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Communication: how to determine your target audience and where to find it

I sometimes feel as though the persona is a sort of foggy being that enjoys hearing entrepreneurs talking about him… like a ghost on the prowl!

The aim of this article is to demystify just what the persona is by shedding light on what it involves in communications and marketing terms. After that, I’ll explain a method for finding yours with the help of a checklist, and lastly, I will share some tips on how to define it concretely.

What is a persona?

Also known as a “buyer persona,” “avatar client” or even “persona marketing,” a persona is a semi-fictitious person that represents your core target. (1) “Core target” means: “the population most targeted by your product or service (…) that should, theoretically, contribute the better part of your sales revenue.” (2)

In short, your core target is the market you are targeting. You obviously need to have a core target to define your strategy, but it alone is not enough as it doesn’t include your customer’s psychological side (their challenges, issues, fears, frustrations, etc.). That’s where the persona comes in! To lay things out for you: just because two people of the same age and gender live in the same town doesn’t mean they share the same interests.

Emphasizing such human factors is what will help your marketing messages really sell your products or services. Your communications and marketing messages will be much more impactful if you are speaking to a real person rather than an abstract market!

In my experience, and in less jargonistic terms, I would define persona as being:

  • The portrait of my ideal customer
  • A person who really exists
  • The most concrete example possible of a person in the core of my target

When to determine your persona?

  1. In the ideation phase: because it involves making choices and enables you to move forward (even if it can be hard when that means backing down from certain things, I know… 😉)
  2. During prototyping (from idea challenging through to on-the-ground reality): here, you move forward by validating or ruling out your starting assumptions
  3. Once your solution is under way, 6 months to a year after its launch, to refine your strategy (business and communications)

This generally applies at the launch of your business, as well as at the launch of each significant new offering.

How many personas?

In theory, it’s ideal to have one for each offering. Each customer avatar with its own distinct challenges and objectives… so you can have several. In practice, however, I strongly recommend keeping your persona count to no more than three starting out, especially if you’re doing it alone! Communications can be very time-consuming…

Precisely define the person who best represents your main target audience! You will be able to make adjustments down the road or even add more, depending how your business develops.

How to define your persona?

Start by compiling an overall picture of your ideal customer based on your own experience and your target audience:

  • Who do I absolutely want to avoid? Do I have a concrete example?
  • Who do I prefer and want to work with? Does a specific person come to mind? If so, use this to describe your persona
  • What are that person’s specific traits?
  • What values should be shared for a healthy and lasting working relationship?
  • Is he or she able to pay me?

Next, create an “identity card” for your persona depicting his / her characteristics:

  • First name
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Geographical and cultural origin
  • Family status: married, single, with or without children, etc.
  • Social and professional category: education, degrees, professional experiences, etc.
  • Profession: level of responsibility and estimate of income

Once you have his/her ID, think about any connection that might exist (or could be created) between that persona and your offering:

  • What are his / her needs?
  • His or her short, medium and long-term goals?
  • His or her motivations?
  • His or her fears?
  • His or her issue: the “pain points” in what she or he is doing to reach her / his goals?

 Where and how to find the information?

On your own, to begin. Use empathy and consider your offering(s). Try to put yourself in the shoes of your ideal customer and answer the questions listed above.

Next, from your existing customers (or qualified prospects, if need be). Depending on your business model, if what you want above all else are qualitative results, you can use interviews. If, however, quantity is what you need, surveys are the way to go.

Your next step is competitive intelligence. Analyze your competition’s digital content: their websites, social networks, etc. What style, tone, keywords, visuals, etc. do they use do draw in their audience?

Lastly, a huge amount of data is available through digital marketing. If you use any such tools in your communications, you should be able to find interesting information about your customers via:

  • Google analytics
  • Studio creator for Facebook ad campaigns
  • The impact of your newsletter. Some examples of tools: mailerlite, mailchimp… It can be a good idea when you’re starting out to cross statistics from your newsletter with information available on LinkedIn (with the email address and contact information of your subscribers…)

The consequences for your business

The answers to these questions will help you see whether or not your offering is likely to attract real interest from your core target. The outcome might validate your strategy. If not, it means:

  • Either that you core target is not the one you had imagined, and you will need to adjust your communications strategy
  • Or that your offering should be reworked to address your customer’s “true” demand

At this stage, you have gathered enough information to be able to detect your persona’s purchase objections, or in other words, reasons that might prevent them from buying your solution. Proceed point by point to find arguments to remove their potential objections. This information is extremely valuable for finding relevant selling points.

Find out where and how they search for solutions to resolve the issues they are facing, and arm yourself with sales arguments that hit home to win them over!

My piece of advice: combine logic and efficiency

Try your assumptions on a dozen prospects and/or customers you know, and take a look at what your competition is doing. Marketing experts would probably recommend spending a lot of time (and energy) on it. The way I see it, spending too much time on points like this one puts off the “real” challenges involved in launching and securing your activity. So do it seriously, of course! But try not to let tasks that are on the sidelines of your core activity become excuses to dilly-dally on your entrepreneurial project. You need to strike the right balance…


To take things a step further…

Read the second part of this article : using your persona to optimize your decisions


(1) definition of buyer persona / (2) definition of core target (website in French)

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