How Do I Segment My Audience and Build Personas?

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By Laura Rives — Oct 3, 2019 11:00 AM


A persona is an abstract, semi-fictional characterization of a market segment based on both research and collected data.

In the past, personas were built using demographic data like age, race, and gender. But that doesn’t tell us anything about their preferences or how they make decisions. Truly meaningful personas are constructed with motivators and behaviors in mind.

A detailed persona will help you focus time and efforts and attract the most valuable visitors, donors, alumni, and potential students to your institution.

Additional benefits to persona creation include:

  • Content that makes an impact. If you’re aligned with your audiences’ interests, you’ll gain their attention—and their trust.
  • Increased readership. If you know where a group prefers to consume content (social media, for example), you’ll know how to optimize promotion techniques.
  • Consistency among the institution. With a common nomenclature, different departments can speak the same language when talking about students, donors, alumni, etc.
  • Better courses. The more you know about your prospective and current students, the more you can tailor their academic experience.

There are numerous groups within the higher education ecosystem. High schoolers, parents, teachers, coaches, adult learners, graduate school candidates, current students, alumni, donors, faculty, press, and more come to mind.

But don’t feel overwhelmed. The number of personas you create should be directly correlated to your marketing strategy. Focus on the five (or fewer) that will help you meet your marketing goals.

When building personas, consider:

  • Demographics. How old are they? Where do they live? What’s their current education level? 
  • Identifiers. What do they do for fun? Do they work? Where do they consume content?
  • Challenges. What hardships or challenges do they face? What might prevent them from scheduling a tour or applying?
  • Goals. What type of academic experience are they looking for? What social opportunities are interesting to them?

Finally, in an effort to create a seamless personalization experience across channels, connect website visitor data with your tech stack. Let the data build over time and guide your future marketing strategy.

To learn how we can help you on your path to personalization, please reach out to request access to Clive, Hannon Hill’s new engagement platform built to deliver the right message to the right people at the right time. Email to to request an account today.