The term “persona” may sound like highfalutin jargon. But, really, it’s just the term for what always has been Marketing 101: Know your audience, and deliver what’s interesting and relevant to it. This is especially true for associations.

Tirrah Switzer, Product Marketing, Membership, Community Brands


By Tirrah Switzer, Product Marketing Manager, Community Brands

By understanding your members’ roles and responsibilities, motivations and drivers, you can create meaningful dialogue with them.

Here are four steps to develop member personas.

Step 1: Define your purpose.
Before taking on the task of creating a unique persona, you must define the purpose of these personas. Once this is established, you can begin to segment your membership data and develop your personas.

Do you need member personas to help you recruit new members or to provide better marketing to the members you already have? By clearly understanding why you’re building member personas and what you want to use them for will help you determine if you’re profiling your current members or prospective members who you want to better target to become members in the future. You will be able to use most information inter-changeably, but you may have to source information differently depending on your purpose.

Step 2: Uncover data.
Where do you find the information you need to build out your personas? In places like these:

  • Membership applications. Great place to start gathering the “who” and the “what.”
  • Association management software (AMS) or member management systems. Good sources for information about your members demographics as well as how they are engaged with your organization.
  • Online community. Perfect place to see what your members are talking about.. What are the challenges and successes they are discussing with one another?
  • Rely on subject matter experts (SMEs). Ask your colleagues for input from their respective areas.
  • Go to the source. Ask the members themselves.

Step 3: Document your personas.
Keeping track of your personas is as easy as producing a Word document or an infographic to paint a picture of the types of members comprising the persona. I like to name my personas. Two of our personas are Edward the ED and Membership Melanie. Choose a name that’s easy to remember and gives you key information about your members’ careers.

What type of information is in your persona?

Your persona consists of demographic as well as psychographic attributes.

  • Demographic is how to find them. Information such as industry, job title, geography, length of time at job, etc.
  • Psychographic is how to get inside their heads. Their attitudes, behaviors and values. What are their pain points or challenges? What do they want and need? How do they learn more information about their industry or profession?

If you can understand your members on a personal level, it will help you build deeper relationship and deliver the value they expect. The more you know about your members, the more value you can deliver, and the more you can count on them sticking around year after year.

Step 4: Put your personas to work.
Once your member personas are established, you can deliver more useful, relevant content to them. But, that means you must use your personas. Here’s how you can put your personas to work:

  • Use the information you’ve gathered to strategically plan your content, events, and marketing.
  • Develop or refine your value proposition.
  • Share them with your team. Your personas will be useful to membership, marketing, event planning and education teams.
  • Don’t put your personas on a shelf. Personas don’t ever have to be completely done. Personas may change over time, so it’s important to revisit them often and make changes as necessary.

Bottom line.
Your association must have a clear understanding of who your members are and what they want. If you don’t, you will just become noise to your (now former) members.

Quick recap:

  • Get started developing your personas today.
  • Document your personas.
  • Refine and expand over time.
  • Personas = insight.

For more ways to recruit and retain members, watch the YourMembership on-demand webinar: Blueprint to boosting association membership.

Additional resources to boost membership:

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