Don’t Forget the People: Persona Development Helps Target Your Organization’s Outreach

Let’s face it, plenty of businesses get by just winging it when it comes to strategy. If you really want your organization to take off, it’s probably worth investing some time and effort working on your business.

With limited time and resources, however, where should you start to really recognize the most bang for your buck? We think a great place to invest some time to help your organization grow is in persona development – identifying and getting to know your core stakeholders.

What’s a Persona?

The first step to creating a stakeholder persona is establishing what the heck a persona even is. Simply put (thanks to Hubspot for this definition), a persona is a semi-fictional representation of one of your core customers that helps you better understand your core audiences and stakeholders.

Personas are fictional, generalized characters that encompass the various needs, goals, and observed behavior patterns among your real and potential customers. They help you understand your customers better.

Establishing personas will enable you to have a better understanding of the types of information you should be created to help guide site visitors through the audience engagement lifecycle, (which you can learn about in more detail by reading our book Mission Uncomfortable) the tone and timbre you should use when creating materials, and where you should focus your outreach efforts in order to get in front of your target audience most effectively.

A well-crafted persona “comes to life” as a no-nonsense representation of your core stakeholder – one with whom you can become more familiar the more you hone their description – which leads to an increased level of comfort and understanding that helps guide your outreach and content offers.

All of this research should be people-focused rather than organization-focused. The key idea behind persona development is to remind us that we attract and engage with other, identifiable people in all our interactions.

How do I develop personas?

The first step to developing personas is to create a list of questions to ask yourself and your team that will help identify the core qualities of your target stakeholders. There are no “right” or “wrong” answers as you start persona development – all answers help hone your core audience characteristics.

These representations take into account a wide range of information about your target client, customer, volunteer, donor, and community member who engages with your organization, including:

  • Demographics: Age, education level, income, marital status, etc.
  • Interests: Personal and professional interests, hobbies, activities, etc.
  • Needs/Goals: What is your persona attempting to accomplish and how will they reach these goals?
  • Challenges: What obstacles stand in their way to achieving their goals?
  • Watering holes: Where they go to get information about resources or services. Associations and networks to which they already belong. Where they turn to get answers to help them reach their goals and/or overcome challenges.
  • Organization Preferences: How they prefer to interact with organizations or resources and where they go online to research for their needs.
  • Here is a list of 100 questions you can reference when developing personas.

As you start to answer these questions, you will begin to see trends in your answers and may even be able to identify multiple audiences for whom you can develop personas. In this case, segment your answers to identify a variety of distinct personalities with whom you should interact.

Once you have answered the questions that help build a framework for your personas, develop a story around each one that brings each character “to life”. This story should paint a very clear picture of who you are seeking to entice to visit your business. Focus the story on:

  1. Roles
  2. Goals
  3. Challenges
  4. Demographics
  5. The Persona Story
  6. Name and bio photo

For each of these areas of persona development, more information is better than less. Keep in mind that your personas can evolve over time (as your organization changes, you get more familiar with your core customers, or you just get better at developing personas!).

These are not static and can change and grow often as you collect more information. The more information you can weave into your personas the better your understanding of your target stakeholders will be – and the better you can be at crafting your outreach to entice them to bond with your organization and ultimately become clients, donors, or champions.

It’s about PEOPLE

If there is one takeaway from this article, it would be to remember that you are dealing with people. We often hear our clients talk about the big investors they want to go after to help grow their organizations, mega-donors they want to attract, or giant projects they want to land.

There is nothing wrong with picking out some big players in your industry (company-wise) but always keep your focus on the people with whom you will need to establish a trusting relationship to help land that big account. Persona development is the first step on the road to successful outreach and converting traffic to stakeholders.

Want to supercharge your persona development? Download your free Ideal Client Workbook here.