How well do you really know your audience? And how important is it to understand specific traits about the individuals you are trying to reach? Large corporations have long created audience personas for content marketing purposes because they provide a focal point in a crowd of faces. When you know exactly who you are speaking to, conversation flows easily. When people feel understood, they are more likely to support your efforts.
Personas (also called avatars) are fictional representations of individuals in a targeted audience. They help companies and nonprofits create content that speaks to the person rather than the group as a whole. While some organizations balk at the initial cost and time commitment involved in creating personas, their positive impact is almost always worth the investment. Keep reading to find out why creating personas is one of the best ways to increase your reach, and learn how to get started on tailoring specific personas for your organization.
WHAT EXACTLY IS AN AUDIENCE PERSONA?
A persona is a fictional character representing one distinct individual in your target audience. He or she has a face, a name, challenges, goals and commitments. Other names you may have heard for audience personas include:
- Target customers
- Donor avatars
- Buyer personas
- Audience profiles
These characters are built from what you have learned about your supporters’ demographics through marketing research. This includes their ages, habits, interests and more. Your team will become familiar with these personas and work to tailor outreach to each avatar.
Your marketing team needs to give each persona a fictional name and a photograph to bring the persona to life. Having his or her image and information present at each meeting enhances the feeling that you are speaking to an individual with his or her own background, goals and challenges.
TYPES OF PERSONAS AND HOW MANY YOU NEED
Unless your organization is followed by only one narrow demographic, your personas should represent supporters of all ages. There are no hard rules on how many personas to create. In most cases, two to five personas should be sufficient.
In general, you should focus on three main age groups: the younger generation, midlife individuals and the elderly, retired population. Each of these groups will respond to different types of content because what they care about, how they spend their time and how they connect are usually quite different.
In addition, you should make sure your content is tailored to reach people who support your organization at different levels. For example, your active donors will need a different message from those who receive your services. Remember to address advocates of your work—those who may not be active donors yet, but remain engaged with your mission.
QUESTIONS TO ASK AS YOU BUILD YOUR AVATARS
It can feel a bit overwhelming to begin creating your “persona team.” Asking some simple questions can help you get started. For example, is your audience comprised of mostly male or female supporters? Is it important for your mission to address ethnicity or race? Review each of the following topics and sample questions, then build on the basics to include information that is specific to your organization.
- How old is the persona?
- Where does he or she live?
- What is his or her level of education?
- What is the persona’s household income?
- Is your persona single, married, divorced or widowed?
- Does he or she have children? If so, what are their ages?
- Where does your persona work?
- Where did your persona receive his or her college degree (if they have one)?
- What are the persona’s hobbies and interests?
- What are his or her daily routines?
- How would they define their core values?
- Does he or she practice a religion? If so, what is their belief system?
- What challenges does your persona face?
- What are your persona’s life goals?
- Do you share common goals outside of the organization?
- How can your organization help this persona achieve his or her goals?
- What objections may this persona have toward your mission?
- How can you help the persona overcome these objections?
- What kind of supporter is he or she? (Donor, volunteer, advocate)
- Does he or she use your services?
- How did your persona learn about your organization?
- How long has he or she been connected to you?
- How are you currently communicating with him or her?
BENEFITS OF AUDIENCE PERSONAS
As the old saying goes, try to reach everyone and you end up reaching no one. While general content certainly has its place, there are clear benefits to speaking to smaller, well-known groups. Tailoring your content to fit audience personas can provide the following organizational benefits:
- Deeper understanding of your target audience.
- Better resource stewardship by not wasting time and money developing services unsuited to your audience.
- Building relationships with your supporters.
- Converting one-time donors into committed supporters.
The benefits of personas also extend to your audience. When supporters receive content specifically created with them in mind, they:
- Feel understood and heard.
- Enjoy reading your content.
- Become interested in learning more about your organization.
- Want to know how they can help.
- Are likely to tell others about your mission.