How to create an authentic audience persona, and why it matters.

If you haven’t identified and defined who your customer base is, you are wasting valuable time, energy and money marketing your product or service. It’s as simple as that. Understanding your audience and the motivations behind their buying behaviours is the most important step in a successful, empathy-based marketing strategy.

Before anything else, your potential customers and clients are human. This means they have human, emotional motivations that drive their everyday decisions and behaviours. It’s easy as a business owner or a marketer to get caught up in the logistics of sales, but trust us when we say that understanding and prioritizing your audience’s motivations is to your business’ greatest advantage. The more detailed you can be in defining your ideal buyer’s personality, the better. This is why creating an audience or buyer persona is not just a creative exercise; it’s the first step to building a strong, successful brand.

What is an audience/buyer persona?

An audience persona is a detailed representation and a projected personification of your target audience or customer. The persona is not a real person, but a fictional one that represents the greater demographic your company wishes to reach. Developing this persona is an exercise that puts a face and some context to the archetype of people who will most strongly resonate with your product or service. 

The objective behind building your audience persona is to become so connected with this audience’s pain points, desires and goals that you can accurately tailor your marketing strategies to their needs. It will determine the type of language you use to speak to this audience, where you put your messages in order to reach them and even how you further develop your product or service. A strong audience persona will help you reach your target audiences with messages that make them feel heard and understood. More often than not, a company has more target audience groups than one, and in this case, it’s crucial to develop each of these audience personas and regularly differentiate between them.

How to create your own audience persona

1. Determine basic demographic information.

The first step in creating your audience persona is research. Demographic research will become the foundation of your understanding of your audience. Start by identifying basic information about your target audience, such as:

    • How old are they?
    • Where do they live?
    • What language(s) do they speak?
    • Where do they shop?
    • What are they interested in?
    • What frustrates or challenges them?
    • What other context comes along with the stage of life they are in? Children? Pets? A long work commute? Be imaginative.

To find this information, you may leverage online resources such as your company’s social media analytics (ex. Facebook Audience Insights), your company’s website analytics (ex. Google Analytics), or your list/database of previous or existing customers. 

You can also use these tools to seek demographic information about the people who support your closest competitors. Conduct audience research on those people who use social media to support your competitor. Where do they live? How old are they? Understanding your competitor’s audiences won’t just help you build your own audience persona; it can also give you a better idea of how to differentiate your brand from competing ones.

2. Determine the audience’s values and goals.

Your target audience members have frustrations, challenges, values and passions just like any other person. If you know and understand what makes your audience tick, you can directly respond to those values and goals with your product and its promotional messaging. 

Conducting what is called, ‘social listening’ is a great start on the path to understanding what drives your audiences. Social listening entails using free tools on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to search for key words that relate to your industry, product or service. Who is talking about your industry? What are these potential customers talking about? Can you identify any recurring themes or topics? Do these individuals seem to lean in any specific direction politically? What are their priorities? Are they more career-driven, or do they live a bohemian lifestyle? Do they have a family, or are they single?

Once you identify what your audience cares about and what they want to achieve, you can work these topics and apparent desires into your brand messaging.

3. Determine your audience’s frustrations and challenges (pain points).

This step is essentially the same as the previous step, but the objective is a bit different. Here, we aim to identify those things that our audience is struggling with, so we can best place our product or service as a potential answer to that problem. 

The strategy for determining your audience’s pain points is also the same; conducting social listening and imagining which challenges your audience may be facing on a day-to-day basis. Are they complaining about anything—especially anything pertinent to your industry? Have they expressed struggles that you could respond to? Have they expressed frustrations with anything socially relevant that you can use to guide your brand messaging? What might stop them from purchasing your product or service? How can you overcome these barriers?

Tools like Google Alerts, which monitors online rhetoric surrounding your preferred keywords, are also useful in understanding the current, digital context of your industry.

4.Create your audience persona.

Having conducted substantial research and social listening, you’re ready for the fun part. Imagine the personification of all the demographic and behaviour information you’ve gathered. This is your audience persona. 

Be as realistic as possible, but also be creative! Imagine how your persona feels after a day of work. Imagine what they look forward to at the end of the week. The more connected you can be to even the most mundane or minute details of this fictional individual, the better you will be able to target your brand messaging to them. After you’ve revised the general demographics, values and pain points you gathered for your audience persona, use that information to consider the following:

  1. Can you give this persona a stock-photo face and an appropriate name?
  2. Imagine their home situation (Do they have children? Do they travel a lot? Etc.)
  3. Can you use your demographic research to estimate their salary and monthly expenditures?
  4. Identify their top three values, goals and priorities
  5. Identify their top three pain points and barriers to purchasing from your company

As you build out your audience personas, be sure to keep in mind that their buying behaviours are often motivated by their goals and their desire to solve the current problems they’re facing. Think about who your audience members are now, but also try to imagine who they want to be later, after they’ve engaged with your company for example. What can you offer them to help them achieve their objectives and solve their pain points? How—and where—can you position yourself to make sure your audience knows that your company is here to help them?

Once you’ve developed detailed audience personas for your primary, secondary and even tertiary audiences, use the knowledge you have about those fictional individuals to guide every decision you make regarding your brand and overall marketing strategy. Prioritize these personas and honour their values. Through this exercise, you will learn the empathy that is required to truly connect with your real-life customers, and those relationships are the ones that will ultimately increase your sales and your customers’ loyalty to your brand.

If you would like to chat about audience persona’s or see some real-world examples, please reach out below. We’d love to hear from you.

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