Turning a Target Audience into a Persona

Walt Disney didn't secure the rights to turn "Mary Poppins" into a movie until he stopped viewing the author as a target and understood the work was her way of honoring her failed banker father.You are well advised to understand what makes your target audience tick. But connecting with your intended audience requires talking to them as people, not targets.

The advice we give is to identify your customer persona, even creating an image of who they are, what they look like and where they hang out.

If you use digital devices, you are aware that data miners are digging for information about you to customize the ads and opportunities they present to you. There is nothing wrong with that, but it isn't a substitute for a content marketing approach that digs deeper.

One of the most important places to start in the conversion of a target audience into a customer persona is examining why a customer would care about your product or service. What problem in their lives does it solve? How would it make life easier or more convenient for them? Why would they choose your product over other alternatives?

Wrestling with these questions, which requires more than a statistical assessment of website clicks, is what generates a customer persona.

One of the best examples of this process can be found in the movie, "Saving Mr. Banks," the story behind Walt Disney's "Mary Poppins." Disney tried unsuccessfully for 20 years to secure the move rights to "Mary Poppins" from its author, Pamela Travers. It isn't until Disney realizes "Mary Poppins" is really an ironical story about the author's father – Travers Goff, a failed banker who dies from consumption despite the promised best efforts of an aunt, the model for Mary Poppins – that he understands what it will take to get the movie rights.

Disney moved from viewing Travers (Helen Goff) from a target to a person. He won her approval by promising to honor her father and remove a blot that had blinded Goff for most of her adult life.

There is something very different in addressing a person, even in the form of a customer persona, that a raw batch of analytics. It requires a wider array of skills than quantification. It demands an entry point to the heart.

Or as Disney himself says in the movie, "It is what storytellers do. It is what storytellers always have done."