In this blog post, we'll explore what buyer personas are, why associations should use them, and provide an actionable guide to creating buyer personas tailored to your organization. You'll learn how to bring your audiences to life through data-driven personas and use them to craft resonating messaging and experiences.
We've also included examples of common association buyer personas and a free customizable template to get you started on better segmenting and engaging your members.
Read on to unlock the power of persona-based marketing for associations.
“Personas are fictional characters you create based on research, and they represent segments of your market.”
— Product Marketing Alliance
Personas are created based on research, data analysis, and insights about the association's members, stakeholders, or potential audiences. The main questions to be answered with this research is to help you identify the problems or challenges that a member or learner encounters in their profession and industry.
Once you’re able to understand the challenges they face, then it’s time to answer the essential question: “How does our organization help address or solve these problems?”
There are two common types of personas that are similar but distinctly different: buyer personas and user personas. Buyer personas represent the people who make purchasing decisions, while user personas represent the people who actually use the product or service.
For our purposes we’re focusing on buyer personas to help you market your association’s membership and other offerings. We’re not trying to understand how a persona navigates your association management system (AMS) or learning management system (LMS), which would be more in line with user persona development.
It’s simple—persona-based marketing will make your life easier. Buyer personas can help associations understand the characteristics, needs, motivations, and behaviors of different groups of people, therefore enabling them to tailor their marketing strategies and communications.
When you truly know your audience, you’re able to reach them effectively and efficiently. You know what websites they frequent, what social media platforms they use the most, what inspires them, and what challenges they are encountering, and so on. It becomes easier for you to create great content, craft messaging, and know where to allocate time and attention.
You can go about creating personas for your marketing in many ways—the approach will be unique for every organization. But there are some key tasks to complete to develop well-rounded personas. Spoiler alert: It involves a lot of research and data gathering.
But first, there are some definitions to understand before you get started:
So, in summary:
Now that we’ve defined those terms, here’s a process you could consider following when developing your association’s buyer personas:
A disclaimer for all you associations out there! You know the saying “results may vary”? It applies here, too! The buyer personas you define for your organization may or may not match up exactly to the common segments we’ve outlined below—and that’s okay. Our high-level examples are a great starting place to get your wheels turning as to what your personas may look like.
Here are some of the more common buyer personas often encountered in association marketing:
The Professional Seeker is a hyper-motivated learner that’s always trying to get ahead! This persona represents individuals who are actively seeking professional development opportunities, such as continuing education, certifications, and networking events. They are motivated by career advancement and staying up to date with industry trends.
The Industry Enthusiast is uber passionate about their industry or field (hence why you’re marketing to them). They are likely actively engaged in their profession and seeking opportunities to connect with like-minded individuals, share knowledge, and contribute to the industry's growth.
The Decision Maker is the boss, the big cheese, the head honcho. This persona represents influential individuals who hold leadership positions within their companies and have decision-making power. They may include executives, managers, or business owners who seek industry insights, best practices, and solutions that can benefit their company.
The Supporter is your biggest champion, your #1 fan! This persona comprises individuals who believe in the mission and values of the association. They may not directly benefit from the association's offerings but support its advocacy efforts, research initiatives, or community-building activities.
Treat the Newcomers like the new kids on the block. They are individuals who are new to the industry or profession associated with the organization. They may be seeking guidance, mentorship, and resources to navigate their career path or business endeavors.
The Expert Influencer persona includes influential figures within the industry who have established themselves as thought leaders, subject matter experts, or influencers. Engaging with them can help associations amplify their reach, gain credibility, and attract a broader audience.
The Elusive Professional is an established industry veteran who likely feels they already know everything they need from their field. Having seen many associations come and go, they may be skeptical of the value in membership. Their extensive expertise can also leave them overconfident in their own abilities.
It's important to note that these personas are not exhaustive, and associations may have additional or more specific personas depending on their unique context and membership composition. Creating personas allows associations to personalize their marketing efforts, develop targeted messaging, and deliver valuable content that resonates with their intended audience.
We’re all about promoting learning here at Blue Sky eLearn (hence, the name!)—and we know that education is central to the mission of member-based organizations. That’s why we’ve developed a handy template to help you define specific buyer persona behaviors around professional development.
You can use this template as a starting point and to customize it based on the unique priorities of your members—and you can adapt this template for other areas of association marketing, too!
Learn about two small but powerful tools that can be a valuable addition to your association's learning strategy: microlearning and microcredentialing.
Learn smart strategies to makeover your association's eLearning marketing, promote your programs, and boost engagement.
Path LMS is used by hundreds of organizations to deliver high-quality online learning, networking events, and conferences. Book a demo today!