Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’d have heard us talking about learner personas recently. And that’s because here at MAAS we truly believe that personas can make (or break!) your learning comms. Effective, well-researched personas can help you position your offering, craft messages that grab attention and most of all, boost engagement. But “HOW?!” I hear you cry… how can semi-fictional characters help do all of this? Well settle in, because in this blog we’re going to explore exactly that.
Do you sit back and smile at the output of your hard work? Sure!
Do you print them out? Maybe!
Do you frame them and put them up on the wall for everybody to admire? You might be going a bit far now…
Do you use your personas to target your audiences en masse? BINGO!
Personas have one key practical purpose and that is to enable you to individualise your marketing communications to your target audience.
Oftentimes when people are trying to understand learner personas, they tell us “But I can’t segment my email lists, so what’s the point?!” And yes, it’s true marketers often do have email platforms like MailChimp or Hubspot, that allow them to slice up their databases based on a myriad of data points. But the truth is, those data points are usually behaviour based – and don’t help us target our personas at all. So a lack of tech functionality shouldn’t change how you’re using your personas at all.
Instead of quite literally sending one piece of communications to one person, we use personas to position and sell learning and development opportunities to learners based on their needs, as opposed to their job titles. And this takes a range of guises… it could be around the way you present your offering visually, it might be around the copy you craft – and it might even be about the channels and tactics you choose! Personas are there to tailor your communication. To help you grab the attention of the right people at the right time. Not to chunk up your databases and give everyone a “persona” label.
The current state of play in most organisations is that L&D sends out blanket comms to every single employee and hopes for the best. And in trying to resonate with everybody, the chances are, you’re not resonating with anybody. So instead of doing this, we use personas alongside the decision making framework, to craft messages, marketing tactics and strategies that resonate with one of your personas. When you consider that most organisations will have between 3 and 5 personas, this piece of communication will now resonate with between 20 and 33% of your target audience. Much better than 0% hey?!
“But what about the other personas?! What if they see the comms?”
I can answer this in two ways…
The short answer: So what? Who cares? Does that even matter?
The longer, more thorough answer: They’re going to continue to do exactly what they’re doing right now – ignoring your comms. It doesn’t resonate with them, so they’ll delete, ignore and move on. It won’t have a positive or negative effect on them. But it will have a positive effect on your target personas – so it’s worth it, right?
A great example of this is a billboard advert for a FMCG (fast moving consumer goods). Let’s use Old Spice as an example. Their target audience is females, because their market research showed that women are still the primary buyers of male products for their partners or children etc. So when Old Spice put a billboard up, men are going to see it, women are going to see it, children are going to see it, even nanas are going to see it! But the positioning of the billboard, the imagery on it, maybe even the typography and colours used, will grab the attention of their chosen target audience (women). Old Spice can’t control who else sees the billboard – but they know it doesn’t matter.
If we adopt the mindset of these billboard advertisers in L&D, we will ultimately move towards our targets much quicker than our current technique of pushing out generalised communications and hoping somebody, somewhere will act on it.
So if you’re not chunking up your mailing lists to communicate with people, how can we personalise our marketing efforts to resonate with our personas? Here’s 4 top tips:
CHOOSING TACTICS & CHANNELS. One of the best things about learner personas is they enable you to put yourself in your audience’s shoes. And that means we can think deeply about their activities at each stage of their decision making process. This enables us, as marketers, to identify the channels and tactics we should use to grab their attention at each stage. If they’re spending a lot of time on MS Teams or Slack – go to them, market to them where they already are, and watch your engagement rates soar!
COPYWRITING. Copy is one of the most important skills for marketers and L&Ders to hone. When we’re writing for marketing purposes, we’re looking to influence someone to do the thing we want them to do (so for us, that’ll be to get involved with learning!) One of the best ways to influence in copy is by evoking emotions… and how can we do that without knowing our audience on a deeper level? Look at your personas wants, needs and pain points – and use the emotions they are likely to be feeling to nudge them towards action.
STORYTELLING. Although storytelling goes hand-in-hand with copywriting, it deserves its own spot here. Storytelling is a fantastic way to evoke emotions and instigate action. And when we know the wants and needs of our audience – through our personas – we can craft stories that move the needle.
VISUAL DESIGN. By understanding our audience we can more effectively design comms that will grab attention. Think about the Old Spice example we discussed earlier – visuals play a huge part! Personas will help you move away from bland, “corporate casual” comms, into attention grabbing marketing. And that’s what we all want, right?
Want to learn more about creating and using learner personas? Well you’re in luck. We have not one, not two, but THREE ebooks to help you:
Learn how to create learner personas
Create decision making processes to enhance your understanding
Develop learning campaigns to grab attention
And if you want a lil’ bit more help, why not check out our Marketing for L&D masterclass? Where I will walk you through every step of your marketing for learning® journey. #YoureWelcome