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What sorts of people are visiting your site? What are their main characteristics? What is it you want visitors to accomplish on your website? The first phase of any analytics-driven marketing initiative must answer these questions.  Higher Education Marketing, in fact, uses an interview process to unearth this information and help develop an understanding of your visitors’ characteristics. In doing so, you will be able to tailor your website’s usability, providing suitable goals and content for audience members at any stage of interaction (are they, for example, prospective students looking for admissions info? Or are they alumni looking for class reunions? Etc). This information will help establish your life cycles, which are different stages of your website’s interaction with target audiences you have chosen (e.g. are you looking to attract prospective students or retain your connection with alumni?).

Personas can be very helpful in this area, giving your school the ability to use KPIs adapted to each target audience. These appropriate KPIs will indicate how your efforts to engage with these audiences are working. Personas are fictional characters created to represent the different user types within a student demographic. Generally, these are defined for prospects, students, alumni, staff and professionals. However, these personas can also be expanded to include mature, international and part-time students, graduates, apprentices and more.

Let’s say, for example, that your school notices a significant amount of international visitors. Creating an International Student persona would be a way to target your marketing/recruiting message for this segment of your visitors. You would do this by creating an easy to find page or button (E.G. “Are you an International Student? Click here…”) that leads them to content created specifically for them.

Since the creation of personas really forces your college or university to focus on its target demographics (and what each group needs), they can also help define website goals. Goals are the projected business end-points for a given visitor. Put simply, they are actions you want your visitors to take on your website. Common goals found on academic websites may involve filling out and submitting a Contact Us, Apply Now, or Book a Campus Tour form.  Each individual student group that your school is targeting may have or need a different goal, and creating personas and focusing your intent for each group will help you define the most relevant goal possible for every demographic.

Creating personas can help your school define your target audiences and goals. This will in turn act as a foundation for all your marketing decisions and help your school establish Key Performance Indicators, reporting frequency and distribution to stakeholders. It will also create a series of benchmarks for each target, ensuring the effectiveness and improvement of successive marketing initiative.

Contact Higher Education Marketing for more information on personas and defining your website goals.