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Beginner Read · Typical

Segmentation Audience Personas

A group of people standing in a line outside holding tea cups.

Stopgap Dance Company: Frock, 2019, Photo @ Chris Parkes

Personas for the time/budget/data poor

Personas are composite sketches (fictional representations) of people within your audience or customer base. They are a means of bringing to life the people who are engaging with you, adding flesh and bones to a representative picture of a member of that group. It is a way of more actively visualising your audience/customers, helping your marketing and strategy because you and your team can use them to understand motivations and anticipate needs in your marketing and communications more fully.

Personas work hand in hand with segmentation of your target audiences, in which you create groups to target, based on common characteristics within that group. Personas are created through quantitative (numbers-based) and qualitative (descriptive language-based) data. If you have limited data, you can still create personas and modify them over time.

In this article, we explore how personas work where resources in terms of time and budgets are limited. I have been involved in a number of projects where agencies have helped to create personas, but if you don’t have time or money for a major project, what could a lo-fi, low-cost version of personas look like and how can creating personas add value? Can you still benefit from creating personas with incomplete data?

Key reasons to use personas are:

  • having personas as part of your segmentation strategy can create greater insight supporting not only your marketing activity and strategy, but also benefit your overall business strategy.
  • if you don’t know your audiences and can’t put yourselves in their shoes, marketing and communications can end up trying to be everything to everyone, ending up overstretched.
  • if you can involve your team and colleagues in the process of creation, you will already have a better collective understanding of your audiences and where to focus effort.

If you aren’t using personas at the moment, it’s a good idea to start by creating a tactical persona for your high-value or priority segments. For example, family audiences are often a key segment, where audiences will have characteristics and specific needs. Your members/patrons/frequent customers/attenders segment is a core part of your business so creating a persona for this high-value segment could help to support getting people back again (retention).

Tactical personas can also help if you are looking to develop new initiatives or projects. For example, developing a persona for a scheme to target first-time attendees can help inform the campaign choice of channels, content creation, user journey, and messaging. You can use our handy persona checklist which suggests ways in which personas could work across all activities.

What exactly are personas?

A persona is a composite sketches (fictional representations) that communicates the primary characteristics of a group of users, identified and selected as a key target through use of segmentation data.

The idea of a composite sketch means that they are not one person, but rather based on identifying characteristics that represent the majority of people in that segment.

Creating relevant personas helps you to understand who your customers are and what their motivations are. In turn, this enables you to tailor your messaging, content, and customer experience to them.

Personas are valuable if you can use them as part of your decision-making processes, considering them right at the outset of each marketing campaign. Your marketing campaigns should seek to speak to at least one of your key personas.

Personas can help you to be consistent – with your persona in mind, creating messaging and experiences for them becomes easier across the team. Personas can aid the process of putting yourself in somebody else’s shoes, identifying pinch points, and anticipating the needs of a particular target audience.

42% more visitors convert from personalised call to actions (HubSpot)

But don’t personas work against audience development and exclude people who don’t fit the segment profile? In fact, the task of creating a persona based on evidence, helps to focus effort and avoid unconscious bias whereby the persona we normally work with in mind is often someone quite like us.

I liked this summary from HubSpot:

  • Without personas, how do you know which message will appeal to your target market’s needs?
  • Or where to reach your audience to build awareness and drive them to your website?
  • Or what to write about in your content marketing efforts?
  • Or how to talk to your audience on social media?

Can I create personas with limited time and/or data?

In building personas it’s helpful to leave gaps rather than make too many assumptions, and to see if over time you might be able to collate the data needed. So, what data could you start with and what may already exist?

CRM and ticketing histories are wonderful resources if you have them, but insight and data to build your personas can come from other sources:

  • Existing segmentation and targeting: are you already targeting people based on their behaviour or profile?
  • Postcodes from your CRM, ticketing, and customer data: does your existing contact data have any geographic data included?
  • Email list: what content resonates most in your newsletters?
  • Web analytics: where are your visitors based, geographically? What is the most visited content?
  • Social media: what tracking and listening could inform your persona creation?
Example of Facebook Audience Insights, Hootsuite

Example of Facebook Audience Insights, Hootsuite

  • Sales/Front of house/colleagues: anyone who has direct contact with your audience and customers is a useful source of information. Their contribution is essential even if it is anecdotal because it can provide useful insights regarding motivations, concerns, and pinch points.
  • Surveys and interviews: consider asking questions via telephone interviews, or in person at events. Interviews can provide useful insight and interviews with people who are not engaging with you can also provide valuable information. Polls and quizzes can be used on social media and help to add detail to your personas.

Sample questions to create persona

Consider incorporating questions and data gathered in all your communications at all stages of the customer journey. Here is an example from an email from Greenpeace which is informing their persona profiling and segmentation:

Example from an email from Greenpeace informing their persona profiling and segmentation.

There’s external data that may be useful:

  • Competitors: how are your ‘competitors’ reaching similar profile audiences?
  • The bigger picture: The Audience Agency has segmented the UK population by their attitudes to culture.
  • Online Research: search online for your target group and their behaviour.

Fundamental info for your personas:

  • Name
  • Description
  • Demographics (age, gender, location)
  • Behaviours: What is she doing? What else is she doing?
  • Motivations and concerns/needs: What does she want? Why does she want it? How does it make her feel?
  • Touch points and pain points: Where does she make contact? Are there barriers or obstacles?
  • A sentence to show the attitude of your persona: Quote: “I like their family programme – it is easy to get there, and the children have a great time.”

Example of a persona profile

Make your personas work for you

A journey for creating personas

Personas can change over time as you gather more information – if you don’t have the data you need, how could you collect it?

Once you get started with personas, here is a checklist on how personas could be part of your decision-making.

Persona checklist

  1. Is your messaging working for your persona(s)? Personas can help you create more relevant messaging. Once you have a greater understanding it enables you to anticipate concerns, needs and desires and makes your messaging more powerful.
  2. Review your persona’s customer journey. What was the experience like, is it consistent with your brand, have you taken every opportunity to anticipate needs and concerns to minimise pinch points?
  3. What is your existing offer to your persona(s)? Does your offer align to your persona? If you are targeting families, is there price-resistance for larger family groups?
  4. Is your content aligned with your personas? Could you create (more) bespoke content for priority segments? Do you need more information about accessibility or wayfinding (I worked at the Barbican London – a place visitors often struggled to find.)
  5. Are you using the right channels for your personas? Have your personas shown a preference for a particular channel? Email is the best performing channel, but does it perform best for all your personas?
  6. Do you have the right allocation of resources in terms of time? Are you spending your time on your most valuable/priority personas? Are your priority personas aligned with your strategic goals and if they aren’t which will you change? Videos give a taste of what customers can expect, and helps to address customer questions, do you need to allocate more people to focus on content generation?
  7. Do you have the best allocation of resources in terms of budget? Has the information about your persona helped you to understand where they spend their time, gather information and hear about you? Where are you spending resources – do you need to reallocate those resources based on your persona research?

One final consideration is that personas can help you to articulate your target audience more fully and inspire you to reach out to new partners. A persona can give an instant picture to a potential partner enabling you to collaborate with other individuals and organisations, aligning yourself with them to create synergy, kudos or increase reach.

What next?

The Digital Culture Network is here to support you and your organisation. Our Tech Champions can provide free 1-2-1 support to all arts and cultural organisations and individuals who are in receipt of, or eligible for, Arts Council England funding. If you need help or would like to chat with us about any of the advice we have covered above, please get in touch. Sign up to our newsletter below and follow us on Twitter @ace_dcn for the latest updates.





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