Content Marketing:

Understanding Your Audience: The Importance of a Persona

Nicole Porter
  • Client Services Manager
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Your target audience may all require the same service or product from you, however their motives for interacting with you as a company will differ significantly. Today, marketing is all about making the customer feel like an individual – that you understand their interests, preferences and stage in the buying process.

From your own customer insights, website analytics and third party research about your audience (some useful resources include Experian MosaicTrue Touch and YouGov Profiler), you are likely to have identified similarities and differences between audience members, including their demographics, requirements, buying behaviour and attitude.

It is often the case that once a target audience is defined, brands will jump straight into the creative process with their marketing. However, an incredibly useful tool in achieving truly targeted campaign messages is to take your audience profiling insights and create a series of audience personas.

What is an audience persona?

An audience persona is a fictional character that represents a segment of your core audience. Personas bring your audience to life; it’s much easier to imagine a whole segment of your audience as one, relatable person, rather than a faceless crowd! Helping you to gain a better understanding of the differences between audience members, personas give you a single point of reference to direct your marketing efforts at, and help to make sure the message that your customer receives about your brand is tailored and targeted for them.

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How many personas should I have?

Every single member of your audience will be unique (you could probably create several hundred personas if you segment your audience based on the minutiae of detail), however unless you are going to create several hundred campaigns, it’s best to group audience members into broader categories, based on their wider similarities and differences. We find the majority of audiences fit into 3 to 5 distinct segments… however, the wider your service/product offering is, the more segments you are likely to have.

What should I include in my persona?

Start with a name! Add in a descriptor to make the persona even more memorable, e.g. Salon Owner Claire

Then follow with…

  • Demographics: What is their age, gender, location, education, occupation, income, and for B2B; type of company, size, share of market?
  • Lifestyle: Are they married, own a house, have children, environmentally conscious, do they go to the gym, wear brands or own-labels, where do they shop? Anything that builds up the background of your persona.
  • Behaviour (what they do): Note their channel use, media use, usage frequency, patterns in purchasing behavior, brand preference and loyalty, language and tone of voice. This information will influence which channel(s) you use, how often you communicate and the way you speak to that segment.
  • Attitude (what they think): How would the customer describe their current problem? What are the biggest challenges they face? How do they feel towards your competitors? Do they have any reservations about trying a new service/product? What features do they look for in a new product/brand? What are their goals? Thinking about the persona’s attitude will help to identify your value proposition – which messages will convey the greatest value to that audience segment.

How do you make a persona a person?

A quick Google search will deliver hundreds of opinions on what level of personal detail to include in a persona. There are those who question whether irrelevant details, such as what pet the persona owns, are just that – irrelevant. From my point of view, it’s all about what details help you to build the clearest picture of that persona. The irrelevant details may be unlikely to influence the way you target that segment with your marketing, but if that detail helped every member of the marketing team visualise the exact same person, which resulted in a perfectly positioned message, then great! The very purpose of a persona is to build a consistent picture of that audience segment in the mind of every person that works on your communications.

Get creative with it!

When you have finalised your persona’s details, why not bring it all together in an illustration. For those who don’t have the greatest imagination, this will really help to give your persona a presence, and ensures they are firmly cemented in your mind. You can either get creative or source a stock image that represents your persona perfectly.

And finally…

A persona is just one of the many options in the marketing toolbox that helps you to target your marketing messages more effectively, putting a face to a wider audience segment. Using the example of Salon Owner Claire – Asking yourself “would this message convince Claire to buy into my product?”, “will Claire even be able to access my ad?”, “am I making it easy for Claire to take action?” will highlight any pitfalls in your marketing strategy for that segment, that may have otherwise fallen through the net.

Keep in mind:

  • Personas are a generalisation of a typical person in the audience segment, but there is a fine line between this and a stereotype – ensure you base each detail of your persona on real insights and 3rd party data, rather than assumptions
  • Personas are a helpful tool; however they are not necessarily reflective of every individual in a particular segment
  • Make sure there are clear differences between personas – they will increase in usefulness depending on how little your personas overlap
  • Consult with different departments/people in your company when collating insights (sales, community management, etc.) – once you have a basic persona, specific information can be added to it depending on who will be using it

Is there anything else that you’d add to your audience personas? Tweet us via @gmdesignltd!

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