What is an audience persona and why do I need one?

If you’re struggling to focus, if you’re struggling with overwhelm, if you have hit a slow patch and you’re struggling to generate new clients, you are showing symptoms that lead back to a single root cause.

You are not being specific enough about who you are trying to reach.

I’m sure I’m not the first person who has told you how important it is to understand your target audience. And you might already be able to list off their general attributes. But do these attributes help you picture in your mind a real person with real problems and real feelings? If not, it’s time to write an audience persona.

I know what you’re thinking.

“Lucy, I already know who I’m targeting. I don’t have time to write an audience persona!”

If the very thought of having to decide on exactly how old your ideal client is, exactly where they live or how much money they make, how they think, and what they believe in, it’s a sign that these are the very things you need to do.

There is a reason any marketer worth their salt (this includes strategists, copywriters, content marketers and so on) will ask you for an audience persona before they start work.

Audience personas are used to create laser-sharp focus around who you’re targeting and why. They form the very foundation for how to develop your service offering, how to set your price, how to write sales copy and your elevator pitch.

So what should an audience persona look like?

Let’s start with what it’s not.

  • It’s not a Frankenstein-ed amalgam of any client you can ever imagine wanting to hire you.

  • It’s not a unicorn - so imaginary, they couldn’t possibly exist in real life.

  • It’s not someone aged between 30-50, or some who earns $60,000 - $90,000 per year or someone who lives in any one of three suburbs.

How many personas do you need?

That all depends on how many different types of people you serve. If you believe you need to be pursuing multiple verticals simultaneously to build your business, you will need to generate multiple laser-sharp audience personas.

How to do it

Below is a basic template for an audience persona. Feel free to add categories until you have a well-rounded sense of your ideal client.

  1. Demographics

    • Age

    • Gender

    • Relationship status

    • Where they live

    • Their occupation

    • Their income

  2. Psychographics

    • Political leanings

    • How they think

    • What they care about

    • What they enjoy doing in their spare time

    • Their buying behaviour

    • Their needs

Do this for as many audience personas as you need to adequately encompass the different clients you reasonably want to serve.

What next? What’s it all for?

At this point, you might be wondering how to use your audience personas. The list is endless really, but here’s a start:

  • Unique value proposition

    • Pains

    • Gains

    • Pain relievers

    • Gain creators

  • Service development

  • Messaging

    • Testing

    • How do you best connect with each audience.

Missing the point

When we are so busy paying attention to the individual trees, we lose sight of the forest. By the time we realize the forest is there, it might be too late.

Somewhere along the line we missed the real need, the real pain point. We were so focused on the deliverables for which we were asked, we missed the bigger picture.

Sometimes a quick pause to ask “what are your goals and how does this fit?” can transform a project into what it needs to be.

What are you waiting for?

Buy now. Click to sign up. Don’t miss out.

When writing sales copy, the call to action (CTA) can seem like the most enticing part. You’ve got a great product and you know it. So why not just tell people to buy it already?

Often, in my client’s writing, I see well written calls to action but they worry that they come off as sleazy, sales-y or cheap. Why?

Because they haven’t done the work to convince the reader that using their product will deliver a real benefit, relieve real pain or solve a real problem. For your writing to sell, you must learn to see your service from the benefits end. This takes practice and i't’s not always straightforward. Benefits can be tangible but not always - features can be things but they can also be feelings.

Yet it’s worth the work. It means that by the time you get to your CTA, your work is virtually done. The CTA becomes the cherry on top not the main event. It means you don’t need to push or sell. Your benefits speak for themselves.

Are you an imposter or on your way to mastery?

I’ve been thinking a lot about perfectionism lately. My particular brand of perfectionism is the kind that sneaks up behind you when you least expect it. It’s not there nagging at me every moment of the day but it has a way of showing up when I need it least.

Usually it’s when I’ve mad a mistake. My reflex response to any error is to tell myself I’m a complete failure, an imposter.

But lately I’ve noticed two things happening. One is related to finding my niche. In the past year, I’ve been honing my craft with my ideal clients - creatives and very small businesses. As such, the work I’m doing is starting to repeat. I’m starting to know my clients and their needs better. So when I make an error of some kind, usually I know exactly how to fix it. The mistakes are smaller. They have less impact. I feel more like an expert, less like I’m play acting.

The other thing I’ve noticed is how I view my mistakes. I’ve started to see my mistakes as less like incompetence and failure and more like learning opportunities on my way to mastery.

Lurkers

There will always be lurkers. Those who subscribe to your email list or download your free guide who won’t buy from you. They will return to your site again and again and never pay you a penny.

Why are we so afraid of the lurkers? We look to them as evidence that creating and sharing our insights is a pointless exercise. That we’re giving away our expertise. Yet, in one form or another, we’re all lurkers to someone.

How many emails do you read from that expert before you buy? The truth is you probably never will. Why? Maybe their prices are too high. Or maybe, everything they tell you, you already know.

Maybe, you’re not the person they’re trying to sell to.

When thinking about whether to share your knowledge, to whom and where, instead of thinking of it in terms of growing your customer base, think of it as growing a movement.

So why might the lurkers eventually buy? Because they trust you. Because they somehow feel like they already know you. Because the movement you have created around your service is impossible to ignore.

Desire paths

A Desire Path refers to ‘traces of use or wear that indicate preferred methods of interaction’ - Universal Principles of Design

Desire paths (or desire lines) can be seen anywhere that humans and animals move. In urban design, they often show up as ad-hoc pathways formed between or around actual paths that are more efficient, in seeming defiance of authority.

It only takes one individual to choose the more direct route for the ground to become a little flatter, a little more worn, to indicate to others that this is a path they can also choose to take.

Often we set up pathways for our customers, only to find that they consistently choose a different route. At first, we might perceive it as willful disregard for the superior pathway we so meticulously created for them. A nonchalant attitude to our expertise and experience.

The challenge is to recognize when your clients repeatedly choose a new path and to meet them where they are. To zoom out and look for the patterns, for the desire lines. And accept these new paths as the democratically chosen way.

Adapt then improve upon them.

Where are the ravers?

How many customers do you need?

Getting the word out to 10,000 people or even 1000 people is hard. But getting the word out to 10 people? 10 people who already like and trust you? That’s easy.

In his new book, Seth Godin talks about finding your minimum viable audience - the smallest group of people you can build your business on serving because “we can’t buy our way to mass anymore”.

And if your 10 people don’t rave about your work and bring in another 10 people, ask them why. Ask for advice. Then make better work.

What do your clients really need?

What do your clients really need?

As a small business owner, I bet you spend countless hours thinking about the service you provide - what to name it, how to improve it, how to price it, how to promote it. All good and noble questions. 

Now consider how much time you spend thinking about your clients' problems. Like, really thinking about them. 

Read More