CREATING PERSONAS: HOW TO AVOID STEREOTYPES AND TARGET YOUR PUBLIC
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Personas are key tools in marketing to your target publics. By making a persona, you ultimately create a person whom you envision represents your target public accurately. This way, you can attribute more characteristics to your audience and understand them better. However, it can be difficult to avoid stereotyping when creating personas. In order to remain ethical and be accurate in your personas, you need to be able to avoid those stereotypes. Below are a few aspects to keep in mind when creating personas.
What Is a Persona?
In order to create a persona, we first need to understand what a persona is. According to Sam Kusinitz in her article, “The Definition of a Buyer Persona [in Under 100 Words],” at HubSpot “a buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.” This means that you are creating a model of the public you are targeting using the information you already know about your current publics.
Kusinitz goes on to explain in her article how the more detailed your persona is the better. She recommends “including customer demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, and goals.” All of these characteristics of your target public work together to paint a clearer picture of who you are actually marketing to.
How does stereotyping become a concern when creating personas?
Creating personas does not equal making assumptions about your target public. In order to be ethical and accurate, you need to research your target publics. Otherwise, your personas will be an inaccurate and ineffective representation of your publics.
There is a misconception that stereotyping plays a major role in personas. While this happens, it is not the goal of a persona to stereotype a group of people. In contrast, personas are meant to represent the target public of an organization. However, this becomes confused with stereotyping because generalizations tend to be made.
How Can I Avoid Stereotyping When Creating Personas?
While it can be easy to fall into stereotyping when making personas, there are steps you can take to avoid this. Being aware of the possibility of stereotyping occurring is the first aspect to keep in mind when making personas. If you realize you are slipping into stereotyping, then take a step back and evaluate why you were led to that thought process. Keep this in mind throughout the entire process. Here are four more strategies to use:
Do your research.
To avoid making blind assumptions about your target public, you need to do your research. In Pamela Vaughan’s article, “How to Create Detailed Buyer Personas for Your Business [Free Persona Template],” at HubSpot, she details three ways you can accurately research your publics: research, surveys, and interviews.
Vaughn discusses in her article how you can use your contacts database and communicate with your sales team to look for trends in your customers’ habits and personalities. Interviewing current and potential customers about your products and services is another effective research tactic, according to Vaughn. She recommends that after you complete your research, the next step is to look for the similarities and trends in the data.
Be aware of your personal biases and assumptions when creating personas.
When creating personas, make sure you evaluate your own personal biases and assumptions about your target audience. Are these attitudes founded on research or were there outside and internal influences coming into play? Personas should be data-driven. Once you complete a survey or interview, you need to take the data as it comes without inserting your own opinions as to why the trends are occurring. Now, there will always be some speculation when it comes to creating personas because you cannot fully understand customers’ motives and attitudes. However, you should be able to logically justify your interpretations with the research you conduct.
Create multiple personas.
How many personas you create will depend on the size of your organization. However, make sure you do not go overboard with your personas. If you have too many, you will be segmenting your audience too much. How will you effectively market to them if you are targeting a wide variety of the population? This is why you need to focus your personas to cover the main trends of your consumer base.
Creating multiple personas is an effective strategy for avoiding stereotyping. When you have more targeted personas, it becomes more difficult to make generalizations about a population. It also is helpful to analyze each persona against the others to see if there are any trends of overgeneralizations and inaccuracies. This will help you find any biases easier than if you only have only one persona.
Evaluate your personas.
Evaluation is also key to avoiding stereotyping when making personas. Go back to the data and see how your product compares to your findings. Make sure you can logically reason through your choices based on the data. It is also wise to have someone from a department like sales evaluate your personas, especially as departments like sales interact with customers daily. This way, they can provide feedback on if the personas are an accurate representation of who you are targeting and want to target.
Personas are an effective tactic to use in marketing and public relations. When making personas, be sure to be mindful of your own opinions and biases to avoid stereotyping. Personas should be data-driven. Therefore, by conducting research and evaluating them through every step, you will be able to avoid stereotyping and instead, ethically target your public.