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Why Your Brand Needs Audience Personas to Convert More College Students

By collegemktgrp | May 12, 2022 | Brands/Advertisers

When you consider how to market to college students, do you craft messaging with a specific person in mind? Or generalized demographics?

Targeted messaging makes a big difference when it comes to connecting your brand’s products and services with college students and their parents. But how do you know who your audience really is, and what they need to hear to make a conversion?

Enter: Audience personas. 

What Are Audience Personas?

Audience personas are fictional representations of your target audience — in this case, college students and their parents. Your personas are the people who are most likely to engage with your brand and buy your products.

Data-driven audience personas help humanize the students and parents you’re trying to connect with. They put a face to abstract data, allowing you to see your brand’s products or services from their perspective. 

Why Are Audience Personas Important for Brands?

When you draft messaging with a specific persona in mind — like David the suburban dad — you’ll know exactly who you’re talking to and appeal to his challenges and needs to move him through the buyer funnel. 

You’re no longer speaking to a vague demographic or broad audience: you’re reaching out to David, the middle-aged dad who makes $200,000 a year and who wants to learn more about how much spending money he should give his college freshman. Understanding David’s needs and challenges allow you to draft content that answers his questions and helps move him from consideration to conversion.

As another example, you may have a hunch that one of your college student personas is 18- to 24-year-old males. Once you start digging into the data (via your email list, Google Analytics, or organic social audiences), you may discover that most of these students are working part-time and are concerned about how to pay for college. Now you can craft content that offers solutions about how they can support themselves throughout their degree.

How Many Personas Should Your Brand Have?

The most effective marketing strategies involve more than one persona. Every brand has more than one type of person buying a product or service. 

You may find as you are creating your audience personas there’s an entire segment of your college audience you didn’t know existed. Now you can start targeting an entire group of students or parents you weren’t reaching out to before.

Keep in mind you don’t want to create too many personas, either. If you overdo it, you could end up diluting your messaging or losing your primary focus. 

What Should Be Included in a Persona?

Before you start to craft your audience personas, have a plan for the type of meaningful quantitative and qualitative information you’re looking for. Start with basic demographic information:

  • Name
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Job and income
  • Education
  • Family status

Next, dig deeper into each persona’s goals, challenges, concerns, or pain points as they relate to your brand’s offerings. Some questions you can ask yourself include:

  • What do they want to achieve?
  • What’s holding them back?
  • What do they care about most?
  • What reasons would they have to not engage with my brand or purchase my product or service?
  • What are previous solutions they’ve sought out in the past and how did they turn out?

Reflecting on each persona’s actual motivations and values will help you craft effective messaging that speaks to their specific needs.

How to Create an Audience Persona

How you craft your college audience personas will depend on your brand’s niche, industry, and overall goals. No matter what, you’ll have to gather and analyze data before you can create your personas.

There are four general steps to take when creating a college audience persona:

1. Quantitative analysis

    • Collect demographic and revenue data from your college students and their parents.
    • Analyze how deeply these audience members have historically engaged with your brand.

2. Qualitative analysis

    • Reach out to these students and parents with interviews, polls, or surveys to get to know them better. 
    • Specifically look for trends in what their goals are, the challenges they face, and the things they’re concerned about.

3. Draft the persona

    • This is where you will create the fictional characters that best represent the niche segment of your college audience.
    • It’s also where you’ll include your solutions to the concerns they have and where they are on the customer journey map.

4. Socialize the persona

    • Get your personas into the hands of people who will put them into action (marketing team, merchandise team, etc.).
    • Invite college students and parents to continue the conversation. This will heighten their engagement and give you the opportunity to fine-tune your marketing messages.

Audience personas can inform how to market to college students and their parents, so it’s important to get them right. Grounding them in data-driven insights will yield the best results.

Reach More Students With Targeted Inbound Strategies

Determining audience personas is a critical part of building an effective content marketing strategy. Think of them as a foundation for moving your college audience through the buyer funnel and towards brand loyalty. 

You can now turn your attention to designing and implementing organic, content-focused strategies that will elevate your engagement and improve your overall conversions.

Discover how inbound marketing can help your brand reach more college students, increase brand awareness, and earn you more sales this year. 

Improve your student-targeted messaging with inbound strategies >

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