Communications involves getting the word out on what you have to say. Marketing is different. It is about understanding your audiences’ wants and needs and aligning your strategy with those wants and needs. Successful marketing relies on an understanding of and a respect for your audience – as people. When you understand your audience as real people, with real motivations, values, wants and needs, you unlock the power of persona-driven marketing.

Segments vs. personas

Contrasting persona-driven marketing with segmentation-driven marketing is a good way to understand what personas are. Many of you might already have segments in your business: based on careers or life stages, geography, professions or industry types. Marketers use these segments to help find and reach your audiences, allowing us to target products and services to your audience’s preferences.

By contrast, personas take the statistics and facts of segments and breathe life into them. A persona is a group of people who share similar motivations, beliefs, attitudes and values in relation to your service. These characteristics are often difficult to quantify. A persona-driven marketing program understands members not just as facts and figures, but as people.

When done right, a good persona model for your organization will paint a real-life picture of your audiences in the totality of their lives even when they are not engaging with you. And often the output is literally a picture, along with a personal profile representing a typical member of your audience, including all their wants and needs.

Pairing quantitative research (segments) with qualitative research (personas) ensures that relevant data is leveraged. Quantitative facts tell us what is happening and qualitative research explains why.

The two biggest benefits of personas:

·       They cut across segments to unify them into fewer groups, making marketing to personas easier, more cost-effective and more engaging.

·       When you speak to someone as a person that is, in a way that reflects what they care about (and what motivated them) you will get engagement.

The biggest trap of personas:

·       They are not segments. To bring the persona to life, we typically give it demographic characteristics (age, gender, ethnicity, etc.). But you cannot assume a persona has only those demographic segments, because we are only painting a picture.

What do you do with this information today?

If your organization is thinking about strategies for engagement, start by developing a persona model of your membership. Personas will infuse the way you write with a better tone and voice and they will influence how you design your services and your customer experience. Personas will help you truly understand who your audience is - as real people - and that is valuable information to have.

About Christine Saunders

Halmyre President Christine Saunders is a marketing consultant to service-based organizations, a strategic advisor to marketing executives and leaders, an entrepreneur and a hobby farmer. Prior to founding Halmyre in 2014, Christine owned a traditional integrated marketing and communications agency specializing in financial services, public services and not-for-profits. Her education is in politics, ethics and philosophy, and she is a proud Maritimer despite living in Upper Canada today.

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