Buyer Personas

Buyer Personas: How and Why to Define Them

Nonprofits and social impact organizations often rely on strong messaging delivered to the right audience in the right way. In order to achieve this perfect balance, adept marketers and communications experts evaluate potential audiences, resources, and organizational goals in order to maximize impact of communications efforts.

Identifying your target audience is the first step to reaching them and making an impact once you have their attention. When you have more than one market segment (in other words, more than one type of audience you’re trying to communicate with), separating them into well-defined categories and creating buyer personas for each of them can help clarify how to communicate with each effectively. 

The purpose of building personas is to get at the heart of what makes your ideal audience member the perfect person to work with you, and vice versa. You should aim to gain a deep understanding of what each persona (aka segment of your audience) needs, so you can custom-tailor communications that will resonate with them. 

Remember: All the messaging, no matter whom it’s for, should reflect the values of your brand.

What Goes Into a Buyer Persona?

A buyer persona takes the form of a short paragraph that describes a typical member of the segment. It offers clues as to how you can best engage with them. Consider giving each of the personas different names (e.g. Dolores the Donor or Victor the Volunteer)  so you can start to think of them as distinct people who have different wants and needs. Because that is what they are! 

If you have multiple personas it will be challenging to meet all of their needs all of the time, but establishing marketing campaigns that precisely influence them is a good start. As you learn by testing different content and channels, you can assess the amount of resources you spend (both in time and money) reaching each segment and reallocate as needed by adjusting your marketing efforts and budget. 

Here are some elements you should include in buyer personas:

  • Age, gender, socioeconomic background, education level
  • Geographic location – this may not be a precise location; it can simply be “big city” or “small town”
  • Pain points: what challenges do they face and how can your company help?
  • Motives: what are they looking to get out of their relationship with your organization?
  • Habits: how do they interact with you? How often? With whom at your organization do they interact? For how long do they interact with your org – one time only, or is it months or years?
  • Marketing / content consumption preferences: what is the most effective way to reach them – website, phone, email, in person? Do they respond better to short content or long-form content? Video or text? Webinars or live events?
  • Desired action: what is your goal for your interaction with them? For nonprofits the goal might be “donate money to us,” “volunteer with us,” or “sign up to participate in our programs.”  

Note that the elements you consider when developing your unique buyer personas can differ significantly depending on your brand and goals, including differing goals within the same organization. For example, a low-cost prepackaged nutrition business supplying food deserts might develop a persona focused on answering questions around health-consciousness, family size, and location. Alternatively, a national cultural preservation nonprofit might create personas focused on nationality and ancestry information. Both might take household income into consideration, but in different ways; and the nonprofit might require a persona for community outreach and event attendance that differs from that which they use for fundraising. 

What If I Don’t Know Where to Start?

If you’re looking at the above list and have no idea where to begin, we can help. We combine market research, stakeholder interviews, and the knowledge based on years of experience in marketing to a broad array of different clients. Together we can lay a strong foundation to set you up for successful communications in the future. Contact us here!