Create more successful marketing from audience personas

Posted on: November 4, 2021

Stylised treatment of people representing different audience personasFor many years personalising marketing has been important. Done well it helps us to remember specific brands and understand and purchase from them. This targeting of particular ‘types’ of customers plays a key role in any effective sales and marketing plan.

The numbers speak for themselves with 80% of consumers saying they are more likely to make a purchase when brands offer personalised experiences. (Epsilon)

One area where it is has really come to the fore in recent years is in the explosion of content-led marketing including social media. The importance of knowing who you’re speaking to, so that your content is personalised and meaningful to them is now something many businesses are acutely aware of.

In this article, we’ll cover how you can create more successful and personalised marketing by focusing on developing robust audience personas.


Why savvy businesses use audience personas

Identifying audience personas is the first step in creating marketing content that really appeals to them.

Audience personas, which are sometimes referred to as customer personas, or a marketing persona are an overview of someone who represents your target audience. These aren’t real customers, but a fictional person who embodies all the characteristics of your best potential customers.

Businesses often broadly know who their key customers are – for example ‘Women over 40 based in Surrey’ ‘Single men aged 24-30’.

While these are one-dimensional examples, they’re a good starting point for establishing more in-depth personas. Using the first example to dig a little deeper you could think about: What does she read? Where does she shop? What other hobbies or interests does she have?


What is included in an audience persona?

Irrespective of the size of the business, the best personas come from looking at trends and similarities across its customer base to create the personas.

Criteria examined to forge the persona typically includes:

  • Demographics – age, gender identity, income threshold, location
  • Background – Job, career path, family, lifestyle
  • Goals and interests – personal and professional
  • Needs and challenges – in achieving those goals, interests and going through everyday life
  • Communication preferences – what channels do they most prefer


And in the B2B arena:

  • Industry sector
  • Demographics – size of business, stage of development/age, speed of growth location, type of business ownership, number of decision-makers, turnover
  • Decision-maker – role, size of budget, age/experience, career path
  • Use of the product/service – range of use, frequency used, challenges resolved by it, buying preferences

Armed with this knowledge, it then becomes easier to spot similarities in groups of people and tailor marketing to them.  It’s also important to note that most businesses have multiple personas in their customer base, which is why it’s even more important to tailor marketing to these different segments.

Audience personas are usually a simple single-page summary of the key profile information for that group.  Often a list of headings and bullet points (sometimes with a representative picture), it helps to summarise and deepen the understanding across the organisation.


Why bother?

Tailoring the message at a very basic level helps you build interest and trust with customers and potential buyers.  They feel you understand them and they’ll respect and be interested in what you have to say.

As an example, if you’re a keen cyclist but a sports shop keeps emailing you about their football kits you’re likely to unsubscribe from their marketing and perhaps even complain.

If however, they have identified your cycling passion and communicate with you about their range of cycling clothing, bike accessories and great local bike routes, you are more likely to engage with their marketing and in time make a purchase.


How to apply your personas to different facets of your marketing

Your persona research should have identified the communication channels they prefer.  Do also take a look at the competitors you respect who also target this group and which channels they do well in.


Targeting your audience personas via social media

Here it is important to know which platforms appeal to your different personas. This is because you don’t want to blanket share content across platforms. For example, your key audience on Facebook may be 55-60 yr old females but your followers on LinkedIn are 35-45 yr old males. Not only are your audiences likely to be different on different platforms, but so is the personality, language and tone of each of those channels.

Be sure to check the current demographic stats for the social media channels you’re considering.  Look beyond the total user numbers and explore the demographic details that many social media platforms share.  A good starting point is the regular reports which the likes of Sprout Social produce.  See here and here.

When looking at the demographics reported, question whether these align with your audience personas or not. Also, compare this to your own analytics if you’re on these channels already:

  • What engagement rates are you getting among people in different persona groups?
  • Do more of what has previously worked well and re-examine what didn’t?

With the latter, it’s important to look at what content those people did engage with from other providers.  As well as looking at the messaging in the posts they like, also consider how they looked – what were the visuals like, was there a video?  Emulate the approach to up your engagement rate on social to achieve this.


Targeting your audience personas via email

Since the pandemic began, already busy email inboxes have got a hell of a lot fuller as all businesses ramped up their digital marketing.  This means it’s harder to get emails noticed.

There is no doubt 2020 was a tough year for Email marketing, with engagement decreasing for UK marketers over the course of the year for most of the metrics – including open rates and engagement.

A key thing that helps is personalisation.  Leading email marketing providers like Mailchimp or Campaign Monitor enable you to add a wide variety of fields into the email to personalise it (at a basic level, incorporating someone’s first name).  In creating distribution lists in their software opt for small, focused groups based on your audience personas.

When crafting your email, have different versions for the audience personas with subject-line, main content messaging and even imagery adjusted to better reflect their profile.

Also make the most of the testing options the email software gives – run small sample tests to see which email approach resonated the most, before sending it out to the wider customer persona audience.   Measuring the campaign afterwards using the analytics the software gives will also help you to craft more tailored emails in future.


Using audience personas for online advertising campaigns

The beauty of most online advertising these days is the amount of targeting the publishers let you do.  For example for business ads, the likes of LinkedIn give you very precise demographic options to target specific roles, in a specific territory, industry, size of organisation, with a specific experience profile, responsibilities, career path, age etc and with specific interests.

Whilst this means you can be very precise in the customer persona criteria, it also means there are a lot of options from the publisher for you to wade through.  It is however worth doing, or getting a specialist to help you with.

This is because it’s better to be focused than broad here, particularly given the pricing model online advertising uses.  Try and avoid blowing your budget on the first day for a broad audience with little engagement.

Once you’ve identified the audience for your campaign you need to create some stand-out ads.  Do listen to the ad publishers here as it’s in their interests to make your campaign work (so you run it again and again). Ask for examples of successful campaigns to a similar audience profile.

Like email, you often get the opportunity to test some options before deciding on the most effective one for click-throughs.  And it is far better to pay for clicks than impressions, you want to know you’ve got ‘active’ engagement or not.


3 further ingredients for making the marketing personalised

1  Having a clearer idea of your customers will give you a deeper understanding of their interests, challenges, preferences, vocabulary and the tone of voice they prefer.  It’s then important to reflect this in the text, images, tone etc of the marketing you target them with.

2 Look at other creative treatments businesses targeting these groups have employed.  Also, adjust to the environment your marketing is going to be viewed in – Desktop? Mobile? Surrounded by other content in a social media page? In a list of other emails?

3 When opting for images, avoid standard library shots that get overused.  If you’re sending videos, be mindful of the time the person has available.  Also, if they’re viewing it in a busy environment they may have the sound switched off so overlay subtitles.

It may sound a challenge at first, but by getting into the mind of your audience personas you soon start to see what messaging and creative treatments will appeal, and what won’t. Also, it’s a positive feeling to know you’re serving up marketing designed with them in mind, and which should engage them not put them off.


Keep reviewing your audience personas – they never stay the same.

Creating audience personas is not something that can be done once and then allowed to gather cobwebs!  As we’ve seen from the past 2 years, circumstances change and people change. Our advice would be to check in annually to see if your defined personas are still representative and reflective of your customer base.  Use stats/analytics each year to deepen your understanding of them and refresh them if needed.  Draw on insights across your team to see what else you’ve learned and update your personas if necessary.


Key take-away

Creating good marketing takes time and effort, so it’s key not to waste that hard work by making it generic, or worse irrelevant that it doesn’t speak to anyone.  Identifying your audience personas will help you to personalise your message and secure far better customer engagement.


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