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.

Good marketing is...

  1. Good marketing solves problems.

    Start with creating a service people actually need. To do this, you will need to look at what problem people have, how they currently solve this problem and what new problems they create by attempting to solve their original problem.

  2. Good marketing is sustainable.

    It’s not all about flashy campaigns. At the core of your marketing plan should be the activities you plan to repeat over and over again. If it’s not repeatable, it’s not worth it. Small and slow solutions are easier to maintain than large, complex systems.

  3. Good marketing is holistic.

    You must be able to demonstrate a direct link between any marketing activity and your biggest, most important goals. Before you act, ask yourself how will this help me get from point A to point B - not just in my business but in my life?

  4. Good marketing begins with people.

    Ask who will this help? What benefits does this create? Does this create any new problems for my clients? How else can I help?

  5. Good marketing is honest.

    Click baiting, keyword stuffing, opt-out emailing and other bait-and-switch tactics will only ever get you so far and damage your reputation in the process. If by eliminating these tactics, you are left with no plan at all, see point 2.

  6. Good marketing is as little marketing as possible.

    Keep it clear. Keep it concise. Keep it targeted.

Working with what's known

Much of what we do as marketers is to work from what we know.

When we begin, much of what we have is merely hypothesis. A series of questions we pose for our audiences to then answer.

We need to take each question, hold it up to the light, test it in a range of conditions until we can gather enough information to derive some level of truth. We start to expand what is known.

Sometimes we forget this. When we view them in isolation, our marketing campaigns can seem like nothing more than failed experiments.

It’s only when you view them side by side, in relationship to one another and how each informs the next, that you can start to see your strategic trajectory take form.

Sometimes we all need a reminder of just how far we’ve come.

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.