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Know Your Audience: The Marketing Persona

By Daniel Page Created: January 1, 2013 Last Updated: January 2, 2013
Related articles: Business » Companies
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As any writer knows, the hardest part of creating any sort of content is getting started.

One of the tricks of the trade is to develop an idea of who it is that you’re writing for. It’s much easier to write with an awareness of the target audience in mind.

Content marketers face a refined version of this problem. The purpose of content marketing is to produce content that is attractive to a particular subset of the potential audience, namely those who are likely to have intent to purchase, or perform some other desirable action. Building brand awareness is only effective if that awareness develops in a market segment that contains consumers who are likely to further business goals.

Personas are a tool that can be used to develop profiles of desirable content consumers, who can then be targeted with content specifically designed for them.

Before beginning any content marketing project, for example a blog, it’s crucial to have some idea of the intended audience. It’s not enough to write fantastically good content that builds a large audience, if that audience has a low likelihood of engaging with a brand. Content is expensive to produce, and must be linked to specific business goals, via an acute awareness of the target audience. Otherwise, the investment is likely to be wasted.

Information is key here, both about the customers who already spend with a brand, and potential market segments. Creating content without audience data is like shooting with a blindfold on. You’ll hit something, but it’s fairly unlikely to be the target.

Demographics are the first stage in audience discovery. Demographics include factors like age, gender, location, wealth, household type, education, and so on. This sort of information provides a fairly hazy idea of the audience, but it allows some degree of segmentation. If your intended market segment is made up predominantly of women in their 60s, the required content is going to be radically different to content of interest to teen males.

Interests and lifestyle provide a more pointed idea of appropriate content. Are your consumers socially liberal or conservative? What interests do they have that intersect with the products or services in question? Are they affluent big spenders or aspirational lower income earners?

There are numerous ways of gathering this sort of information, if a brand has built up a social media presence that can be a great way of developing an idea about who exactly customers are. Surveys are also very useful, as is targeted advertising—what is the audience for the content that tends to produce the best CTR when your brand advertises?

After gathering the necessary information, it should be broken down into a number of prototypical personas. Of course, content can’t be targeted at people individually (for the most part), so content creators need to develop a group of idealized individuals toward whom content will be targeted. It will be written for them, in a style and register that is suitable, with appropriate cultural references, and carefully selected persuasive language designed to influence those people in particular.

Developing personas is a great exercise for anyone who produces content. Making the effort to think through who exactly is being written for is a fertile technique for creating new and effective copy.

Get Busy Media is a blog and resource center that helps small businesses and entrepreneurs build smarter companies. For more information on how to jump-start your small business marketing, please visit www.getbusymedia.com or connect with us on Twitter, @GetBusyMedia.

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