Bringing target audiences to life with the help of personas

| January 17, 2019 | | Reading time: 4 Minutes


Personas are the imaginary friends of marketers. By defining specific personalities within the otherwise anonymous target audience they allow precise content targeting. With the help of personas all initiatives can be evaluated in terms of their potential to add value for the target audience.

Who are personas?

Personas are fictional representatives of your target audience. Comprehensive background information is gathered around those archetypes – from their relationship status to their diet, from income levels to political views, from professional aspirations to personal challenges. Depending on the industry at hand the personas are defined in different aspects of their personality and lifestyle.

In any case the personas has a name, a face, a demographic background, a career path, a private life and – above all – goals, needs and challenges. This kind of concretization breaks down an anonymous target audience into individual personalities who become understandable and approachable.

When working with market research data, the people in the target group are often hidden by figures. As a marketing manager it is easy to lose sight of the personalities behind the veil of statistics. But developing user-friendly product-/service- and information-offers sure is difficult if one does not know said users.

What are the advantages of working with personas?

The greatest value of working with personas lies in its identification potential for all who design service offers and communication strategies, or contribute to their implementation in any way – that is to say: basically for all and everyone. Every single one, to be exact. The biggest benefit of thinking in terms of personas comes their function as a reference point in all business decisions – as negligible as they may seem. If all employees check their decisions for relevancy to the target group, customer-centered management becomes a reality.

This ensures

  • a shared, organization-wide understanding of the target group that serves as a reference point for the strategic, tactical and operational orientation of all processes
  • that capacities are used in a target-oriented way and no resources are wasted with activities that deliver no – or, in the worst case, a negative – value for end consumers
  • that no products, services or contents are produced that are relevant for everyone and no one at the same time. The definition of diverse personas illustrates the subgroups among the target audience. On that basis service packages and communication routes can be designed that cater to the specific needs of common consumer profiles.

Why is it especially helpful to work with personas in healthcare marketing?

Working with personas is of particular importance to those companies that do not directly sell to end consumers, as for example in the healthcare industry. The distance from the user entails the risk of miscommunicating to the target group. Personas prevent this by giving decision-makers an understanding of the goals and needs of the target audience.

Particularly in the healthcare industry, personas are helpful to demonstrate different symptoms and courses of diseases, and connect them to the people affected by them. The persona-based approach considers the holistic life situation of patients and thereby picks up disease patterns that patients might not even be aware of.

How do you develop a persona?

Depending on the industry environment it makes sense to define 4-6 personas. From the experienced office administrator who seeks to be reemployed after the maternity leave to the recently divorced head of customer service in search for deeper meaning – each persona stands for an archetype in your target group and is defined in their characteristic needs, goals and challenges. Our experience has proven the following approach to be particularly effective: 

1. Name them

In the beginning, give your persona a name. This helps to establish a human connection und makes it easier to re-identify and remember specific personas later on in the process. Needless to say that Martina Reemployed and Carl Single-Again are catchier names than Persona 1 and 2.

2. Dive into the world they are living in

Try to create a multi-faceted personality around your persona and define their life situation to make them as vivid as possible. Make sure to specify at least the following traits:

  • Demography: sex, age, income, living situation (household size, place of residence etc.)
  • Education and profession: ambitions and challenges that come with the current career situation and with a view to the goals the persona strives to achieve
  • Family status: married, partnered, commitment issues, desire to have children etc. The level of detail depends on how relevant each area of life is with respect to your offer. A producer of contraceptive will be more interested in these aspects than a translation agency.
  • Hobbies and interests: How does your persona spend their leisure time?
  • Moral values, attitudes, opinions: Use quotes to get an idea of the persona’s world views. This is a helpful method to fully grasp the previously defined living situation from the perspective of the persona.

3. Identify touchpoints between the persona’s living world and your corporate sphere

  • How can you support your persona in covering their needs and achieving their goals?
  • What kind of content is relevant for your persona?
  • In which formats do your personas consume contents with which they engage?
  • Via which channels can you reach your persona?

4. Design a targeted offer

The last step is about merging your insights. The objective is to offer relevant content with value-added to your persona via those channels and in those formats, that turned out to be appropriate in your analysis of their user behavior.

Which data sources can be used?

There is a myriad of sources of information for persona-related data – from socio-demographic studies up to focus groups. These are the most important ones:

  • Personal conversation
  • Market research
  • One-on-one or group interviews with consumers
  • Social listening
  • Expertise by sales representatives
  • Cooperation with industry partners
  • Congresses and boards

Which structure is suitable for processing your information?

When we define personas with our clients we always follow the same approach. We use a guideline to collect information about the life situation of the persona as described above. Based on the experience of the projects we realized in this area, we developed an optimized guide to holistically define personas and make their personalities approachable. You can download the template we use for that purpose here.

You are not alone

Talking about target groups without having specific personas in mind is very much like talking about colours when you’re actually blind – the validity of your statement may be questionable. However, you don’t need to navigate blindly through the marketing world. Let your imaginary friends guide you. It pays off to trust them! Because: As fictional as the persona may be, as real is the value that they add.




Credit: © Giuseppe Porzani/Adobe Stock