Marketing is all about attracting the right people to your brand, gaining their attention, intriguing them with relevant information, and then helping them along the journey towards purchasing what you offer. To do this in education requires that you know who these potential buyers are and how to speak to them. This is where buyer (or marketing) personas come in. A persona is how others perceive a person’s character, and a buyer persona is a fictional individual who represents the essential qualities of the people who are the target audience for your messaging. Buyer personas are used internally as a tool to help companies better understand their ideal clients.
Education is Constantly Changing
Because our education infrastructure is rapidly shifting to respond to a changing society and emphasize student outcomes, wrap-around services rather than siloed departments is the new normal. Thus, your product or service may be part of a shared architecture within a school or college to help education professionals work together to bring effective learning into the program for each student.
Multiple Personas Within Each Institution
Most education products or services will have multiple buyer personas, so you will likely need to develop a set of three or more personas to help you reach your audience. In addition, there are many layers within the hierarchy of institutions requiring marketers to consider the needs of the different levels of administration and instructional personnel as they position their products and services for stakeholders.
Getting a Better Feel for Your Targets
You may need to convince differing departments who collaborate to use your solution, as when working with student services and academic deans or school counselors and classroom teachers. The same ideas hold true, whether you are marketing to teachers or other staff, chairpersons or other department heads, deans and provosts, or superintendents and university presidents. By developing a separate persona for each user type or decision maker, you’ll begin to understand the differences in their needs and experiences. Understanding how your potential purchasers “feel” and their emotional state of mind can help all types of marketing efforts. This is something raw data and job titles can’t accomplish.
What Goes into an Education Buyer Persona?
Building specific details into your persona gives your team insight into the complexity of the people you are talking to and makes it easier to see them as real humans with needs and interests. Most likely, you will give this persona a name, such as Superintendent Sonya or Chief Technology Officer Chet. Next, you will figure out all the demographic information about this persona, such as age, ethnicity, income, background, hobbies, family status, social activities, personality characteristics, emotional needs, work stressors, etc. You never know when one of these details will be crucial to how you market to this target. For instance, many media librarians in K12 settings are female and enjoy reading sci-fi/fantasy books, but they are frustrated by trying to satisfy students and administration with too little time and money for their programs. This amount of detail may help you design marketing that will best catch the attention of these targets by using language and channels that will resonate with this persona.
An essential aspect of the buyer persona for marketing purposes is to find out what digital spaces your target uses. Do they hang out on LinkedIn? Twitter? Facebook? Mainly read email? The communication channels that will best reach your target are part of their emotional makeup, but they are also vital to planning your marketing strategy.
What Does Your Education Target Need and Want?
In addition to demographics, you will want to build a model that includes the persona’s goals, needs, desires, and pain points. This might consist of personal goals such as retiring soon or professional goals like moving up in their position within education. Their needs may include serving a large immigrant student population with English language fluency deficits or modernizing and integrating their technology systems to satisfy institutional oversight. Pain points can be anything from a staff shortage to competition between departments that create a divisive environment. Finally, their desires may include such items as taking an onerous task off their plates or pleasing the local community so that they enjoy more popular support.
What Does Your Education Marketing Persona Need?
Research is your first step in developing a buyer persona (or three) for your product. Find out who your current buyers are and who your competitors sell to, and examine your web and social media traffic analytics. Next, ask your salespeople or other client-facing staff to provide more information about your customers and research new markets to discover their needs and purchasing streams. Pull in all of the details you can from every source.
As you look at your research, pick out the most likely targets and develop just a few personas to start. You can always add to your list later, but getting started is often the most challenging part, so don’t set too big a task for yourself. Try to include a range of the levels of purchasing stakeholders that you serve, giving a broad coverage of your possible targets. Within these personas, you will develop very detailed models of your potential buyers, giving them shape and texture that will help you creatively tailor your marketing efforts to best meet these targets where they are.
The Value of Creating Marketing Personas in Education
Each buyer persona you create represents a whole host of possible clients. Though they may not look exactly like the persona you have made, this model human will help you identify your ideal clients and speak to them with your marketing strategies. Developing personas doesn’t replace the need to know your actual customers, as you will learn more about the people your product reaches over time, but personas are a handy shortcut. Personas are a tool you can use to make your marketing more successful and bring in more sales. Use your research, brainstorming, and creativity to come up with these avatars, and you will find that your thinking will shift.
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