When putting together a marketing plan for your edtech product, one of the most valuable exercises you can undertake is to develop personas for your primary target users. This underutilized technique can help make your marketing communications exponentially more effective. User personas can serve as invaluable guides as you develop your marketing communications, including content for your website, email campaigns, social media, and more.
A persona is a semi-fictional representation of a key type of user or customer. It is a profile of their characteristics, motivations, goals, challenges, and environmental influences. At their most basic, a user persona is a thumbnail sketch of one set or type of customer.
There’s a natural inclination for edtech companies—owners, developers, investors, and other stakeholders—to develop marketing content that is heavily infused with their own perspectives, biases, and motivations. But messaging that is entirely driven by stakeholder concerns often misses the mark with users. The primary benefit of developing user personas is to facilitate an approach to marketing communications that is more user-centric and less product or stakeholder-centric.
The primary benefit of developing user personas is to facilitate an approach to marketing communications that is more user-centric and less product or stakeholder-centric.
User personas will help determine what content you need to be writing about. What topics are foremost in the minds of the teachers and administrators that will visit your website or read your email newsletter? What content will they find most valuable? What questions and concerns do they have that you need to address when you introduce your product?
User personas can help identify top user tasks. Teachers are often looking for a specific tool that will help them with specific learning objectives. A top task for them may be to learn how a product works and if it will help them meet their objective. Comparatively, administrators may be more interested in integration with other tools, data that demonstrates improved student achievement, and pricing information.
User personas can provide insight as to where your users get their information. What resources do they use? How do they prefer to receive and consume content? For example, Twitter may be an appropriate channel for reaching out to administrators and district officials, while Facebook may be more effective for communicating to teachers. Armed with such insight, you can craft your messaging for each channel appropriately to address different user concerns.
A good place to start is by having key stakeholders identify your primary user types. Draw on real-life interactions with your customers to list answers to the following questions:
It’s often helpful to put an actual image (you can use stock photography) and fictional name to each persona in order to bring it to life.
The next step is to interview five to eight actual customers or potential customers for each primary user type. A mix of customers and non-customers is preferred. Ask them questions that help you better understand their needs, goals, interests, and influences. Go into an interview with a list of questions, but be ready to explore topics that you may not have anticipated. These conversation threads often lead to some significant insights. We’ve found that conducting interviews with real users is one of the best ways to gather insight into user motivations and behavior. Be sure to capture actual quotes to include in your personas. Note: interviews conducted by third-parties can sometimes lead to more authentic responses.
Reviewing website contact form submission logs can also provide tremendous insight. If possible, sort by user type, and note the primary intent for each message. Do any patterns emerge? Are certain questions and/or concerns often repeated? This data can be invaluable for discovering gaps in content on your website, and more broadly your marketing messaging as a whole.
Other resources for persona development include website analytics, social media profiles, and marketing surveys. The latter, when done well and with a broad response, can have significant impact beyond just user persona development.
There are three primary personas that all edtech companies need to consider: teachers, administrators and decision makers, and parents and students.
Teacher concerns are going to revolve around accomplishing learning objectives. They will want to know how difficult a product is to use and how it can be integrated with their mandated goals for each unit.
Administrators & Decision Makers
School principals, department leads and other decision makers will be interested in how a product integrates with their SIS and/or LMS and what data can be extracted. Pricing and purchasing options will be primary concerns, as well as metrics that prove the effectiveness of the product.
Students & Parents
While student and parent perspectives are much more significant to the product itself, it’s important to consider their needs and concerns in your marketing messaging as well, as your website will be one of the first places they turn for more information.
Depending on your product, there may be other personas that are significant as well. In our work for Naviance, high school counselors and counseling leads were an important user segment to consider, since they are generally the ones to implement their college and career readiness platform. Depending on your product, it may be important to develop personas for elementary, middle, and high school, for large and small schools, or public, private, and charter sectors. Be sure to segment out any customer type where there may be significantly different concerns.
Creating well-researched, solid user personas is only half of the equation. How effective your effort is will depend largely on the quality of your execution. Don’t file these away once completed—post them on your office wall and refer back to them as you’re creating that blog article, email newsletter, or Facebook post. If you allow your personas to be your guide, you’ll increase user interest and engagement, and ultimately conversions.
Kevin Barr is the managing partner at Pinkston Digital. He possesses a unique blend of creative, technical, and business insight, which he brings to bear as he guides projects from inception to completion. For more articles from Kevin and the rest of our team, subscribe to our newsletter: