Before you begin any new journey, you need to decide where you’re going. And once you’ve set your destination, a map is useful to make sure you get there efficiently.
The same principles apply when designing a new digital marketing or communications campaign. Before you can begin you must decide who your audience is, how your product or service will be useful to them, what is the most effective way to send this message to them and have a goal reaction in response to the communication.
And just like a map guides a traveler on a road trip, user personas are important tools we use to guide our marketing and communications efforts.
A user persona is a detailed description of a semi-fictional person who represents a segment of your target audience. Rather than thinking of your audience as a large group of people (i.e. “millennials,” “women,” or “parents”), user personas allow you to think of the individual; the unique human you are hoping to reach and influence. A user persona includes basic descriptive information – gender, age, income, location, education, etc., and also qualitative data like, “What are this person’s goals?” “What motivates them?” “What do they care about?” “What do they find irritating?”
From a marketing perspective, your user personas should also include each person’s favorite social media platforms and preferred ways to consume information. Does your user still read newspapers and magazines? Are they active on Instagram or TikTok? Do they research their purchasing decisions online, or do they prefer to take recommendations from people they know and trust?
Market research is your most important resource when building user personas. You may have a database you already use and trust, or you can conduct your own research online – just make sure you are looking for data that is current and from a reliable source.
Beyond referring to existing data, you can collect your own thorough interviews and focus groups. Assemble a steering committee of people who know your brand and your audiences best and ask these important questions. It’s best to take a learner’s approach when doing this research – don’t assume you already know the answers; keep an open mind and listen to what your audiences have to teach you.
It’s also vital to remember you will probably be creating multiple user personas, as most campaigns target more than one audience. Your message will likely have to reach and resonate across several generations, stakeholders with different interests, and don’t forget your internal audiences. Typically, most campaigns have between 2-6 user personas.
Once you’ve created your user personas and your marketing and/or executive teams are happy with them, it’s time to start creating! Look at everything you’ve learned about your audience in the research process and think about how it aligns with your brand. With everything you now know, what do you have to offer each of your users, and how can you present it in a way that will appeal to them? I often keep hard copies of my user personas posted right next to my computer when I’m creating content, just to make sure they are always at the front of my mind. If you ever reach a creative block or find your campaign isn’t working the way you thought it would, the answers usually lie in your user personas.
Making content for a marketing campaign can get overwhelming. Let your user personas guide you and reassure you that you are on the right track. When crafting your personas, include as much detail as possible, and then refer back to them as much as necessary to remember whom you are talking to, what you should be saying, and how you should be saying it.