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Written by Whitney Raver
on August 18, 2020


Whether you’re brand new to inbound marketing or you’ve been learning about it for a while, you’ve likely heard that the key to inbound success is in understanding our target audience through well-crafted buyer personas.

Well, we’re here to tell you the same thing. It’s absolutely true: the success of your inbound marketing campaign depends on how well you relate to your target audience. That’s why it’s so important to leave no stone unturned when it comes to researching your buyer personas, or persona profiles.

As an academic institution, you’re focused on some very specific demographics. But, as you know, everyone considering your school isn’t necessarily poured from the same mold. That’s why it’s so important to segment your message.

At What’s the Word we see consistent results from our inbound marketing campaigns, and they all begin with these 8 steps. Read this entire article before getting started on your own persona, then take your time completing each step.

And when you’re done, if you feel you need a little more guidance or if you’d just like to save some time, feel free to download our free Persona Profile Template.


Step 1: Get acquainted

Before you start your research, think about what you already know about your target audience. Are you trying to reach a man or woman? A recent high school graduate or a parent returning to college? Are you reaching out to prospective students or their parents?

When you’ve pinned down the persona you want to start with, begin by creating a name. In the example below, we’ve chosen the name “Small Business Brady” because it describes the persona’s primary function and ascribes a name that personalizes our internal conversations about him.

When you have your name picked out, choose a picture to go with it. We use for many of our internal requirements.


Step 2: Understand your persona’s background.

A key strength of inbound marketing is the opportunity to forge relationships with your target audience by showing you can relate to them. Understanding your prospect’s background makes it easier to start a conversation around their needs and interests.

If you’re thinking about a prospective student looking to attend secondary school straight out of high school, some important background demographics include number of siblings, their place in the birth order, or the organization of their family unit. Leveraging this information allows you to break the ice quickly for more meaningful conversation through your content.


Step 3: Identify your persona’s learning habits.

What are your persona’s learning habits? What are their preferred subjects? Their GPA? This is going to give you some idea of what your target persona is looking for in a school and whether or not you have it. And if you do have what they’re looking for, you have to figure out how to flaunt it.

Which brings us to the second point: where do your prospects go for information? Are they search engine addicts? Frequent social media users? Do they know how to access academic-grade research tools? All of these things help you discover where and how to promote your content.

Step 4: Consider your persona’s life experience.

There’s a big difference between appealing to a teenager still in high school and breaking the ice with a parent returning to school after several years of work. Consideration for your persona’s life experiences is paramount to building trust through your content.


Download Parent Persona Template


Step 5: Define your persona’s goals and challenges.

If you don’t know what your persona’s want and what’s keeping them from getting it, you don’t have anything to talk about. Even if your target persona is simply looking to meet an external expectation, it’s up to you to relate to that and get your persona inspired and motivated—or at least set them at ease.


Step 6. Know your persona’s logistics and metrics.

Everyone has their own definition of success. In today’s world we are more strongly encouraged than ever before to be aware of those definitions and follow them. Knowing what tools your persona uses for self-betterment, how your persona defines and measures success, and how they motivate themselves to work toward their goals is foundational.


Step 7: Preempt their preferred contact methods.

For inbound marketing, success comes from offering the right content in the right place at the right time. The information above will help you create the right content, and posting it to the web will ensure it’s available at the right time. So the quandary is getting it in the right place.

Preempt your target persona’s preferred contact method. That can be anything from email to text to social media. Be sure you’re ready to meet your prospects where they are to get the word out about the new content offers you create.


Step 8: Put it all together.

Now that you’ve got your target persona all figure out, bring everything together with a story. Fit the pieces together into a narrative that fleshes out your persona as a three-dimensional representation of the real people you’ll be talking to.


There, you’re all set. Now you know exactly how to create a well-rounded profile persona to help you understand, identify, and attract members of your target audience.

Now that you’ve got it all down on paper, don’t keep it to yourself. Share your completed persona with everyone in your organization. Make sure you’re all on the same page. Keep your marketing and recruiting efforts aligned by honing your conversation in around your profile personas.


Download Parent Persona Template


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