The Power of Personas: Why do personas matter for higher ed?
If you’ve ever advertised or sold a product or program, you’re familiar with how important your target audience is to your marketing strategy. Personas are target audiences on steroids, a kind of hyper-targeting to help you dig even deeper and uncover the key motivations behind buying behavior. If you’ve heard the buzz about personas and are interested in how to create and use them to enrich your marketing, and communicate more clearly with your prospects, find out more below.
What is a persona?
A marketing persona is a partially fictional sketch of a key “type” of ideal customer. After creating it and re-reading it back, it will sound like you are talking about a friend or family member because it will include very personal and specific details on the person’s background, mindset and motivations. It will be based on market research and real industry data, but goes deeper than a traditional target market assessment that only includes demographic information. It might visually look like a resume, or a social media profile page with a name—and many times a photo or quote from the person.
Example Student Persona
Sarah Johnson, age 38, married with 2 children, lives in Chicago
Full-time HR director at a retail company, on the path to become CHRO in 5 years, mom with demanding dance and soccer schedules, has undergrad in political science and secretly wonders if an MBA would help her advance in her career.
Leading and mentoring a team, being at all of her kids sporting events, traveling to her weekend lake home more often.
Balancing time with her family and a blossoming career that could land her in the c-suite in her early 40s.
That her non-traditional degree is limiting her earning power but that she will miss her family’s important events if she decides to pursue a degree.
Sarah is busy. She can typically be found browsing Facebook or Instagram at 10pm after her family has gone to bed and she’s replied to a few pressing work emails. She uses the Gmail platform and shops on Amazon because she doesn’t have time to run her errands during the day.
I’d love to get an MBA so I can gain a seat at the executive table, but it’s also important for me to balance my time so I can be there for my family.
How do you build one?
Although you can see samples of fields in the included example, it’s important to tailor your persona to what you want to know. Since there can be many different types of people even within the same market segment, you’ll want to cover your bases with 2-3 per demographic group with male/female counterparts, and areas to address all of the decision points for someone considering your brand. Using general market research, past data from your organization, google analytics, personal interviews and industry benchmark data can all help you build the type of persona you’ll need to enrich your content strategy.
How can personas enrich your marketing strategy?
When you do a deep dive into what your audience is thinking, it helps you address the barriers to their decision making process. For example, if they’re worried about balancing time you can present the benefits of your flexible online and weekend programs. If ROI is the question, make sure you provide factoids on how long it might take to recoup the investment. Developing personas can also help your internal marketing and admissions teams collaborate to prioritize your messaging, media strategy and tactics.
Why do personas matter more in higher ed?
In marketing, anytime you are asking someone to spend money the connection to values, motivations and mindset are critical. But for your prospective students, investing in a degree and educational experience carries a larger price tag and much higher emotional commitment than a cup of coffee, a couch or a lawnmower. Digging deep into goals, fears, frustrations and media habits will not only help you develop your messaging more clearly but also prioritize your channels and strategy for connecting.
For schools looking to build personas to enhance your targeted marketing strategy, GPRS offers custom solutions. With deep insight into the mindset of degree-seeking students at all levels, we can help you pinpoint your audiences and reap the benefits of hyper-targeted communications. Contact GPRS today to learn more.