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Target personas. It’s a buzzword that gets thrown around quite a bit when talking about audience targeting, but what does it really mean? And how do you nail defining yours so they’re informative, and most importantly, useful? 

Here’s our easy step-by-step guide to target personas.

First things first, what is a target persona?

A target persona is a fictional profile of a person who represents one of your key target audience groups, based on characteristics of your customers. It’s also sometimes known as a buyer persona.

Audience profiling is a great place to start when trying to define your target personas. By using audience segmentation tools that not only take into account specifics like age, gender and location, but lifestyles, attitudes, self-perceptions and interests, you can create detailed personas. The more detailed the persona, the clearer the picture of who your target audience is. And the easier it will be to engage them.

As your audience is made up of different groups, you’ll need multiple personas. 

Say you’re an audio streaming service, looking at what topics or creators you should be incorporating into a new podcast series. Your most active listeners, for example, could be Taylor, 27, a millennial manager who’s vegan, environmentally conscious and regularly goes to the theater. But you might also have Alex, 22, a Gen Z gamer who’s into crypto, investments and the metaverse. These are two completely different people, and they won’t respond to the same campaigns. 

Which leads us neatly into why these personas are super important. 

Why is it important to have target personas?

By having defined target personas, marketers are better equipped with the insights needed to build an experience that consistently and efficiently speaks to their customers as individuals – with content that’s super relevant to them.

For many marketing and research teams out there, target persona creation has been a bit of a box-ticking exercise based on a mix of behavioral data and guesswork, offering limited support to the overall strategy.

Using GWI, you can remove the guesswork around defining your target audience, giving you access to the wider psychographic aspects of their lives that play a crucial role in how and why they lean towards certain brands and products.

This will then act as a guide for your business activities – from product development, to your brand’s tone of voice, to the social media channels you use.

How to build target personas

So, we’ve talked about what a target persona is, and why they’re important, but how do you go about building them?

You may have a good understanding of your audience from a commercial perspective, but it’s time to uncover what matters to them as people. To do this, place your audience against thousands of data points to uncover more about their online behaviors, media consumption habits and brand engagement. 

1. Consider their lifestyle: Do they have a lot of disposable income? Are they status-seekers? Are they thrill-seekers?

2. Think about their ambitions: Are they career or money motivated? Are they family-focused?

3. Research their attitudes: What are their opinions on certain brands? What’s their perspective on environmental welfare, human rights or the future of the economy?

4. Find what makes them unique: Use crosstabs to compare and contrast your audience with other similar audiences.

5. See how they compare to other, larger groups, to uncover stand-out attributes: (e.g. Female Gen Z in London vs all Gen Z) to learn what key aspects they over index on.

6. Test and validate your assumptions: add additional attributes to your audience in charts. Look for real life examples, speak to your sales teams on the ground. 

7. Find their pain points: What’s causing them headaches? What problems are they looking to solve?

This is where your audience really takes on a persona. With the detailed audience you’ve created, combined with a robust data set, you can test different marketing strategies and messages to find what resonates best.

How to use target personas

Now you’ve built your target personas, how the heck do you go about using them in the best way possible to nail your campaigns? 

At the heart, it’s pretty simple. These personas allow you to really understand your audience, put yourself in their shoes so to speak, and by knowing who they are, you know what they want to hear.  Target personas are a useful tool that can help marketers bring their audiences to life, and keep them in mind during planning, ideation, and amplification.

Here’s how you can use your target personas to nail your campaigns:

1. Test your campaigns against your personas: keep them in mind in everything, and keep checking back that your content is resonating.

2. Split your campaigns by persona: it may seem like more effort to have a campaign for each persona, but it’ll be way more effective.

3. Cross reference with your target verticals: what’s their most used social platform? What are their buying habits?

4. Consider partnership opportunities: look for other brands to team up with based on your audience’s adjacent interests.

Need to see it for realsies? Check out how YW Istanbul put target personas into play for their client in order to boost post interactions by over 7,000%. Read the full case study here.

Putting it into practice

Building detailed, realistic audiences from data you trust takes buyer personas from a ‘nice-to-have’, to a central piece in contextualizing the commercial behaviors of your audience. The better you know them, the easier it is to personalize your campaigns, speak directly to your audience, cut out wasted time and efforts, and skyrocket your success.

But the commercial landscape is changing. Creating your personas and leaving them to gather dust will reduce their value. It’s essential to keep them fresh and update them with the latest insight so they remain truly representative of who you’re trying to target. As your consumers evolve, so should your personas.

With GWI’s quarterly updated data sets, ensure your buyer personas are steeped in info that’s current, relevant, and as tailored to your audience as possible.

With the most complete and up-to-date understanding of your audience segments, how can your targeting be off point?

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