Guest Blogs

Understanding Personas and How to Use Them

Understanding Personas and How to Use Them

How well do you really know your brand’s audience? It can be easy to think of your audience as segments of prospects vs. customers or recent purchasers vs. lapsed buyers. But the most successful brands target subscribers on an individualized level. For marketers who don’t have the resources for one-to-one targeting, personas can help increase email relevance and effectiveness.

What are personas?

Personas are fictional profiles created to represent key audience and subscriber segments based on shared needs, goals or behaviors. Personas help you better understand your audience, allowing you to create specific marketing tactics around each segment.  Effective personas:

  • Describe real people with shared backgrounds, goals and values
    Represent a major user group for your brand
  • Focus on the major needs and expectations of your most important user groups
  • Provide a clear picture of how users are likely to use your products and services
  • Assist in uncovering universal features and functionality.

How do you create personas?

  • Conduct research. Who are your users and why are they using your products/services? As you consider what behaviors and expectations influence user needs and behaviors, leverage the data you have available, including demographics, behaviors and preferences.
  • Condense the research. Identify themes and characteristics which are specific, relevant and universal to your user groups. Are there differentiating behavior patterns, goals or challenges which your products or service can address?
  • Organize the condensed themes and characteristics into persona groups that represent key users. Then name or classify each group accordingly, so that stakeholders will be able to easily remember or reference the persona groups.
  • Fine-tune and prioritize personas into primary, secondary and complementary categories. Aim to create three to five personas with identified characteristics.

How do you use personas?

Contact optimization. Contact optimization is not a one-size-fits all approach. Different persona groups require different contact strategies. Tolerance for contact frequency will also very among persona groups, so it is important to test frequency and cadence for each.

Content optimization.  Focus on benefit-driven content that is most important for each persona. From call-to-action prompts to benefit statements, it is important to tailor content which meets each personas’ needs and expectations. This approach not only helps increase conversion, but also promotes long term brand loyalty, continued email engagement and improved inbox placement.

Creative optimization. Is your persona group viewing your messages on a laptop or on a mobile screen? Is your persona group willing to scroll through an email, or expecting information to be condensed? Creative design and layout can be tailored to increase the likelihood of engagement among persona groups.

Email program optimization. Research drives better personas and personas drive better research. As you focus your email program strategy on effectively targeting personas, you will likely identify areas of vulnerability and opportunity to improve the overall effectiveness of your email program.

Most people see an influx of marketing messages in their inbox every day, so in order to keep subscribers engaged, your messages need to be targeted, relevant and provide value to the subscriber. Understanding who your subscriber is helps you more effectively communicate with the individuals receiving your messages.


Laura Christensen
Senior Email Strategist at Return Path
Laura is an Senior Email Strategist for Return Path, the worldwide leader in email intelligence. As a true Maximizer, she leverages email program data and insight to identify what’s good and make it excellent, somewhat obsessively at times. After spending more than 15 years in the email industry, she’s passionate about helping her clients create better subscriber experiences for increased engagement, retention, and overall email program performance. She continues to work with clients across multiple industries to identify email program vulnerabilities and opportunities, refining strategies to achieve success.

Previous ArticleNext Article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *