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Web Optimization: It's All About The (Persona)lity

Persona-Driven Marketing 
By Brooke Hansel, Blackbaud Interactive Services Team

In a room full of nonprofit professionals, I recently asked, “How many of you work for organizations that have created personas for key audience segments?” 10% raised their hands.
In a previous post, I talked about “knowing your audience” playing a key role in creating an intuitive user experience. Creating personas is a great way to really get to know your audience.
Personas make websites 2-5 times more effective and easier to use. (HubSpot)
Who doesn’t want a website that is 2-5 times more effective and easier to use?
What is a persona?
According to Wikipedia, the word is derived from Latin, where it originally referred to a theatrical mask. A persona, in the context of marketing and user experience, is a sketch of a key segment of your audience. It represents a cluster of users who demonstrate similar behavioral patterns in decisions, use of technology, lifestyle choices, etc. Personas go much deeper than typical demographics. In fact, personas vastly span demographics. Personas explore behaviors, attitudes and motivations that are common to a “type” regardless of age, gender, education and other typical demographics.
Through research on your target audiences, you can discover these fictional characters and get to know them. Although the characters are fictional, they represent real people and provide you with a better understanding of your constituents. As you build these profiles, you get to know these characters (hint: they should be your new BFFs) and are able to determine ways to better communicate with them.
Why should you create these fictional characters?
Personas lead you to think beyond your personal preferences and assumption. You are able to start viewing the experience through the eyes of your audience. From that perspective, viewing the experience through their eyes, you are able to better prioritize their goals and needs.
We all know this truth - when you try to communicate with everyone, you end up communicating with no one. Personas help you narrow your focus so that you can target your messaging and content for the people that matter most. Personas help guide decisions about functionality and design. And, they not only make your website more effective and easier to use, but they expand across all communication channels.
Utilizing buyer personas in email campaigns gets 2x the open rate and 5x the click through rate. (MLT Creative)
Knowing your audience will help you serve them better, more effectively engage them and drive results for your organization!
Where should you start?
  1. Outline your different audience groups and sub-groups.
  2. Prioritize…keep the top 3-5.
  3. Start making some assumptions around their lifestyle, goals, motivations and behaviors and create a general profile and expectations.
  4. Research – Are your assumptions accurate? Here are a few methods…
    1. Focus groups
    2. Surveys
    3. Interviews
    4. Google Analytics (“Audience” section)
  5. Finalize Personas
  6. Use them!
Persona Checklist
  • Picture of the person
  • Person’s name, age, gender, location
  • Occupation
  • Education level
  • Personality
  • Behavioral Traits
  • Online habits -  How much time do they spend on the internet? What are the top sites they are visiting? What devices are they using?
  • Preferences & objections – likes dislikes
  • Goals & motivations?
  • Key tasks they will want to complete on your website

When you do the work upfront to create personas it WILL make a difference. It helps you create an audience-centric website, an intuitive user experience, segmented communications...the benefits of investing the time and resources are proven! Persona work yields a much deeper understanding of why your constituents do the things they do and what they expect from you, as an organization, within any given context. This knowledge about their motivations (the why) makes it possible to create an experience that caters to them on a personal level. Knowing them on a personal level allows you to communicate with them more effectively and ultimately serve them even better. Remember – they are your new BFFs!
I would love to hear in the comments section from those of you that have created personas and how it has impacted your communications! 

Register for the Digi-Know webinar happening August 9th, where Brooke Hansel from Blackbaud Interactive Services will talk more about Designing an Online Experience that Works. Register Today >

Have you created personas for your website? Comment below on how personas have impacted engagement with your constituents, and earn points in the Champions Hub! Not a Champion? What are you waiting for! Learn more >

Need help honing in on the people you need to be engaging with? Learn more about how Blackbaud's Interactive Services Team help achieve the website of your dreams >
Posted by Brianna Weaver on Aug 3, 2017 11:29 AM America/New_York

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I love this idea! I think I would have fun creating these personas. They are much more detailed than what we consider at the moment. We're a children's museum, so our audience is slightly narrower than most orgs, I think, but we could definitely benefit from this. 
  • Posted Fri 04 Aug 2017 12:36 PM EDT
I think this is a great idea. We have lots of different eyes on our website from staff - especially to gage the opinion of different departments that we are portraying the right information in the right way.
  • Posted Fri 04 Aug 2017 01:42 PM EDT
Very helpful tips.
  • Posted Mon 07 Aug 2017 11:50 AM EDT
Very useful tips! I'm hoping that this will help our on-line and off-line communication efforts.
  • Posted Mon 07 Aug 2017 01:13 PM EDT
We created personas for our organization about 2 years ago, which happened to be about the same time our new website was being developed. So, the personas didn' have much impact on our website. We were just talking this morning about how we need to increase web engagement, but we werent sure where to start. Now, I'm thinking looking at the site through the eyes of our 3 main personas is a great starting point!
  • Posted Thu 10 Aug 2017 01:53 PM EDT
I worked in software development for years and stakeholders never ceased to be amazed by who was the primary persona of their product (whether shrink-wrapped software, custom solution, or website). They always expected the primary persona -- not the secondary or tertiary or even further down the list -- to look exactly like them.
  • Posted Tue 15 Aug 2017 07:36 PM EDT