Beginner’s Guide: How to Build an Audience Persona

audience persona

Audience personas help you gain insight into prospective customers and influencers so you can create compelling, engaging content tailored to their needs.  

You want to spend some time on this step, otherwise your entire content marketing program could be a total bust. You want to be focused and deliberate in your content development and that requires a deep understanding of the people for whom you’re creating content. The idea is “tell, don’t sell” and to “tell” effectively, you need to understand what appeals to your audience.

Understanding Audience Personas vs. Buyer Personas

People often get buyer personas and audience personas confused. Buyer personas relate to sales goals whereas audience personas relate to your content marketing goals. With buyer personas, the focus is often on the conversion stage of the marketing funnel, whereas audience personas may relate to any stage in the marketing funnel (awareness, consideration, and conversion).

Here are a few other key differentiators:

  • A buyer persona is typically created around someone who has decision-making capabilities, but an audience persona may include people beyond that role, including influencers of decisionmakers.
  • A buyer persona is often created around someone who is actively seeking branded content to aid their decision, whereas an audience persona centers around someone seeking awareness- or interest-based content.
  • A buyer persona targets someone who has decided to make a purchase, whereas an audience persona targets those who may be considering making a purchase.

The key here is to remember that these two types of personas are not necessarily mutually exclusive, nor is it necessary that they overlap. How these two types of personas interact will vary widely based on your business model and marketing strategy.

Building a Basic Audience Persona Template

Don’t shotgun it. It may be tempting to jump right into content creation, but your mantra should always be quality over quantity. Quality requires data and data requires research.

Personas are research-based representations of your ideal audience(s). Note, this may be – and usually is – plural. It can be tempting to pigeonhole your audience into one distinct box, but the truth is that people have different motivations, different goals, and different preferred content consumption methods. These should all be accounted for in your personas. Let’s map out the foundation of a basic audience persona template:
audience persona template

This is just the beginning. Your audience personas can get as detailed as you like them to be or feel is necessary. The more information you have about your target audience, the more precise your content marketing strategy can become. It’s also worth noting that starting out with this basic template is fine; you can always build in additional information as it becomes available and tweak your content marketing strategy accordingly.

How to Create an Audience Persona

Now that you have a framework for your audience persona, you need to fill it in with accurate information based on data. There’s no one right way to collect the information you need; in fact, your best bet is to cast a wide net and hone down relevant information from there.

Analytics

A great place to start is your own website’s analytics. Here, you’ll find a treasure trove of information, including where your visitors came from (geographically as well as referral sources), which types of articles they viewed the most, and how long they spent on different pages of your site. This information can be used to inform the types of sources from which they gather information, the types of topics they may be researching, and some demographic information.

Sales Team

Another great internal source of information is your own sales team. These people are the front lines of interaction with decision makers and they likely have some valuable insights about information gaps that may exist in the market. They may be able to provide a list of top questions that come up in sales presentations, popular objections that can be tied back to misinformation or lack of understanding, and top points of interest to prospects.

Your Audience

The most obvious place to garner insights into what your target audience is looking for is….your audience. Connect with your social fans and followers, customer service interactions, and current customers/clients to gather information that can feed your strategy. You can use tools like Google Forms or Typeform to create surveys and questionnaires to send to people. Hint: keep these items short and sweet and incentivize participation where possible.

It can be helpful to run through this audience persona checklist:

  • Check Google Analytics to identify key demographic information about people visiting your site (gender, age)
    • Audience > Demographics > Overview
  • Check Google Analytics to identify what your audience is interested in
    • Audience > Interests > Affinity Categories
  • Check Google Analytics to identify what devices your audience prefers
    • Audience > Mobile > Overview
  • Gather information from current customers (how they heard about you, their content interests)
  • Talk to sales to get insights about the type of people that buy from you
  • Research your database – gather information from the social profiles, websites, and other online presences of the people in your database.
  • Research trends, challenges, and solutions relevant to audience verticals

Not only does this set the stage for the type of content you will produce, but it also helps ideate on potential ways to organize content on your website. Many companies have a content hub or resource center that houses various white papers, case studies, checklists, how-to guides and other helpful content. Once that hub becomes big enough, it can be beneficial to segment some of that information by industry, challenge, and or media type.

This information will also be helpful in laying the groundwork for your promotion/distribution/amplification strategy as it will inform you where and when people prefer to consume content.

The point of audience personas is to help you identify with your target audience, understand their content/research needs, and figure out ways to provide the information they need in a helpful, compelling way. It positions you to be the best problem-solver and to use storytelling to build trust and relationships that can ultimately boost your bottom line.

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