Yes, that's me: center stage as Sandy Dumbrowski in Grease.
I was a theatre kid, so when I first started working in marketing and had to talk through some target audience exercises my immediate thought was "YES! I get this! It's character work."
If you've ever taken an acting class, you are nodding your head in agreement right now. If the theatre is a totally foreign concept to you, let me explain: as an actor, there is so much more work that goes into building a character than what you see on the page. In order to add depth to words in a script, you have to create a backstory for your character--you have to think about what they like to eat, what kinds of activities they'd enjoy, maybe even what kind of student they were in school or what their parents were like. All of these things are the small elements that make a character less two-dimensional and, well, more human.
The same thing goes for building personas for your target audience(s). You have to do a deep dive into what makes them human in order to figure out how to connect with them. Once you figure out gender and age groups, here are some ways to start thinking about how to humanize them.
Which stage of life are they in?
Are they in college? Entering the working world? A new mom? A divorced dad? Understanding where they are in the timeline of their lives will give you a better idea of their state of mind and what they need right now. For example, if you sell makeup it's helpful to know that someone in their 20's will be wearing it to go out dancing with friends, whereas a new mom in her 30's is looking for something quick and easy to help her look less exhausted. Creating different pieces of content that speaks to these two different audiences will help you sell the same product, just in different ways.
What are their interests outside of work?
Everyone has hobbies, and it's important to consider what your target audience does in their spare time to help you better understand what drives and motivates them. Even if you can identify that they are passionate about, let's say, fitness, you still have to narrow that down further to identify their particular niche. For example, if you are a personal trainer who specializes in HIIT workouts, it's helpful to know if you are talking to someone who likes high-octane workouts like a spin class, or who opts for more mellow forms of exercise like slow flow yoga or pilates.
Where do they live?
Is your ideal client a city mouse or a country mouse? Or are they living in the suburbs and driving a minivan? Understanding these aspects of their lives will help you communicate with them in a way that creates a more authentic connection. For example, if you own a restaurant in a city you'd be able to adjust your messaging depending on the audience. You can talk to suburban parents about coming into the city for a date night, and to city folks about coming by for your new happy hour specials.
What are their pain points?
This is probably one of the most important questions to ask during the persona development process, especially if you are a B2B business. Knowing what your target audience is currently struggling with, what they need help with, or what will make their lives easier, allows you to swoop in and start problem solving for them. For example, if your company sells software to small businesses it helps to understand exactly what small business owners find annoying about their current software. You can then spend time creating content that highlights how your software will bridge that gap for them, making their buying decision much easier.
Build Your Personas Today
While it might seem like a lot of work to pull all of these data points together (or lots of assumptions if you're just getting started), it's an effort that will pay off in the long run. Once you start to craft content that is tailored to specific target demographics, you have a much greater chance of improving your ROI on every piece of content you create.
The added benefit of locking down all these details before you start to work on your messaging and marketing efforts? Eventually, should you choose to do paid advertisements with Facebook and Instagram, you'll have access to the exact demographic information that you need to put together hyper-targeted ads.
If you're dreading having to do this type of exercise for your business, I know an ex-theater kid who would love to help.