Become An Expert on Your Target Audience With Personas

Created by Camille Winer

iStock_000064828649_SmallThe key to a successful nonprofit marketing plan is knowing your audience and crafting unique messaging and content for them.

Collateral materials such as your website, social media accounts, e-newsletter, and blog are all opportunities to provide your audience with targeted information—content that helps them solve their problems.

In order to target your audience with unique messaging and content that speaks to your ideal customers, you'll need to make sure everyone at your organization knows who your ideal customers are, exactly—with buyer personas.

Find your community 

Buyer personas are semi‑fictional representations of your people—your ideal customers, donors, members, and followers, based on real data about customer demographics, online behavior, and educated speculation about their personal histories, motivations, and concerns.

When starting out with buyer personas, keep it simple. We usually start with three of the highest impact personas; the most ideal customers who will make the biggest impact on your organization.

Create a document for each persona that highlights their objectives. What is at the top of their mind at work? What are their challenges? What are their watering holes? What blogs do they read, and what social media do they use? Where do they go for new information on their industry?

It's important to understand who they are personally as well. Gather the demographics on your buyer personas that will help you get into their hearts and minds and speak their language. 

This nonprofit supporter persona template can help you get started.

What's in it for them?

Have you heard the saying, "Enough about me—what do you think about me?"

That’s what it sounds like when an organization just talks about its own mission, programs, products, and services in its marketing. When you engage your audience, you need to make it about them. The way you make it about them is to get to know them: their pains and challenges. What information can you share to alleviate those pains and provide the solutions to their problems?

If you aren't effectively communicating to your audience “what’s in it for them,” it’s unlikely they’ll ever become customers or supporters.

Track and optimize

Chances are you won't get perfect personas out of the gate. You will need to track your progress with each persona and optimize as you go. Pay attention to what content each persona is engaging with. Does the content seem to be the right fit for them, or are they bouncing, indicating that they’ve lost interest quickly?

Search engines give high value to blogs and pillar pages when people are spending time reading and conducting research through them. The same people value premium content enough that they are downloading free resources. Is the series of content you've crafted for each persona engaging them? Are they responding to the calls‑to‑action you've created to help them get to the decision to buy, join, or donate?

Buyer personas are an essential part of any nonprofit marketing plan. Without becoming an expert on who your ideal buyer is, you could be wasting a lot of time and money creating marketing materials that aren't ever going to attract them.

But when you’ve created buyer personas, you’ll have a reliable compass guiding you to publish content that will earn the trust of your ideal customers, members, and donors..