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Persona is the online version of your target market

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I was once asked by a young marketer about the word “persona”. He heard the term from an online gooroo who talked about personas when it came to finding more customers online.

Traditionally, the phrase, target market, was the default to identify groups of people we wanted to reach for almost any reason. A target market identified those who might buy our products or services … register to attend a special event … read our books … or donate funds for a charitable cause.

Building a persona for digital media is different when compared to traditional marketing; it’s more detailed. As a former publisher, I can tell you that understanding your personas will help you focus and save time by creating content that people care about.

You also save time by avoiding confusion. When you can truly see the individual you need to reach, you’ll create better content for your website and email campaigns, videos, blogs, and social media.

Your Strategic Who

Each persona describes the day-to-day life, his/her likes and dislikes, the type of vehicle they drive, where they live, and their hobbies. Today, the big brands call it being “customer-centric”, which means they want to focus on their customers rather than on themselves.

There are multiple ways of developing personas. An easy method is to collect data from a customer survey. Here’s what we’re looking for:

  • Goals
  • Challenges
  • Interests
  • Preferred publications
  • Content preferences
  • Social media preferences

It’s also a good idea to keep track of the collected data in a database for future connections. For example, some people don’t like receiving newsletters; they like e-books. Knowing their social media platforms is a good idea, too. Some will respond through LinkedIn more than Twitter. Others will want to receive your messages — probably the majority — through email.

Below are a few example questions I would ask in a survey.

  1. How do you like to receive your online messages?
  • Articles from experts delivered by email once or twice a month
  • Bite-sized information delivered to you on a daily basis
  • Short videos (90 seconds to four minutes) emailed to your inbox once a month
  • By mobile phone
  • Through your social networks
  1. What type of content would you prefer?
  • Industry insights
  • Video tutorial
  • Podcast
  • Case study
  • Webinar
  • News
  • Opinion Article
  • Other
  1. Please indicate which social media networks you prefer
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Google+
  • YouTube
  • Instagram
  1. The time of day you prefer to receive your messages?
  • During the work day
  • After the work day

An example persona

  • Name: Business Owner Bob
  • Company President
  • Age: 55
  • Location: Headquartered in Edmonton
  • With 5 branches in Alberta and B.C.
  • Annual Sales: $7.5 million

The scenario: Bob started his company 25 years ago. He’s a commercial developer and owns five large facilities in Alberta and British Columbia. The native Edmontonian, married for 30 years, has three adult children, gives back to his community, and is contemplating buying property in Palm Springs for quick golf trips.

An A-type personality, Bob likes to feel in control; he grew his company from scratch. Bob’s a frugal man with strong work ethics carried on from his parent’s generation.

A savvy entrepreneur, Bob traditionally has done all the marketing himself. He invites clients to golf and dinner; he came up with marketing strategies himself with friends who provided free advice; he always buys local print advertising, maybe some radio; he ran direct mail campaigns (too expensive); built a website (very pretty).

The needs: Bob likes to think of himself as a smart businessman. However, he’s experienced a seven per cent attrition in gross sales and worries about the numbers trending downward. Bob and his company need help with online marketing because that’s where his customers now live. He’s willing and, in some cases, eager to learn how to proceed.

Find your persona — to find your prospective customers.

Communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a print business magazine for 21 years. She now works to assist clients in digital marketing.

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