Cut Through the Noise: Build Student Personas into Your Marketing Strategy

Jess Dyer May 30, 2024 Jess Dyer Art Director Persona The Resilient and Forward-Thinking Originator

College isn’t one-size-fits-all. No college can be everything to every student. Marketing can’t be everything to every student, either. In today’s competitive higher education landscape, if you want to cut through the noise and forge real connections with the right students, you need to take a personalized approach.

This is where the power of personas comes into play.

What is a Persona?

A persona is a fictional (but realistic) representation of your ideal student. Think of it as a detailed profile that captures the distinct characteristics, behaviors, and interests of different personality types within your prospective student audience.

These student personas help you to segment your marketing efforts beyond the usual demographic segmentations. These segmentations allow you to ensure each prospective student receives targeted, relevant communication that speaks directly to who they are and what they’re looking for.

Personas help you reach a more engaged, better-informed prospective student population with a stronger affinity for your institution and what it has to offer. Research shows companies using personas generate more leads.

What Does it Look Like?

Let’s explore a fictional example. Carnegie College’s prospective students fit into three core personas:

Persona 1

Thrives on solving problems and testing new ideas. Engages in activities like coding, board games, and movie nights with close friends.

Persona 2

Drawn to exploration and self-expression. Looking for opportunities to tap into creativity through hands-on projects, maker spaces, and collaboration.

Persona 3

Seeking connection. Campus traditions, clubs, affinity centers, and school spirit are highly important.

By tailoring messages to each persona, Carnegie College can help each student group connect more deeply to what they offer. An email about campus spirit and big-crowd traditions may not resonate as well with Persona 1 as it would with Persona 3. Tweaking that email slightly—to instead emphasize Carnegie’s campus-wide spirit of innovation—may hit home with Persona 1.

Steps for Building Personas

So, how do you build and develop personas that are relevant, reliable, and effective?

  1. Start with a data-driven approach. Begin by conducting comprehensive market research. This is one of the many benefits of custom research. You can use your results to pinpoint correlations between demographic and psychographic factors, unveiling your unique student segments and their primary motivations.
  2. Pinpoint key persona traits. Use this data to identify five core elements: demographics, goals, challenges, preferred communication methods, and preferred communication frequencies.
  3. Paint a picture of each persona profile. Split these trends you’ve found into three to four clearly identifiable personas, then write detailed, story-driven descriptions of each. HubSpot offers some great formats you can utilize to build out each profile.
  4. Begin creating digital marketing. These meticulously crafted personas should serve as the blueprint for building tailored marketing creative that hits home with each persona.
  5. Leverage technology. Use your customer relationship management (CRM) system, such as Slate, to seamlessly integrate these personas into your outreach efforts. Make sure you’re regularly tracking your results and refining as you see fit.

Watch it Work

With personas in place as part of your enrollment strategy, the possibilities for highly targeted, engaging marketing campaigns are endless. The more you use personas, the more you’ll be able to fine-tune and refine them, and the more you’ll see the benefits of using them.

Need some help getting started? Our team can leverage the power of your data to build out personas (we call them Darts) and strategize and execute creative marketing campaign ideas. Reach out to us to start a conversation.

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