The Marketer’s Guide to Creating Personas for Higher Education

Friday, January 23rd, 2015 at 10:00am
The Marketer's Guide to Creating Personas for Higher Education

“Marketing Personas,” “Persona Profiles,” or “Buyer Personas” are a go-to-market segmentation technique for marketers looking to create targeted content. Since it’s impossible to create content for each specific visitor to your university’s website, you have to generalize. 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.

First, ask yourself who do you want to reach.  Who are you currently reaching effectively? Who is eluding you? What channels are you using to engage your audience? Once you reach your target audience, what action do you want them to take?

Examples of groups that could use personas:

  • Prospective Students
  • Parents of Prospective Students
  • Alumni

In order to get the most out of your personas, it pays to be specific. Not too specific, but finding that perfect balance is key. Note that some personas might have a common “buying” stage, while others have similar priorities or geographies.

Examples of specific personas within  target groups:

  • Prospective Students
    • Freshmen, Transfer Students, In-state vs. Out-of-State Students, Recipients of Financial Aid, Area of Study
  • Parents of Prospective Students
    • Freshmen, Transfer Students, In-state vs. Out-of-State Students, Recipients of Financial Aid, Area of Study
  • Alumni
    • Recent Graduates, Level of Degree Attained, School from Which Degree Was Attained, Athletics Fans, Donors

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

Demographics
  • Who are they? Age / Gender / Marital Status / Income
  • Where are they? In or out of state?
  • What do they do? Position / Company / Industry
  • What stage are they in? Evaluation / Application / Orientation / Seeking Aid
Priorities & Challenges
  • What is important to them? Why are they engaging with your university?
  • What challenges are they facing? Can you assist with any of those challenges?
  • What can you offer them that no one else can or is?
Behavior
  • By what means are they interacting with your university - website, social media?
  • What devices are they using to engage - web, mobile?
  • What content topics do they prefer? What types do they prefer - blogs, videos, photos?
  • What actions would you like them to take when engaging with your university?
  • What is the desired final stage in their prospect journey?

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. Once you’ve collected your information and feel confident in your ability to profile each persona, you need to document the personas so your entire marketing team can utilize them to create more targeted content.

We’ve created a template of our own that you can download and use, or change to suit your own needs. [Download]

Are you using personas in your marketing efforts? How have you broken down your personas? What questions or information would recommend gathering?

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