It's personal: Why creating student personas is a must for your education company

February 13, 2023

Jayde Robertson

We've made it halfway through the second month of 2023, and already an overarching global annual theme has been defined: Data

Big data can be a game changer for higher education marketing teams, but without a clear understanding of your audience, it can become a costly and time-consuming endeavor. That's where marketing personas come in - they allow you to focus your big data efforts on the people that matter most to your organization.

Knowing your audience is essential for creating effective marketing campaigns. With a deep understanding of your target demographics, you can create messaging and strategies that resonate with them. And with big data, you can gain insights into their behavior and preferences that would otherwise be impossible to obtain.

But it's not enough to just have the data - you need to be able to make sense of it and use it to inform your marketing efforts. This is where a solid strategy comes in - with a well-crafted plan, you can use your big data insights to drive conversions and engagement.

Big data is a powerful tool, but it's not a magic bullet. By combining it with marketing personas and a solid strategy, you can gain a competitive edge and achieve tangible results for your higher education marketing team. 

Why personas?

The benefits of creating student personas are many, but there's one benefit that stands out above all others: it helps you make a better product.

When it comes to education marketing, having a clear understanding of your target audience is crucial. A marketing persona is a powerful tool that can help you achieve this. It's a fictional representation of a key segment of your target audience, which helps you create a marketing strategy that is more relevant and valuable to the students and families who matter most to your institution.

Think of it like this: your students and families are people with unique needs, wants, and goals. By creating a marketing persona, you can get to know them on a deeper level and tailor your messaging and strategy to speak directly to them.

It's not just about having the right information, it's about knowing how to use it. A marketing persona helps you understand not just who your target audience is, but also how and when to reach them. With this valuable tool, you'll be able to create campaigns that truly resonate with your audience and drive conversions.

The bottom line, marketing personas bring faceless consumers to life and are a must-have for any education marketer looking to create a truly effective marketing strategy.

But what does this mean? 

The answer lies in the fact that people don't always make decisions rationally or logically, even when they think they do (and yes, even economists have been proven wrong by the human brain's ability to rationalize). By observing how people make decisions and behave, we can identify patterns of behavior and use these patterns as insights into our customers' preferences. Personas help us understand these insights at an emotional level—which means we're not just learning facts about them; we're also learning how they feel about things!

How are personas used in marketing? 

Personas are a way to segment your audience and understand them better. They can help you create better content, marketing campaigns, and calls to action that speak directly to the needs of specific groups within your audience.

To see how they can be used in marketing, let's look at an example: imagine you're trying to market a software product aimed at educators who use technology in their classrooms or for professional development. Since these people are likely very busy with teaching responsibilities, it's important for your messaging to resonate with this group by focusing on how using your product will make their lives easier or more fulfilling. In order to do so effectively, though, you'll need some additional information about them—information that might not be immediately obvious from looking at basic demographic data (age range; educational level). That's where personas come into play!

How to create a student persona.

Personas are like a window into the lives of your target audience. When you take the time to create them, you'll be able to see the stories behind your data and gain a deeper understanding of the individuals you're trying to reach. They allow you to step into the shoes of your target audience and see the world from their perspective.

These tools empower you to turn data into stories, and those stories will help you understand your audience in a way that simple data tables never could.

To build a persona, you need to determine:

  • Who the students are and what their demographics are (e.g., age, gender)
  • What their interests are (e.g., sports, art, cooking)
  • What are their goals (e.g., gain employment after graduation; be more successful in their career)
  • Their pain points—the obstacles that prevent them from achieving these goals right now?  Is there no clear path forward for them or if they don't know how to get started on their education journey?  These pains might include affordability issues or lack of confidence/self-esteem in taking on something new—and they could also be internal factors like not knowing what type of education would best fit into an overall career plan or where the right kind of job will come from at all! It's important that we think about these things because otherwise, we might end up offering solutions that aren't helpful for everyone out there who needs help with those problems.

It's not an exact science, but it can get you pretty close. 

"Personas are not exact," says Kelsey Anderson, Director of Student Engagement at Full Sail University. "But they allow us to focus on our target audience and understand its needs."

What does this look like in practice? The higher education industry has many different types of students: high school seniors choosing which college they want to attend; undergraduate juniors trying to decide what major they want; graduate students looking for ways to improve their career prospects after graduation; professionals working toward furthering their careers while going back to school part-time; international students searching for schools abroad...the list goes on and on! When you're working with such diverse groups of people, it's helpful if there's one thing (or two) that unites them all: the persona(s) created by your team so that everyone knows how best to serve each type of student.

What do we think? 

It’s important to remember that creating student personas isn't an exact science and there are no hard and fast rules. As long as you understand your audience and their motivations well, you can create a persona that will help guide your marketing strategy. 

"It's not just about tailoring the message, personas also helped me to understand where my target audience was looking for information and what channels they were using to get it. This helped me to focus my efforts on the right platforms and channels, and to create a more effective campaign overall."
Xenia Muether, CEO & Founder. 

In the world of education marketing, it's essential to keep your buyer personas at the forefront of every decision you make for your business and marketing strategy. By providing valuable content and services tailored to your personas, you'll not only drive sales but also foster a strong connection with your target audience, resulting in increased brand loyalty and trust.

Plus, we have a resource for this! Get your comprehensive guide to marketing strategy, and marketing personas here!

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Don't underestimate the importance of student personas in your strategy.

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