If you want to target your potential audience in the best possible way, you need to know them as well as possible (without getting creepy). You need to know their hopes, fears, dreams, favourite animal… okay, maybe not quite that far, but you need to know as much as you can find out. More than anything else, you need to know why they’re your target audience, why they would be interested in your product, and what they expect from you.

Targeting everything to a specific individual is going to be too complicated. People are all different, after all. What you need to do is strike the right balance between a tailored, focused approach and one that’s too broad. Enter ‘personas’ – broader groups differentiated by age, income, budget, approach, or all of the above, into which your audience members fall. Define your main personas and you can then target them in a simpler, but effective, way. You can have as many as you want – or just one – but three is generally a solid number.

Personas are useful because they let you tailor your approach. They’re also useful because they really get you thinking about your audience and what they need. What makes them tick? What are their concerns? They give you a better understanding of your dream buyers, but also of your own business and how people see you. Your persona-building can be informed by market research, customer feedback, and social media, and with these tools you can form detailed, knowledgeable models of your target audience and existing customers alike.

As an example, I decided to come up with three different personas for Business 2 Community itself. I’d like to point out first that these personas are completely made-up, not based on actual data, and don’t make up the entirety of the Business 2 Community audience – it’s a hypothetical exercise to explain how it’s done!

The Thought Leader

Name: David
Age: 35-50
Role: MD at a successful and innovative tech startup.
Attitude: Wants to share his hard-won marketing wizardry and techniques for the greater good, and also wants to network with other thought leaders. Feels it is important to keep at the forefront of marketing and social media developments.
Influenced by: Technology magazines such as Wired, other thought leaders on Twitter, CEOs of major companies, popular marketing blogs, and mainstream media.
Overview: David was an early evangelist of social media and SEO, enthusiastically learning more back when people hadn’t quite caught on. Now he’s an expert and has applied this knowledge to great effect at his own company. He’s a big believer in using the web to network and connect – an enthusiastic guest blogger with an extremely impressive Twitter following, his tips and knowledge are invaluable to many.
How can you target your content at him? Readers such as David are focused on more advanced articles, rather than beginners’ guides. They’re interested in opinion pieces from peers and experts, especially if these opinions are a bit controversial.

The Ambitious Account Manager

Name: Lucy
Age: Late twenties
Role: Senior account manager at a digital agency.
Attitude: Believes social and SEO are the future, and wants to teach herself more about this in order to progress – very ambitious.
Influenced by: Leading industry blogs, the marketing press, mainstream newspapers, and follows thought leaders on Twitter.
Overview: Lucy has worked at this agency for four years, and is eager to progress further. By taking the initiative to learn more about SEO and social media, and how best to implement it, she hopes to improve the performance of her clients’ accounts and to impress the company directors.
How can you target your content at her? Readers such as Lucy will be interested in new and innovative ways to use their existing social media skills, and quick round-ups of the latest movements in the marketing world.

The Determined Small Business Owner

Name: Darren
Age: 40
Role: Owns a small, new, IT company.
Attitude: Just left his old company to start his own, and eager to take a structured approach to marketing it.
Influenced by: Technology press and blogs; leading marketing, SEO and social media blogs; mainstream newspapers; tech news on Twitter
Overview: Darren recently decided to follow his dream and set up shop alone. His several years experience in business taught him about the importance of good marketing, but it wasn’t his department at the time – however, he wants to learn. As he’s at the beginning of his venture, money is tight, so he’s teaching himself.
How can you target your content at him? Readers such as Darren will be interested in learning everything – they’ll probably have an understanding of marketing principles, but they won’t be experts. Beginner’s guides and cheat-sheets to more general SEO will be most useful.

These are just examples – but they show how turning statistics and data into actual relatable personas, similar to people you’ll have met in real life, can help you get inside the motivations of your audiences and tailor your content to their needs. It’s a simple exercise that pays dividends. Give it a whirl today – what have you got to lose?