Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of the phrase learner persona. And it’s one that’s thrown around a lot in our industry. Which has led to *a bit* of confusion about what personas really are, and why they’re so important in L&D. In fact, we’ve heard through the grapevine that some people think they aren’t necessary at all 😱.
But the truth is, personas have been a longtime friend of marketers. And here at MAAS, we think they should take the same spot in L&D’s hearts too. Because if learner personas are created effectively, they have the ability to transform the way you communicate with your audience – and in turn change the way they think about learning. And a change in mindset (and then taking action) is what we’re all striving for, right?
So before we dig into why all L&D teams need learner personas, let’s set the record straight: WTF is a learner persona?
Our definition of a learner persona (adapted from marketing gurus HubSpot!) is “A learner persona is a semi-fictional representation of your learners, combining market research, qualitative and quantitative feedback from employees and YES! some assumptions to provide L&D teams with an actionable audience segment designed to improve both learning design and communication approaches.”
So now we’ve got that cleared up… let’s get stuck in:
All too often L&Ders adopt a spray and pray approach to both marketing and learning. Our entire audience is given the same communications about the same learning content – which is just not gonna cut the mustard. Modern learners want personalised experiences tailored to their wants and needs. And how are you going to do that if you don’t know them really well? So by digging deeper and understanding the wants, needs, fears and pain points of your target audience, you’ll be able to improve the targeting of your marketing and your learning.
But the crux of this working comes back to one thing: you need to think about who your target audience are as human beings. Your persona shouldn’t talk about learning… yep let that sink in for a minute. You shouldn’t be talking about learning styles, preferred learning methods or any of those kinds of things in your personas. Instead, we want to see details about their motivations in life, their inspirations, their work-life pain points and so on. It’s only when you get into that level of detail that you’ll get real impact with your personas.
If someone kept talking to you about things you weren’t interested in… you wouldn’t really like them would you? You wouldn’t see them as a friend. And you definitely wouldn’t trust them. Well the same goes for brands – and your L&D brand falls into that too!
Your persona will help you have meaningful discourse with your target audience. You can have conversations with them that relate to your product (your learning offering) and their personal desires. Which over time, will mean your audience begins to trust you as a brand. And when trust forms in marketing, repeat custom becomes a breeze. So if you want to get people continually learning, start with creating some really sound personas.
Here at MAAS we talk a LOT about the WIIFM question. Because answering the WIIFM (What’s in it for me?) is the single best way to influence and persuade in marketing.
A great example of this is the Apple iPhone: Apple could write a long list of all the features and specs of the latest model. But truthfully, it wouldn’t make much sense to most of their target consumers. So instead, they hone in on things that matter to their target audience. For example…
The social media savvy persona might care about creating high quality content:
Others may be more visually conscious (and care about the colour of their phone!):
And those might just want the newest and best phone around:
All three adverts, advertising the same phone, but to different personas. And answering the “what’s in it for me?” each time.
Creating learner personas can enable you to do the exact same thing with your marketing for learning® – helping you answer the WIIFM, and ultimately getting your audience’s butts a’movin!
So now you know why all L&D teams need learner personas – do you fancy making your own? If so, we have a foolproof guide just for you. Get your FREE guide now (you don’t even need to give us your email address… there’s no gatekeepers around here!)