Marketing Personas Are Popular Again
Over the last six months, I have been hearing more and more about nonprofits spending time building personas for their marketing and fundraising plans. I’m super excited to hear that people are coming back to this concept. At one point, personas only seemed to be something branding people would do. What’s really interesting to me is that the fundraising teams are starting to really think through this tool as well.
If you look online, you probably will see a definition that sounds something like this:
A persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers. When creating your buyer persona(s), consider including customer demographics, behavior patterns, motivations and goals. The more detailed you are, the better.
But, don’t get confused—a persona is not the same thing as segmentation. For nonprofits, it seems like the most commonly used segmentation strategy is RFM: recency of engagement, frequency of engagement and monetary value of the engagement. What I love about nonprofits starting to discuss personas at annual planning meetings is that the elements of a persona are not limited to RFM. They also are not limited to a single channel.
A good persona is one that uses your transactional data (including the data that makes up RFM) along with attitudinal data, direct consumer input (strongly encouraged), demographics and channel-preference data. There are a few important elements that must be considered:
- Personas need to have enough specificity to be able to market to a group of people based on similar traits. They can’t be too granular, but they also cannot be too generic.
- Personas should not be “age based.” While people within an age group may have similar elements, not all people within an age range are going to be the same types of donor or volunteer. Motivations, concerns and channel usage are all elements that have no age-based boundaries associated with them.
- If you have a persona engagement that doesn’t start with a goal, you have a problem. In other words, there must be a reason for having personas. Typically, the reason is to drive specific engagement or behavior. As an example, a nonprofit with a special event that happens nationally and involves a lot of people may want to develop a set of personas around that event with the goal of marketing at a more personal and targeted level to drive greater participation in the event. On the other hand, an organization may want to drive greater brand engagement overall. This type of goal also can leverage personas because an event participant typically is going to be a different type of consumer than a small-dollar donor or a mission-based volunteer. And, once again, it is not all about just age.
- Finally, a good persona plan actually includes a life-cycle element. For example, as people go through the various life-cycles (single, married without children, married with children, empty nesters, etc.), their motivations, capacities and interests also change. What this means is that an individual is not going to be one persona forever. Therefore, the organization has to have a systematic way to reassess its constituent base on a regular basis. And, with that also comes the ability to assess trends in how consumers are changing within their relationships with the brand.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a millions times: Today’s consumers need more from a brand than just basic segmentation. Developing personas will help with channel planning, message planning and much more.
Vice President, Strategy & Development
Eleventy Marketing Group
Angie is ridiculously passionate about EVERYTHING she’s involved in — including the future and success of our nonprofit industry.
Angie is a senior exec with 25 years of experience in direct and relationship marketing. She is a C-suite consultant with experience over the years at both nonprofits and agencies. She currently leads strategy and development for marketing intelligence agency Eleventy Marketing Group. Previously she has worked at the innovative startup DonorVoice and as general manager of Merkle’s Nonprofit Group, as well as serving as that firm’s CRM officer charged with driving change within the industry. She also spent more 14 years leading the marketing, fundraising and CRM areas for two nationwide charities, The Arthritis Foundation and the American Cancer Society. Angie is a thought leader in the industry and is frequent speaker at events, and author of articles and whitepapers on the nonprofit industry. She also has received recognition for innovation and influence over the years.