The job of marketers is more complex than ever before. The days of blanket TV ads and basic keyword stuffing are long gone. Today’s savvy marketer recognises the value of a much more audience-centric approach, both in digital marketing and offline.
This audience-centric approach begins with a good understanding of the target audience. Personas are growing in popularity as a tool to guide marketing strategy. Here’s how you can create useful audience personas in four steps:
Basic audience segments
The first step is to extract basic information about your audience. You can do this by:
- Asking your team. This works best in a workshop format but can also be done via surveys or interviews.
- Reviewing sales data. If you have a CRM, you should be able to extract basic demographic information about closed sales and new leads.
- Seeking further insight from the sales team. Ask them how they qualify new leads into the business and if there are any attributes which indicate a higher propensity to buy
This information can then be segregated to create basic audience segments. These are simple groupings of your audience, usually based on factors such as age, gender or job role.
The second step is to explore what motivates your audience segments. You want to find out:
- What do they need?
- What challenges do they face?
- How does your product/service help them?
There are various techniques to help you achieve this, including:
Customer surveys can be very powerful, not only as a tool for gathering information, but also as a customer retention and conversion tool.
You can run your survey via email, phone, face to face, website pop up, social media poll… there are lots of options out there. The end goal is to gather insight from your customers about what makes them tick.
Customer surveys can be powerful PR assets too.
You can also use keyword research to better understand what motivates your audience. One way to do this is to look at the related searches which are suggested by Google at the bottom of the search results.
Simply type in a search phrase that’s relevant to your business, e.g. “seo services”. Then, scroll to the bottom of the results to see related searches.
Social media tracking
Social media is the platform on which our audience discusses its needs and shares its frustrations.
There are lots of social media monitoring tools out there - we like to use Hootsuite - which enable you to track key phrases or hashtags. Through this, you can set up streams of tweets which mention your product or service, your audience’s industry, your location and more. You can then extract from these tweets the common themes in terms of what people discuss and what questions they ask, to better understand their motivations.
Personas are most valuable when we can empathise with this. When we can empathise, we can create content and campaigns which appeal to real people.
It can be difficult to empathise with your personas if they’re only made up of the information we’ve collected so far. It becomes much easier when we add some of what we might term ‘fluffy’ information, as this helps build our personas into individuals.
The YouGov Profiler is a free to use tool which gives you information around an audience’s hobbies, brand affiliations, demographics and more, based on the records of more than 400,000 survey respondents.
Google Analytics also provides useful insight into your audience’s likes in its ‘Affinity Category’ report. You’ll find this under ‘audience’ if you use Google Analytics. It shows you the topics of website your visitors visit when not on your site, and can reveal more about the themes they’re interested in.
Building your personas
Personas must be useful to your business. The most common way of formatting a persona is to create a one page visualisation. This includes a photo, name, summary and key information from your research.
However you build your personas, focus on making them as easy to use as possible, and ensure that everyone can understand the information within them.
Using your personas in your marketing strategy
Personas are a tool. Once you’ve created them, it’s time to use them. Here’s how:
- Share them. There’s no one in your business that wouldn’t benefit from a better understanding of your target audience.
- Discuss them! Give your personas names and when discussing strategic decisions, ask “is this right for [name]?”
- Cross reference them against brand stories. This helps you to avoid sounding too ‘salesy’ in your messaging.
- Integrate them into your content marketing strategies.
Taking the last point see how Personas fit into your Inbound Marketing by understanding what this means: