How to Identify Your Target Audience, Create Personas and Write ROI-Boosting Ad Copy

Published March 28, 2022

Identify your target audience so you can matter to them

We don’t all take our coffee the same way - and some of us don’t even drink coffee. To assume your whole audience first, drinks coffee, and second, wants a nonfat vanilla latte, would be a mistake. Some people prefer green tea with a splash of oat milk.

So before you write your next set of ads, think about who you hope will be on the receiving end of your copy by identifying your target audience. If you don’t, it’s very likely they won’t get the message - or worse, it will be received in a misconstrued and unintended way, potentially damaging your brand.

In order to achieve the goal of engaging your target audience while they are moving through life in a world constantly competing for their attention, you must first identify your target audience.

And, once you know your target audience, it is important to demonstrate your connection to them by creating personalized experiences that show empathy for who they are, where they’re at and what matters to them.

What is a persona?

Different people have different needs, concerns and expectations. Creating a persona can help your marketing team step outside of their own natural biases and brand blinders and thus craft copy that will appeal to the people who will be using the product or service you are marketing. This is marketing with empathy.

A persona is a character sketch of your target audience. This is not a real person. A persona is a written representation of your ideal user that reflects the characteristics and represents the needs and desires of a larger group of people. In short, a persona is a representative of your target audience.

Creating a persona

The goal is to identify to whom you are trying to convey your message. Imagine your target audience and then focus your message in a way that will best reach them. To do this effectively, it is helpful to go through the exercise of creating your persona, or personas. Let's take a look at some of the key elements that make up a persona.

For example, if you are trying to reach existing credit union members or potential new credit union members, jot down:

  • Age range of your target audience
  • Lifestyle choices or habits
  • Stage of life
  • Typical family makeup
  • Preferred language
  • Cultural background(s)
  • Personality and disposition
  • What motivates them
  • Goals and frustrations
  • Brand affinities
  • Media consumption habits and trends 

Ensure your ad copy appeals to your target audience by placing yourself in the shoes of your ideal customer - your target persona. Then ask yourself, “Do I like what I hear?” “Does this ad make me want to take the action I want my target audience to take?”

If you find yourself at a loss, put yourself in an environment that attracts the archetypical consumer you want to target and then take some notes. This might mean attending an MLS soccer game, going to a mall food court, or sitting in the parking lot of a credit union. 

Take that real-life experience and couple it with the data your marketing team already has, and then tap into a tool like xtensio to help you flesh out your persona.

There is a lot to consider, this is why an effective marketing strategy often doesn’t have just one creative message in the mix. If you talk to a single, 25 year old woman like she’s a married 45 year old, it could be counterproductive and hurt your brand. 

It’s important to meet your listeners where they are at and show empathy. 

Spaghetti duct taped to wall, creative way to think outside the norm
Identifying your target audience and creating personas can get your team out of the habit of throwing creative spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. Instead you'll be able to create messaging that sticks specifically for people who prefer wall spaghetti over the plate kind.

Applying creative to distinct personas

This exercise may help you identify the need for multiple creative sets to effectively target more than one persona. In this example, we’ll be looking at three distinct personas that are being marketed the same product.

Let’s say a credit union wants to grow membership by offering products that appeal to their key personas. The same product may be marketed in several different ways.

For example, if the credit union wants to grow deposits (i.e. cash in the bank via savings or money market accounts) they could consider marketing a Certificate of Deposit to these three distinct personas in three distinct ways:

1) The 28 year old single man persona

A young adult age 24-30 getting established in life, unmarried, college graduate, career focused, active socially and always on the go. Listens to podcasts, rents an apartment, leases a newer model car, goes to concerts and restaurants regularly.

Copy approach:

Focus on what your product will deliver to this persona - paint an attractive picture in their mind of how they can put the results to use. For example, do the math for them and demonstrate how their earnings will pay for a weekend getaway with friends and help provide them with a memorable experience.

2) 45 year old married working mom persona

A busy mom in her mid-40’s with 2+ children. Married, both she and her partner work full time, homeowner, actively saving for her kids’ college and for retirement. She rarely watches TV (no time). Doesn't listen to anything when driving alone (that’s the only time she has enough quiet to think). Avid reader, gets recipes online via blogs. Pursues home design, gardening and fashion. Broadway season ticket holder.

Copy approach:

Showcase your product’s flexibility (no fees for early withdrawal?) and your products ease to sign up (this person has very little time!). Things for this demographic can change dramatically (job loss, divorce, unexpected medical bills, aging parents, etc) but this group still wants to be diligent and active when it comes to protecting their resources and having a smart safety net that is going to work for them and at last resort can be available if it’s needed.

3) 65 year old married, active retired couple with grandchildren

Married couple age 60+. Both are retired and living off of their investments and their grown children have produced a handful of grandchildren. They enjoy gardening, watching cable news, traveling in their RV and taking their grandkids on trips. They are active in their local community, giving of their time and volunteering.

Copy approach:

Focus on the rate of your product as this audience has been known to take the time to shop around. Features and benefits of your product that help you stand out from the competition will help them keep their money with you OR move their money from another institution over to yours. 

Additionally, consider how this product could benefit the listeners' grandchildren and market it in that way instead (open a certificate of deposit for your grandchild this holiday season and watch it grow while you watch them grow!)

The work is worth it

The effectiveness of your marketing dollars will be demonstrated by how well you know your target audience, and thus how well you can effectively engage them. This means that you know how to speak to them and where to reach them.

There are a lot of ways this can work out, depending on your success in getting the right message tailored to the right audience on the right media platforms. 

  • Right Message + Target Audience + Right Media = Positive ROI and Brand Experience 
  • Right Message + General Audience + Wrong Media  = Depleted Results and Confusion
  • Wrong Message + General Audience + Right Media = Brand Damage
  • Wrong Message + General Audience + Wrong Media = Wasted Budget

Message. Audience. Media.

Getting any of these three things wrong can be anywhere from costly to detrimental. The work is worth it. 

An audience-centric approach minimizes waste and improves performance

In 2021, $296.4 Billion was spent on advertising in the United States alone. In 2020, McDonalds alone spent approximately $1.8 Million per day on advertising. That’s a lot of potentially undercooked marketing cheeseburgers, if brands like these don’t invest in target audience research. 

According to AdWeek, not putting the energy into researching and personalizing ads comes across as lazy to consumers. That’s bad for the brand and for your ROI - and marketers are feeling the failure, with only 12% saying that they feel their strategies are performing well. 

Imagine the waste of advertising dollars happening across the board because the work isn’t done on the front end to identify the target audience, develop a buyer persona and tailor the message to the medium being used. Now, imagine you are one of the few putting the work into researching and personalizing ads to fit your target audience and buyer persona! 

Creating a buyer persona seems like a lot of work - but stats clearly demonstrate the work is indeed worth it. For example, MarketingSherpa found that using personas increased:

  • Website traffic by 210%
  • Website generated leads by 97%
  • Website generated sales by 124%
  • Organic search traffic by 55%

Revisit, revise, re-release

It's key to revisit your messaging and media placements as consumption habits and trends change over time. For example, Podcasts did not exist until late 2004 (fun piece of trivia for you - the New Oxford American Dictionary declared the word Podcast as the “word of the year” in 2005) and now 28% of the U.S. population over 12 years old listens to podcasts on a weekly basis. 80% of marketers who leverage audio content and podcasts plan to invest the same amount or more budget in 2022. 

Imagine if marketers had just set their marketing on cruise control for the past 10 years and just kept running traditional radio spots… 

Fast forward to 2021 and there’s another new thing - the recently emerged social audio chat rooms like Clubhouse which has in turn spurred the development of more social apps. Already 16% of marketers say they've invested in audio chat rooms like Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces. 

And don’t get me started on streaming services and traditional TV media consumption. As a marketer, it is imperative to revisit your marketing strategy, revise it and re-release your creative to fit what is happening now and not rely on dated tactics to get the job done.

Key Takeaways: don’t leave it at one and done

  • Know your target audience
  • Develop & document your buyer persona
  • More than one persona? Consider more than one approach to your creative
  • Get the advertising medium right - consider customizing your creative even further to maximize each platform 
  • Lots to say? Consider unpacking your story in multiple ads
  • Revisit, revise, re-release

Summary

In this article, we’ve covered the importance of identifying your target audience and creating personas so you can write advertising copy that reflects empathy, builds brand loyalty and meets your ROI goals. While it can be a hefty undertaking, the end result is worth it - a happy customer, engaged with your brand.