How To Target Customer Personas Online

When I first started to write this blog post, I figured there would be an article or two to get me started – you know, something that summed up targeted advertising methods and strategy succinctly to help me focus. Well, about 2,000 articles and 900 infographics later, (no offense to infographics – I LOVE infographics) I was feeling like I knew less about the topic than when I started.

Unfortunately, stopping at that point would not make for a very good blog post, despite how easy it would be to write. So I came back to where we have been the last few weeks, started with my customer personas, and asked, “If I want to target this specific customer persona, how would I do it?”

The shift away from bulk content delivery will have the benefit of a shift away from bulk message delivery. In other words, you can take customer personas then create and deliver advertisements relevant to them rather than using one message for an overall audience. Not only that, you can also send those messages to any targets when and where needed.

How is that possible?

First, lay out your customer personas. Really work to view them as people, not just pictures and attributes. Create a movie in your head of their typical day– what time they get up, their morning routine, how they get to work, what they do at work, how late they stay at work, what they do after work, what their bedtime routine is.

Second, create a hero’s journey and determine what you want to achieve at each touch point in the journey. You will have very different ads, both in type and content, depending on what stage your targets are in and what stage you want to move them to. Early in the journey, your focus will be on brand awareness, and as you move them through the process, you gradually get to your ultimate call-to-action. That may be visiting a physical location, making an online purchase, or simply signing up to request more information.

Third, determine where those personas are likely to be on the Internet. For example, are they likely to be on social media? If so, are they more likely to use a smartphone or desktop? Further, what are they hoping to accomplish while there? For some, social media is a way to see what’s going on with friends. For others, it’s a tool for business prospecting. Depending on which group your personas fit in, they will be in very different moods and therefore open to very different messaging.

Fourth, based on all of the above and your advertising budget, select the size of the target audience and the platforms you will use to reach them. Be sure to do this for each stage of the hero’s journey, not just for the overall campaign. Why? Because you will be casting a much bigger net at the top of the funnel and can be more generic in your targeting. You can use more data points and be less specific in where you try to reach targets. As you move the targets along their journey, you want to get more and more focused in your the methods.

What exactly are those methods? I’m glad you asked!

There are three primary forms of targeting to utilize as you go through this process – demographic, behavioral, and location-based. Innumerable sources of demographic information are available, including online ad networks themselves as well as third-party vendors like LiveRamp. Behavioral targeting is more of a passive method. Although it includes using demographics to hone the behavior you want to respond to, it is still just that – a response to what your targets are doing online rather than going and “getting” them.

The final form is location-based, and is the one that is the real differentiator for different types of businesses. The reason being, if you are trying to get your targets to physically go somewhere, the way you use location data is very different from the way you use it if you are trying to encourage an online activity. With an online action, you are really using location data as a demographic tool or data point: “Persona X is likely to live in City X, and I, therefore, want to target people in that city who match my target persona.” With a call-to-action that seeks to get a target to a physical location, you really get into location as a tool. For example, you can use geo-fencing to send an ad to your targeted personas if they are within a certain distance of your location.

Now you have taken your target personas and created a framework on which to lay your ad campaign. You know the types of targeting methods and the steps to go through in order to match the steps of the hero’s journey to the different forms of advertising and what message to send when. In other words, you have the formula to create a plan for a successful targeting campaign.

But here’s the thing – targeting is just as much art as it is science. There is no such thing as a perfect plan, nor is it possible, or even advisable, to stick to every detail of your plan.

“Everyone has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth.” – Mike Tyson

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

What the above quotes by two very different people illustrate is that success is about adjustments. You are not perfect, and neither is your plan. If you have been rigorous in your planning, however, it will be easy to make adjustments when the proverbial punch in the mouth comes.

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