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Personas and target audiences

Why target audiences aren’t enough in online marketing

Portrait von Susanne Esterbauer. | © punkt & komma
Susanne Esterbauer
Content marketer
Let’s cut to the chase: How much do you really know about your (potential) customers? Do you know their age, their interests and needs? Their demographic background and their social status? 

Or: Do you know exactly how they’re wired? And what their information needs look like? Ideally, these are questions that should be asked throughout the course of creating a content strategy and thus before even planning any specific activities. 

But let’s take a step back: The first question that we would like to address today is how personas differ from the target audience. 
Viele Blonde Barbie-Puppen, die übereinander lieben und eine große Zielgruppe darstellen sollen | © Pixaybay

Persona or target audience?

The chicken or the egg?
Which came first? The chicken or the egg? Or in our case, the target audience or the persona? 

One thing’s for sure: In the beginning, there’s the target audience. It consists of demographic characteristics that are determined, for instance, as part of market research measures. Target audiences can be explained as follows: They are groups of people with the same needs and interests. It might be easier to just define a target audience – but for a great content marketing strategy, it’s essential to develop personas. 

Unlike the broad range of people included in a target audience, personas offer much more detail, and they give the target person a specific personality. This, later on, makes it easier to find the right words in content marketing. Namely, those that are heard by the personas and get them to perform certain actions like purchasing, booking or recommending something. 
Here’s an example: The campaign of a hotel manager is targeted at families with two to three children, who earn a good income, live in an urban environment and like to stay active in their free time. To arrive at this target audience, the hotel manager deduces his target group definition from data that comes from his list of customers/guests. 
On to the next level:

the personas!

Now, we’re finally coming to the personas: If you visualize your target audience, it becomes a persona – a human being. Not a real one, of course, but a fictitious person. With a name and a face. 

We’ll call our persona Anton. Anton is 35 years old, lives in Salzburg, and he’s a chief executive at a noteworthy company. Anton is married to Berta. Together, they have two children aged six and eight. They live in a flat in Aigen, an upscale neighbourhood. 

If necessary, Anton also receives other attributes such as interests, his favourite leisure activities, needs, goals, and expectations. His user behaviour can’t be overlooked when creating his persona either. Hence, we’re addressing the questions of how users find our site, which search terms they use, which problems we may solve for them and how they behave on our website. 
Simply put: Anton becomes a realistic but fictitious person. With strengths, weaknesses and user characteristics. 

As you can see – this character doesn’t have anything to do with an anonymous target audience anymore. We know which questions this person asks, which needs he has, and which content type should be used for supplying him with information. Especially when it comes to content creation and seeding, it’s helpful to always keep the personas in mind. 

For good reason: Specific, well-crafted personas make it easy to create tailor-made content for them. Developing a feel for the personas’ needs and wishes happens almost by itself. 

Advantages of personas

In a nutshell, these are the main advantages of creating personas:
  • Personas make target audiences much easier to manage. Instead of having anonymous data, such as “female, between the ages of 20 and 30, athletic and active”, we’re dealing with “Melanie, 26, from Salzburg, a passionate long-distance runner” in content marketing. 
  • The target audiences receive a face and a name – they come alive as personas. 
  • Personas make content creation much more efficient and effective. 
  • Briefing conversations are easy if you have professional personas. 
Sounds obvious, right? At any rate, you should keep in mind that a successful content strategy needs to include personas. That’s why it’s standard practice for us to create made-to-measure personas together with each of our new clients. A point of honour, so to speak!

Step by step to your buyer persona in marketing

Here’s an example of what your persona could look like. Meet Paul! 

When I create content, I create it for Paul. Because I put some thought into who Paul is, I know exactly what the perfect content for Paul needs to look like. 

If you would like to create your own persona, here’s a detailed guideline. Take your time and complete the template – step by step – until you are done creating your persona. You might want to speak to the people in your company that are dealing with customers a lot and get some input from them as well (customer service, reception, …). 

The profile of your persona includes a total of six areas:

Name and photo: 
  • an expressive photo (find one online) 
  • give your target group a name 
  • age 
  • gender 

Background information: 
  • job
  • place of residence 
  • marital status
  • income 
  • education 
  • special skills 
  • hobbies and favourite leisure activities 

  • statements that are typical of this person 
  • views and values 
  • brands and modes of life that act as a statement 

User behaviour and buying process: 
The user behaviour plays an important role when formulating your persona. Via which channels do users end up on our site, which search terms do they use? Which problems do we solve for them? 
  • How does your persona buy something? 
  • How does he inform himself about the product or service? 
  • What’s the online user behaviour? 
  • What does the customer journey look like? 
  • Via which channels does the persona come across your online presence? 
  • Which search terms/keywords does he use? 
  • Who influences him? 

Expectations and goals: 
The expectations and goals constantly change – because they are the current needs of your persona. 
  • What does your persona want to achieve with your product or service – how does it help him? 
  • Does he want to solve problems? If yes, which? 
  • Which fears does he have? 
  • What impresses him? 

Perfect solution: 
  • What would the persona’s perfect product or service solution look like?

Get the Persona Template!

You’re interested in personas? Then you should read the article on millennials and their user behaviour

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