Who is your audience?

Let’s get right to it - who are your website visitors? If you had to put your visitors into just a handful of buckets, how would you classify them? Millennial women, decision-makers at other businesses, parents?

The first step to personalizing your web experience for visitors is to understand who they are. Depending on the goals of your website, this may be very specific (such as a female swimsuit store) or more broad (a foodie blog). Try to think of your ideal customer, based on market size, who will be the most likely to engage or buy from you, etc. Get specific and, from this, start to develop your personas.

What’s a “persona”?

Ardath Albee had a great description of a marketing persona:

A marketing persona is a composite sketch of a key segment of your audience. For content marketing purposes, you need personas to help you deliver content that will be most relevant and useful to your audience.

If you’ve already gone through some marketing exercises or have a strategy developed, you may have already established your core business personas. If so, you’re ahead of the curve! If not, take the next few days to identify who your core target visitors are...feel free to even give them a name and backstory. For example, if we’re selling children’s clothing online:

Jill is a 31 year old first-time mother looking to buy affordable clothes for her toddler. She lives with her husband of 3 years, works full-time as a nurse, and contributes to a household income of $150,000.

Creating stories around your personas allow you to get into your visitors’ heads, to understand where they’re coming from and how they may be feeling when they’re interacting with your website.

Break down your personas into segments

Now that you have your persona’s identified (or you’re at least beginning to think about it more), consider how you can break them down into bite-sized segments. In our example with Jill above, we can break that into a number of segments:

  • Gender: female
  • Age: 30’s
  • Relationship status: Married
  • Parental status: Has child
  • Household Income: Low six figures
  • Occupation: Nurse
  • Child age: Toddler

Now, all of these may not apply. For example, unless we’re selling clothing for nurses, Jill’s occupation doesn’t apply. Her age and relationship status may not matter, either. If we’re selling a premium, trendy product, her income, age, and child’s age would definitely apply. Take note of which segments actually matter to your business model and which you want to attract.

A few notes:

  • Segments can be overlapping. Never define segments such that they’re mutually exclusive. It should be okay for a single visitor to exist in multiple (or no) segments at once.

  • Segments can be fluid. A visitor may exist in a series of segments today, but change tomorrow. That’s okay! People grow and change in different ways and you need to account for that.

  • Be as specific or general as you like. There’s no hard and fast rulebook on how to break down your prospective customer base. You know best, so get as granular as you like and leave our segments or visitor information that you don’t care about.

  • Personas are specific combinations of segments. Once you get down to the segment level, don’t forget about the personas you started with. A persona will ultimately be defined as a specific set of segments.