Marketing in Higher Ed: Crafting Effective Marketing Personas

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By Patrice Meadows — Apr 24, 2018 11:00 AM


If you’re in marketing, you know that every marketing tactic ought to begin and end with the audience. Failure to consider their desires, motivations, and pain points almost always results in ineffective communication. These missed opportunities cost brands (and institutions) time and money.

What is a persona?

If you haven’t heard of buyer personas, they are documents marketers use to help them focus on the wants and needs of audience segments. Buyer personas combine demographic and psychographic information about specific audience segments to guide the development of effective marketing materials. If you’ve ever considered your prospect’s interests, goals, and challenges when developing marketing materials, you’ve likely used some form of a buyer persona to do so.

Sample demographic information to include in buyer personas:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Marital Status
  • Level of Education
  • Occupation

Sample psychographic information to include in buyer personas:

  • Personality traits
  • Interests
  • Lifestyle choices
  • Motivations
  • Value

Here's a sample buyer persona we used years ago:

An example buyer persona template

Why are personas important?

Without an accurate view of your audience, it’s hard to develop messages that will resonate with them. Buyer personas give marketers the information they need to craft messages that resonate with various audience segments.

Carefully-crafted buyer personas can help marketers reach distracted prospects. Making your messages more relevant to their needs and interests can help you break through the clutter.  Leveraging your understanding of prospects' personal interests and lifestyle choices can offer useful insights to govern where and how to deliver messages.

Want to know how to deliver personalized content to various audience segments? Read this blog post for tips on using chatbots, CMSs, and other software to communicate with prospects.

How to craft an effective persona

If you aren’t using buyer personas to guide marketing communications, there are a few quick steps you can take to change that.

  1. Talk to stakeholders: There’s no substitute for speaking to your audience. Conversation provides a unique opportunity to better understand the motivations and behaviors of your audience. Communicate regularly with customers, prospects, and partners to validate the assumptions governing your marketing decisions.
  2. Analyze your data: After interacting with individuals in your audience segments, use your database to refine your understanding of each group. There are tons of tools you can use to gather demographic, psychographic, and behavioral data on your target audience. This information will help determine which value propositions are most relevant to each group.
  3. Tailor your message: As you begin to understand more about each audience segment, update your marketing messages accordingly and document the changes in each persona profile. Use your messaging platform to guide your work. Remember; consistency is key. Although you may rework the language, keep pillars and proof-points the same. The goal is to offer each audience segment more relevant messages; not completely changing your brand.
  4. Test, tweak and repeat: As with any process, the development of valuable buyer personas relies on your commitment to completing regular reviews and revisions. Understanding what works, what doesn’t, and what requires further exploration will only make each iteration more useful.

Key questions to ask:

  • What does this buyer want to achieve?
  • Where does his buyer go for information?
  • What is the biggest challenge facing this group?

Now that you’ve created detailed buyer personas to guide the development of marketing materials, it’s time to match your brand’s value propositions to each group’s needs. Earlier I mentioned using messaging platforms to tailor marketing messages. If you need a refresher on messaging platforms, check out this article.

Join us next week for part three of our Marketing in Higher Ed series to learn how to communicate your brand’s true value through effective messaging.