How to Develop a Target Persona and Reach Your Audience

A Guide on How to Develop a Target Persona and Reach Your Audience (Hint: Stop Over-Creating)

by | Jan 24, 2017 | Content Marketing

Did you know there are over 200 million pieces of online content created every minute?

205 million emails, 3.5 million Facebook and Twitter posts, 400 hours of YouTube videos, and 1,200 WordPress blog posts later, the evidence is there. Internet users create a ton of content.

Even with so much time and energy spent on writing and sharing content, the more shocking statistic may be the amount that is not shared, clicked, or retweeted. After Moz pulled 757,000 posts for analysis, they found that half had less than 12 Twitter shares and zero external links.

That’s a scary low amount of engagement. The audience was not even there, and their disinterest showed.

So, how do we avoid making the same mistake?

It happens when we stop creating too much ineffective content, and start focusing on engaging our audience based on a target persona.

In this guide, I’m going to give you an actual guide to creating a nitty-gritty target persona, four keys to talking to your target persona and reaching them with your content, then go into a guide on how to stop over-creating, and dive deep into reader-persona-tailored creation. Ready?

how to develop a target persona

How to Develop a Target Persona: Your Granular Guide to Creating a Target Persona

There are so many guides out there that tell you why it’s important to build a marketing persona, without also telling you how to do it. Generalities are all well and good, but they don’t get you very far!

So, with that in mind, let’s break down how to build a customized, specific persona that helps you understand who your brand should be talking to.

I teach how to build this in-depth persona, and get to know your audience like a friend, in Module 2 in my Content Strategy & Marketing Course.

1. Draw the outline of your perfect customer

To build the foundation for your persona, answer these questions right now:

  • Does the person tend to be male or female?
  • How old is he or she?
  • Does this person have a family? A spouse?
  • Where does this person live?
  • What does this person do?
  • What type of company and industry do they work within?

For example: Meet Leader Larry. Leader Larry tends to be male, he’s generally between 40-55 years old, he’s married, with two teenage children. He works as a senior manager for a major “Fintech” company.

2. Get granular with your details of the persona

You’ve got the outline, now it’s time to dive deeper with your details. Answer specific questions, like the following:

  • What is his biggest pain point?
  • What are the biggest challenges or difficulties this person faces within their job?
  • Is your target persona the one making the decisions or does he need to talk to upper management?

For example: Leader Larry’s biggest pain point is developing customized training and educational materials to help bring his staff up to speed on new technologies. While he’s a senior manager, he’s not the ultimate decision maker in his company, and, thanks to corporate red tape, he’s finding it difficult to create training materials and have them approved by upper management in a time-effective manner.

3. Figure out how your persona accesses and consumes content

  • Does your target persona engage on a mobile device or a desktop computer?
  • Does this person consume content during the working hours or after-hours, while he or she is at home?
  • How much content does this person consume? Do they want more?
  • Does your target persona use social networks? If so, which ones? HINT: If you have a person in mind who represents your target audience very closely, head to his or her Twitter feed to see what they’re sharing, reading, and interacting with. This will help you hone your content down the road.
  • Who does this person see as an influencer?
  • What do they care about enough to trigger a purchase?

For example: Leader Larry uses a desktop computer to consume content during the working hours. He maintains a profile on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. He’s an active reader of industry news and updates. He participates in several relevant LinkedIn groups, where he meets influencers and consumes related content.

4. Put it all together

Now that you’ve developed an accurate picture of your target persona, it’s time to put it all together. From here, you’ll be able to identify the content types this person is likely to enjoy, the channels you should publish them in, and the pain points you’ll need to solve to earn (and keep) this person as a client.

Bear in mind that target personas may change or shift over time, so it’s essential to keep revisiting the information you’ve developed here to ensure it’s still relevant, and update it if need be.

4 Keys of Developing Content that Speaks to Your Target Persona

Next, let’s take an overview look at four keys that help you know how to create, and who to create your content for.

How to Create for Your Target Persona Key #1: Readers Are Like Celebrities, Give Them the Red Carpet Treatment

The Golden Globes recently took place in LA, and if you know anything about Hollywood awards shows, you know that the events are a big deal. From who wore what (and who wore it best) to the viral speeches, there is almost always a surprise or two that no one saw coming.

This year, the Globes averaged 20 million viewers; while that huge number could have been credited to the host or the Trump jabs (or both), it was an 8% increase in viewers over 2016.

There are some key points we can take away for our content marketing efforts and target persona development that come straight out of a Hollywood awards show.

Ready to dive in? Let’s go!

How to Create Content for Your Target Persona Key #2: Your Audience Wants Something Rich

In a fast-paced, technology-driven world, your audience doesn’t have time to sit and read long paragraphs of boring content before finally getting to the point. (Neil Patel) Rich content must be short, sweet, and relevant.

The stars don’t walk the Red Carpet in an off-the-rack dress from Target. They don glamorous designer dresses that cost a pretty penny that fit the theme of the night.

Your audience doesn’t want off-rack-content; they want rich, engaging material.

If you find that creating content rich in relevance is challenging, you are not alone—nearly half of content marketers surveyed say that their lack of strategy development is a contributing factor to their stagnant success. (Content Marketing Institute)

stagnantWhoever your customer may be, they deserve more. If what you are delivering is the same as your competitors or it lacks what your audience needs, they will move on until they find a better solution.

How to Create for Your Target Persona Key #3: Your Audience Needs Special Attention

What would be the point of a Red Carpet without flashing cameras, interviewing journalists, and a live television broadcast? The whole idea behind the opening of awards shows is to pay attention to the stars.

Your audience needs the same attention. They should be lavished with relevant understanding of their needs and shareable content that fills blog posts, social media sites, and emails on a consistent basis.

Whether they know it or not, your readers are looking for something tailor-made, something that will jump out and hit them where they need it most. And if we can’t get it to them within an average of 15 seconds (Time), we may have missed our chance.

How to Create Content for Your Target Persona Key #4: Your Audience Wants You to Use Their Name

No one wants to be just another face in the crowd, lost in a sea of generic, watered-down messages that are unfocused and irrelevant.

There is a reason the barista at your local coffee shop calls out the name of a customer when their extra-hot-soy-latte-no-foam is ready.

It’s personal.

Relevant content creation is easier when it’s written toward one particular person, which is why every writer needs to develop a persona.

3 Additional Methods to Stop Creating Content and Start Developing a Persona

Michael Brenner from CMI reminds us that when we are creating content, one problem that can arise is creating for the boss, when we should be creating for the audience we are aiming to reach, engage, and convert.

The challenge is to stop creating content, and instead focus on creating a content brand as we focus on our target persona. Let’s discuss how, in three additional nitty-gritty steps.

1. Get Personal (Human Factor)

Writing for one general group of readers misses the human factor that must be present for content marketing to be effective.

Developing a buyer persona provides us with the perspective and focus necessary to visualize that one person, that target goal, who is the reason behind why we develop content in the first place.

So how does that happen?

    • We figure out who our target is through customer data (Google Analytics).
    • We learn who our competitors are (Kissmetrics).
    • We dig into social media comments, personal interviews, and surveys to find out how to develop a buyer persona (HubSpot).

2. Lavish Your Audience with Love (Engagement)

Engaging your customers means first knowing your target audience and then understanding how to reach them.

Yes, this may mean you need to move out of your comfy cozy corner of content marketing and branch out to try something new.

It means lavishing your audience with diverse, exciting content that they will engage with–created with love, just for them.

Diversified content uses infographics, videos, and relevant subheadings to draw the reader in and make them want to stay. “Scannable,” readable content is key to keep busy people engaged, so don’t forget bullet points, lists, and revising your headline till you reach perfection.

3. Show Them They’re Special (Focus)

When you make a concentrated effort to develop content that is focused on your audience, it will show. The engagement will be present, the shares will increase, and the readers will keep coming back for more.

As SmartBlogger reminds us, readers don’t want to be informed; they want to be seduced.

Don’t worry about being someone else or following another writer’s style; there are enough imitators in the world. Your unique quality content and focused voice on a topic or brand is what should shine in your content; your efforts are worth more than simply filling a page with words.

Stop Creating Too Much Content This Year, and Work On Creating the Right Content


Our challenge in this New Year is to stop creating content simply for the sake of creation.

Instead, engage your readers by intentionally focusing on their specific needs, and then developing a buyer persona so you who to focus on, help, and speak to–and watch your content results soar!

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