Listen, we get it. You’re on a budget. If you’re a nonprofit or startup, you’re on a tight budget. When you hear (devilishly good-looking) agency people like ourselves tell you that you simply must create niche audience personas, no doubt you activate your skept-o-meter to see if we’re just trying to sell you one more thing. Trust us on this one. Developing niche audience personas is one branding step you don’t want to skip.
Back up. What is a niche audience persona?
A niche audience is a small, defined segment within your target audience. Say you’re selling fancy organic coffee drinks. Your target audience might be professional types who can afford to drop $7 on a coffee and care at least a little about what they put in their bodies. Whereas, a niche audience is a more specific group, such as single females ages 25 to 35 who live in the ‘burbs, work in revitalized downtowns and have an average salary of $45 – $65k.
Most importantly, your niche audience is made up of people – not data. Developing a persona involves finding the human inside the stats and then creating visual and written content to capture that person. Name her. Give her a face. Think about who she is, what challenges she faces and if she listens to Beyoncé during her morning run (“All the single ladies, all the single ladies!”). Which brings me to my first point…
1. Create content for one person.
Content marketing guru Joe Pulizzi has written about the danger of marketing to an audience of everybody. To paraphrase, you end up talking to nobody. Why? It’s pretty freaking hard to look at a proverbial room full of people and try to pinpoint their innermost worries and challenges. It’s a lot easier to consider one person with a face and a name, and imagine where she’s coming from. Personas allow you to tailor your messaging, voice and tone to your intended niche. They usually inspire new content, too.
2. Market from a place of empathy.
When we don’t deeply understand our audience, we tend to talk more about what we have and not enough about what they need. Let’s go back to the coffee. What’s more enticing – showcasing your handpicked beans and happy cows? Or, telling your niche audience member that you notice how hard she works, how fiercely she commits to her passions, how cool it is that she never skips walking her dog, no matter how tired she is? That she deserves a little pampering, too... in the form of your coffee. Option 1 is a “me” message. Option 2? That’s empathy.
3. Don’t be a jack of all coffees.
Because then you’re a master of none, right? As a brand, it’s critical that you can position yourself as an expert in a few very specific things. Remember our first stab at your audience – all professionals who can afford expensive coffee and care about what’s in it? That’s a crap-ton of people. And they’re already going to Starbucks. Let Starbucks talk to them. You be the expert on whatever it is those Beyoncé-loving bad-asses care about. Discover what that is, and own it.
4. Ensure everyone is talking to the same person.
You’re deep in your audience’s mindset every day so, even without a detailed persona, you might have a decent idea who you’re talking to. But, does your entire organization? Not everyone who comes in contact with your potential customers is a marketing mastermind like yourself. Personas keep messaging consistent and focused across all of your audience touch points. Develop them. Document them. Distribute them.
5. Audience personas work.
Studies show that using personas can make websites two to five times more effective and intuitive. Persona-driven email campaigns have been shown to double open rates and improve click-through rates by five times. In fact, companies that exceed their lead and revenue goals are twice as likely to use personas. Not to mention the fact that targeting niche audiences helps stretch your budget further because you can send printed communications to fewer people – knowing they are the right ones.
Sounds awesome. How do I create one?
You have a lot of options. Conduct stakeholder interviews and focus groups. Pick your sales team’s brains. Do some social listening (there are solid tools for that.) Or, you know, hit up your favorite creative agency. I hear those handsome sons-of-guns are always happy to help. (We’ll even provide the coffee.)
Do you have a tried and true exercise for persona development? Tell us in the comments!
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