Perfecting Personas: Understanding the Person Behind the Visit

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By Laura Rives — Sep 24, 2020 11:00 AM

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“Marketing Personas,” “Persona Profiles,” or “Buyer Personas” are a go-to market segmentation technique for marketers looking to create targeted content.

Personas are often grouped by demographics, geography, goals, challenges, and behavior. To help determine the best way to segment your personas, turn to your analytics to see what trends are occurring amongst the audience most important to you. Ask yourself who do you want to reach?  Who are you currently reaching effectively? Who is eluding you? What action(s) do you want them to take?

Examples of Persona Groups

  • Prospective Students
    • Freshmen, Transfer Students, International Students, Recipients of Financial Aid, Area of Study, Adult Learners
  • Parents of Prospective Students
    • Freshmen, Transfer Students, International Students, Recipients of Financial Aid, Area of Study
  • Alumni / Donors
    • Recent Graduates, Level of Degree Attained, School from Which Degree Was Attained, Athletics Fans

Now that you’ve broken down your personas, it’s time to profile them. Some important information to gather and questions to ask are:

Background & Demographics

  • What is the average age range of this type of person?
  • What percent of them are male/female?
  • What is their average household income?
  • Where are they from?
  • What is the highest level of education they’ve achieved?
  • Are they married? Single? Divorced?
  • Do they have kids? If so, how many?
  • What stage are they in? Evaluation? Application? Orientation? Seeking Aid?

Psychographics

  • What challenges are people trying to solve by attending your school or course?
  • Why are they engaging with your organization?
  • What positive outcome are they expecting/hoping for?
  • What are they afraid of?
  • What do they aspire to?
  • Are they primarily motivated by their fears or their goals/aspirations?
  • Why did your students decide to enroll in your program?
  • What can you offer them that no one else can?

Behavioral

  • What do they like to do for fun?
  • What are their hobbies, passions and interests?
  • What is their daily life like?
  • How tech-savvy are they?
  • By what means are they interacting with your university - website, social media?
  • What devices are they using to engage - web, mobile?

Collecting this information can be challenging but you can go about it several ways. You can use surveys, polls, forms, and progressive profiling to collect data on new visitors and continue collecting different data each time they return. 

Example Survey Questions Include: 

  • Briefly describe yourself. Where are you from and what do you like to do for fun?
  • What magazines, books, social media platforms, or blogs are you reading?
  • What challenges are you hoping to overcome? What would success look like?
  • What are the top three things you’re looking for from an organization like ours?
  • What does your decision-making cycle look like? Who’s involved?
  • What was your biggest fear or concern about our organization? Was there anything that almost stopped you from enrolling?

Once you’ve collected your information, you need to document the personas so your organization, specifically the marketing team, can utilize them to create more targeted content.

Building Your User Personas

Once you’ve determined your target audiences and built their profiles, it’s time to create a user persona template. Fortunately, there are many free resources available to help you create a beautifully-designed persona worksheet that gives an instant impression of lifestyle and goals.

To review some persona template examples, check out Justinmind’s curated list of 20 must-see user persona templates.

For step-by-step guidance for creating visitor personas, try Hubspot’s Make My Persona tool.

Wrap Up

It’s true that creating user personas will require you to roll up your sleeves, dig into analytics, conduct surveys, and build templates. But keep reminding yourself how much stronger your marketing efforts will be as a result. Go beyond data segmentation techniques to figure out what motivates people and reveal how you can best address their challenges. 

Ultimately, different people want to be treated differently. If you put time and effort into this exercise, you will bolster alignment within your organization and create rich and rewarding experiences for your audiences.

Photo of Laura Rives

Laura Rives
VP of Sales and Marketing
  laura.rives@hannonhill.com

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