed a few things right away:

  1. Each persona is very different – the first is a program implementer sitting in an office in a major capital city in Ghanaand it is unclear where they are based - perhaps they even travel between cities and rural areas around the world to market their product? The second is a staff member within a company that is trying to increase sales; and the third one is a program designer sitting in an office in a major capital city in the United States.
  2. The aspect each persona has in common is that they work in agriculture and agriculture development – the first one implements projects in cocoa communities, the second works at an agribusiness that sells products that support agriculture productivity, and the third one funds projects in rural agriculture
  3. They are all working in very different places that have dispersed operations. Therefore, their access to the AgTechXChange may be limited at certain times due to bandwidth issues while traveling.


What can I learn from this? It is actually helpful to me because I see how different each persona’s content needs are. For example, Barbara may need more information about how public private partnerships are developed while Ben may need more information about how to build farmer demand for fertilizer.

What are your thoughts? Tell me in the comments below and I’ll come back in the middle of the week with updates on my next steps. I hope in the meantime you see the purpose of personas, and are getting a taste of how they can help you envision and understand your customers in more details. It also helps you see what you don’t know, or what your assumption may be, so that you can improve your advertising or marketing.