Over the years, you’ve likely received (and, okay, given) gifts that aren’t quite right. Your brother’s girlfriend’s mom was sweet to puffy paint that reindeer sweatshirt for you, but it’s not quite your style.
Turns out she had you all wrong – and she probably isn’t alone.
Marketers constantly act on false assumptions and misinterpret signals about their target audiences, resulting in similar well-intentioned blunders.
However, there is hope for the savvy marketer!
(And for the DIY gift-givers of the world, but we’ll have to cover that in a different post.)
It all starts with audience personas, or semi-fictional archetypes, that represent your ideal type of customer.
When approached correctly, audience personas help you:
So, how do you go about building audience personas?
Gather up key players in your organization, making sure to include representatives with a variety of business perspectives and priorities (heated convos encouraged!).
Do a few trust falls (if that’s your jam), pull out the whiteboard, and get after that brainstorm.
The best way to expose knowledge gaps about your audience is to outline what you want to learn, what you think you know, what you ACTUALLY know, and why you even care.
For example, let’s say your company is in the octopus apparel biz (genius idea, right?).
A simple matrix like this helps move the brain exercises along:
Be honest with your assessment of assumptions versus facts. If there’s even a shadow of a doubt, plop that baby in the assumption bucket.
Also, if you’re having trouble getting company stakeholders to understand the value in challenging preconceptions about target audiences (or allocate resources to audience research), this exercise is instrumental in getting them to remove the blinders.
(We all rock the blinders from time to time. That’s why this step is so important even if you’re the big decision maker in your biz!)
When most people hear the word research, they see dollar signs (and not the good kind). They worry about breaking the bank on expensive studies and seeing little return.
However, no need to get squirmy! There are loads of qualitative and quantitative research techniques to pick from:
Now for the fun part! Craft your personas by segmenting “types” of people based on clearly defined characteristics and your research findings – don’t forget the data!
Create a visual overview for each semi-fictional persona that tells a unique story. Include relevant information such as:
Okay, now do the opposite – create NEGATIVE audience personas.
Don’t go TOO wild, but isolate a few typical customer types that you can afford to avoid like Edgar avoids his cousin Reginald (long story).
Take the geniuses behind that imaginary octopus apparel company!
Their research shows that starfish are jealous of octopuses and their eight arms.
(We don’t think five arms are anything to squawk at, but starfish are a sensitive group.)
Starfish are constantly trying to “make it work” with the octopus sweater, but end up unsatisfied, resulting in a 100% return rate (and an irreversible self-confidence hit).
We aren’t octopus sweater experts (yet), but this sounds like a solid heads-up to the copywriters, content producers, social peeps, and marketing team at octopus apparel headquarters. Think about how this tidbit could inform department strategies!
Okay, make sense so far?
We know you got this, but here are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind with this audience persona thingamajig:
Alright, we’ll give it to you. Your persona slides are beautiful, but they don’t do you any good stashed away out of sight.
Let your good knowledge be known!
Every single person in your company, regardless of role, benefits from understanding your target audiences better.
Really understanding the people you want to reach and connect with has major business impacts that should inform all sorts of super important decisions, like:
Now get going and build, tweak, or update your company’s audience personas! You’ll be better for it in the long run.
What tips do you have for building (or updating) personas?
What types of research do you love?
How do you put those personas to work across your organization?
Let us know how you’re using personas in the comments below!