The word “audience” can be deceiving, especially when it comes to branding. Audiences, in general, are made up of dozens, hundreds — and if you’re the chart-topping pop star of the moment — thousands of people in one place.
At WHYFOR, we narrow audiences down in a strategic way. We hone in on a target, examine a particular slice and build an informed, research-based marketing plan around individual types of audience members. We talked about the process recently by explaining our work with innovaTel, a national telepsychiatry provider that partners with community organizations to improve access to care.
But, hearing from innovaTel directly might better explain the experience, its benefits and how the work can be used once it’s completed. Lauren Lashbrook, innovaTel’s director of strategic partnerships, reflected on the Audience Personas process.
And, full disclosure, we’re blushing a bit.
Q: Where were you, as a brand, before beginning the Audience Persona process with WHYFOR?
A: Prior to the Audience Persona process with WHYFOR, we had not done any formal brand work with an agency partner. We had done all of our marketing in house and made some updates over the years to evolve our brand with the industry, but had not done any persona-specific work.
Q: Why did you feel it was important to go through this process?
A: As our company has grown and evolved, we have really made a name for ourselves in our industry; however, we really wanted to take our brand to the next level. We are known for our clinical excellence and wanted all of our marketing and branding to align with that clinical excellence.
Q: What struck you about the process?
A: I had met with a number of agencies prior to working with WHYFOR and was really looking for a partner that understood our business model, target markets and, most importantly, our mission as much as we did. After handling all of our marketing internally, it was a bit intimidating to look for an outside partner because we’re so close to our business model and, to that point, we had been the experts at what we do, day in and day out. I was worried that there may be a disconnect, but that was not the case at all with WHYFOR. They proved that right away to us. It was clear that they understood our business model and many times I found that the WHYFOR team was completing my sentences and often joke that they are reading my thoughts. I truly feel that WHYFOR is an extension of my team, not an outside agency.
Q: Do you recall gaining new insights about the audiences you’re speaking to as a result of the persona research?
A: Absolutely! Taking such a deep dive into our audiences was incredibly valuable. The WHYFOR team spent a tremendous amount of time understanding the pain points of each of our audiences, and by doing this work on the front end, it allowed us to use this persona research to craft all of our marketing messaging specific to each individual audience. All of our partnerships are customizable and much of our success has been due to the fact that we really do understand the pain points of our customers. Through our work with WHYFOR, our marketing and branding now truly paint the picture of how and why we do this work.
Q: What did you think of the end product?
A: It was fantastic! The end product really gave us a playbook for our marketing strategy. We know our customers inside and out; however, our marketing didn’t necessarily reflect that and now that work that we have done together helped us shape our entire marketing strategy for this year.
Q: How do you plan to use this analysis?
A: It really gave us a roadmap for our entire marketing strategy. It was also very helpful to share with our entire team, our board and then also new hires, specifically on the sales and marketing side.
Q: Have you seen its benefits, yet? If so, how?
A: Absolutely! We use this as a working document for all of our marketing and sales strategy planning. This was a fundamental tool in updating our website and all of our marketing content. Our industry is not a one-size-fits-all landscape, and by deeply understanding our personas and target markets, our marketing will now reflect the pain points and relevant solutions that we can offer our customers through our partnerships.
I also used this tool for new sales representatives we brought on board so they can really understand our DNA and the pain points of our target customers and how our solutions uniquely align with their needs.
WHYFOR can do the same for you. Let’s see how our Audience Persona work can benefit you.
When we talk about “audience work,” that might sound vague. It might conjure a scene of someone tapping a hot mic, tossing out jokes, trying to warm up a studio full of fans awaiting a headliner.
We’re not talking about an opening act. We’re talking about targeted outreach informed by an in-depth analysis of who a specific brand or organization is trying to reach. There’s a big difference.
Much like opening acts like to tailor their set to the type of audience that appreciates the headliner (think: skip the ballads for the headbanging crowd), brands need to tailor their messaging to speak to the challenges, pain points and solutions their audiences are experiencing. This gets to the heart of WHYFOR’s Audience Personas.
It’s how innovaTel, a national telepsychiatry provider that partners with community-based organizations to improve access to care, better understands Bob.
And who’s Bob? He’s a composite character we developed during our Audience Persona process to help us, and innovaTel, get a better picture of what matters to someone managing a community mental health center.
And we didn’t just pluck him out of thin air. That’s what magicians do. Instead, we determined target audiences during a thorough workshop with innovaTel and gathered intel through a series of validation interviews from other Bob-types — none of whom were named Bob — to understand the pressures, goals and opportunities a professional in this field faces when trying to deliver care and improve outcomes for patients.
It was during those interviews that we discovered how Bob likes to receive information, what type of information he’s interested in receiving and how the information helps him, and other decision makers on his team, move forward with a new partner. Every Bob is different, but we were still able to see themes emerge that allowed us to create an illustration of a valuable audience specific to innovaTel.
And for innovaTel, we went through the same process with two other audiences because we understand the importance of nuance.
With those characters outlined, and then colored in thanks to first-party research, innovaTel came away from our Audience Persona work with a more informed visual of exactly who they’re talking to, and exactly how they should approach each of the audiences they’re trying to reach.
Like magic. Or an opening act that makes sure it knows who it’s playing to.
How well do you know your brand’s audience? Let us introduce you to Audience Personas.
After diving in and completing an Anatomy Profile with WHYFOR, Pine Canyon — a luxury golf community in Flagstaff, Arizona — experienced pretty remarkable results.
While doubling down during the pandemic on its new-found identity as a refuge for its owners and members, Pine Canyon crushed its sales goals (by 53%), saw a spike in SEO traffic (248% increase) and realized a 1,993% return on investment for its marketing efforts.
Deanna Keck, designated broker and sales executive for Symmetry Realty Brokerage at Pine Canyon, participated in the entire process. So, we asked her what she thought of it. Here’s what she said.
Q: What was the Anatomy Profile process like for you? What was your perception?A: It revealed people to us. We always knew we were drawing from five different zip codes. And we knew friends wanted their neighbors close. A lot of people consider Pine Canyon summer camp. I think it helped us look inwards at just a lot of things we were doing to attract those people and to raise the bar.
If we follow these steps and really reflect on who our audience is, and the anatomy of who we are, we can take Pine Canyon to the next level.
Q: What do you think was the most beneficial element of the process?A: It gave us a real roadmap of where we were and where we wanted to go. It always gave us the opportunity to bring us back to where we needed to be. We sit where we are today with the refresh of the brand … it allowed for Pine Canyon to set the bar extremely high.
Q: How do you think the work done during the Anatomy Profile impacted your external audiences?A: We did a really great job of painting a beautiful picture for people to fall in love with. And we had the right people in the right seats to sell the lifestyle.
Q: How did it change how you do business, if it did?A: I 100 percent believe in what the process brought to us and it really revealed a lot about our company we needed to change. And if other brands are committed to self-reflecting, they’ll get to where they want to go. This is a process for someone who is dedicated. Someone who says, “I want to do everything I can do to get there.” That’s the buy-in you have to get. I know it will make business better.
There are a lot of things that come through the process that are like skeletons in the closet. If you don’t deal with it, you can’t move forward. “Are you ready to make this commitment?” This is hard work. This is like therapy. And therapy is not fun. But when you work through it all, it’s amazing where you can be on the other side. If you can’t approach it that way, you don’t benefit from it.
… and we do believe we heard a mic drop right there, so we’ll wrap it up.
What can WHYFOR’s Anatomy Profiles do for your organization?
Connect with us and let’s find out, together.
Sometimes, it’s hard to understand a concept until it’s drawn out, with specifics. We’re thinking about architecture and physics and (gulp) algebra. The Anatomy Profiles we do for brands are the same, except less terrifying than tricky math problems with letters.
We can talk about Anatomy Profiles and explain them, but they sometimes just need a real-world example so they can be easily digested. Pine Canyon, a luxury golf community in Flagstaff, Arizona, is the ideal illustration of the impact our Anatomy Profiles, the first step of our L.A.B.S. system, can have.
Prior to working with WHYFOR, Pine Canyon was selling houses. Pretty straight forward for any developer. To be specific, the community tucked into the Ponderosa pines of northern Arizona, was selling luxury cabins with list prices that many times required multiple commas.
Anyone who stepped foot onto the immaculate grounds at Pine Canyon, which enjoys views of the San Francisco Peaks and frequent visits from area wildlife, could feel that the community was special. It wasn’t just another housing development, with a playground and a bank of mailboxes.
Pine Canyon was a destination, and one’s arrival there meant something. And that feeling needed to be communicated — because, up until then, it wasn’t. Pine Canyon wasn’t using language that inspired its audience to act. It wasn’t conveying its unique benefits, beyond a house.
WHYFOR stepped in and changed that. Anatomy Profile work uncovered a unique differentiation for Pine Canyon, which was actually selling a home — a place where someone belongs — instead of just a dwelling. A minor but gigantic detail.
After implementing tactics drawn from the Anatomy Profile, Pine Canyon’s leads increased by 40% and the real estate team exceeded sales goals by 53%.
We’ve finally reached the meat, the juicy stuff. That sounds weird without context, but for carnivores, it must sound like some kind of glorious summit.
In reality, it’s exciting for everyone, even vegetarians. Because this is the culmination of the work we’ve been unfolding over the past few weeks as we explain our H.A.L.O. business system, a unique and holistic approach to branding and marketing based on values and rooted in immersive behavioral analysis.
We’ve mapped a brand’s genetic code, we’ve contextualized personas and the customer journey, and we’ve created a customized plan, based on budgets and goals, for a brand to realize the kind of success that — to this point — has alluded it.
We know. It sounds like magic or wild theory or even one of those “but wait there’s more” kind of things. But, it’s not. It’s just an industry-agnostic system that works.
Because everyone’s desire for something that works is equal. It’s not dependent on the size of the investment, whether your marketing budget is 20 bucks, $20,000 or $2 million. You want a return that is worth something. And that return, be it qualified leads, improved awareness or increased conversions, can translate to improved reputation, additional revenue or better recognition in a crowded marketplace.
That’s why our Avenues Plan drills down to specifics, providing exact coordinates for the placement of marketing dollars based on the work completed throughout the entire process. And oftentimes, by the time we arrive here, we are coordinating a solution for an issue that a brand had misdiagnosed, or completely missed, at the outset.
But that’s what this process is for. While it’s not designed to manufacture a branding curveball, it often uncovers unexpected insights, like archeologists dusting off generations of failed assumptions.
Data takes you down the correct paths. Assumptions, most times, don’t.
We could go on and on and on about this stuff, about H.A.L.O., about how well it works and about how much we love digging in and discovering new things about brands and businesses. But, we can’t here.
We’ve got anatomies to code, audiences to dissect and avenues to plan. Want in? Let us know. We’ll get these things going for you, too.
Road trips have changed over the years. Where our parents would unfold accordion-style maps that seemingly ate up all the space in the front seat, a generation later we’re able to demand directions from a handheld computer, using just our voices.
The common thread? We need a route. Or, we’ll be lost.
Sometimes, if it’s really uncharted territory, we even need a guide. That’s what WHYFOR’s Avenues assessment, part of our H.A.L.O. business system, provides. It leads to a guided tour of the route a brand should take to reach its target audiences, based on its anatomy, its personas and its budget.
Yeah, like any road trip, there’s math involved. But numbers offer clarity and valuable perspective, like gas mileage. You need to know how far you can go with what you have, and which route would be the most efficient and most effective to take.
It makes total sense. But many times, brands or businesses bypass this type of thing. They throw everything in the car and take the route they know, even if it’s entirely uphill. Or, in marketing talk, they allocate their marketing budgets based on old information, tired habits and whatever everyone else is doing.
Despite being trendy, crop tops aren’t for everyone. Twitter isn’t, either. Certain approaches are better for certain types of brands or businesses. And our Avenues assessment sorts all that out.
Imagine that. Imagine knowing exactly who you are, as a brand, knowing exactly how to speak to your audiences because you’ve studied their behaviors, and then knowing exactly which routes to take to reach them. That type of intel changes things, in a good way.
It builds recognition. It improves reputation. If done properly, it drives revenue and it can improve retention. And, it threads together a brand’s DNA, its relationships and the outflow of measurable ROI.
There’s more to the process (think: incredible, insight-driven, customized plan), and we’ll dive into that soon. But, if you can’t wait, call us. We can be persuaded (easily) to talk about our Avenues assessment and its benefits.
We’re all trackable. Like, even if we think we’re private, we’re actually not. We have our habits, our favorite Instagrammers and we gravitate towards brands and ideas that predictably sync with our personalities
We can be found. And we are, regularly. Which means, brands should take note.
So, when we finish painting the detailed illustrations of our Audience Personas for clients at WHYFOR, we start following the breadcrumbs that sprinkle out from that work — work that identifies with low ambiguity who a business or brand or organization is trying to reach, with specificity. And once we follow those breadcrumbs, we animate the characters we’ve carved out during persona development, folding who they are and how they’re motivated into a blueprint that details where they can be found and how they can be reached.
This entire process, the one we refer to as H.A.L.O., builds on itself as we progress. So, if any of this sounds out there or if you feel like you’ve walked into the middle of a conversation — you have, a little. If you start from the beginning, it all makes sense.
But, now that we’re here, it’s time to consider the customer journey. At WHYFOR, we take a deeply empathetic approach to mapping and fully understanding the journey a persona will take with a brand. Beyond technical UX, we get down to routines. We explore the nitty gritty in a strategic, sensible way.
In short, based on the pain points and motivators we discovered while piecing together personas, we find where a brand fits in a consumer’s orbit. Is it at a conference or trade show (think pre- or post-COVID)? Is it on TikTok or LinkedIn? Is it online, outdoors or in an inbox? Or is it (gasp) over the phone?
And when we reach them, how should we talk to them? Based on what we know, what should we develop that they’d appreciate? A handy download, a fun video or an informative white paper? It all depends.
Our Audience Persona work isn’t complete until we know these things. Think of it as coloring in a picture after outlining it in great detail. It’s all about the shading, right?
The part that cannot be overlooked is that we can’t reach this point, effectively, without doing all the groundwork first. We can’t know how a brand fits into a consumer’s life until we know what the brand stands for and what the consumer looks like.
In other words, you can’t understand your specific audience until you understand yourself — as a business. It’s deep. And life advice-like. But true.
We’re walking clients through it all right now. And to our knowledge, no one has cried yet, except in celebration. We’re not even making that up.
Let us know when you’re ready to dive into your own journey.
Hasbro sells a board game that asks players to use physical characteristics to guess the identity of a secret person their opponent has chosen. Remember that game, Guess Who? It’s a simple premise.
Is it a woman? Does she have glasses? Does he have a mustache? Is her hair red? That kind of thing.
On the most elementary level, and we mean at its most simplistic, it reminds us of the Audience Personas we create as part of our proprietary H.A.L.O. process. Instead of flipping down illustrations of people who don’t fit the persona we’re creating, like we would in the game, we use gigantic sticky notes or digital templates to build profiles of the types of people brands are trying to reach.
It’s a process, a fun, insightful one. It starts where our Anatomy Profile leaves off and leads to the development of an Avenues Plan. On its own, Audience Personas uncover not just how a segment of an audience looks and lives, but how they think, how they behave and what motivates them to act.
This is where things start to fit together. It’s where pieces start to slide into place, and where clients begin to understand why we questioned them about their anatomy and their values so relentlessly and specifically. Because, you have to know who you are and how people view you in order to know who you want to talk to and understand why they would want to hear you.
We could get fancy here and talk about psychographics and demographics, and then pick apart the delineations and necessities of both. But we won’t. We’re going to go Guess Who?-style and keep it simple. Because that falls in line with our approach. We ditch those traditionally bloated and often fluffy reports that never get used in favor of creating specific, actionable plans that feed off our Anatomy Profiles and move us to our customer journey analysis.
Audience Personas get to the root of why people make the choices they do, as it relates to brands. Our ultimate goal is to get to the nerve, to discover the pain point and then understand what factors motivate certain behaviors. Put simply, we want to understand pain points to alleviate them, understand questions audiences have so we can answer them and understand goals so we can help them achieve them.
The data we bring to the surface allows us to create a valuable narrative, featuring fictional characters based on a brand’s true story — like a high-quality, super-specific docudrama. And like any juicy drama, some of the characters (or personas) are driven by money (budgets), some by fame (personal notoriety), some by philosophies and principles (classic Cinderella/Jedi story).
Regardless, those unique motivations are the holy grail. Because ultimately, we want our work to influence decision making and impact revenue.
See? It’s a bit more high level than Guess Who?, but we also don’t shout “Cheater!” like we did as kids as we work through Audience Personas. We’re past that.
And once we’re past harvesting characteristics for brand-specific personas, we build them out so they’re easier to see. We’ll explain that process a bit more, soon.
Need some intel on your Audience Personas? Let’s talk.
Discovering who you are can be a trip. On a personal level, that discovery may come in the wake of turbulent trials or while backpacking through the Sierra Nevada mountains or after stumbling through the desert at Burning Man. Different strokes for different folks.
But for brands that work with us, that discovery is born during a thorough analysis of organizational structure, ideals, process and purpose. We’ve talked about it before — the Anatomy Profile we work with brands to create.
And we imagine you probably want to know what comes next. Because getting information is easy, even if it feels hard in the moment. Using it is the real challenge.
We’ve seen too many brands and organizations pay for marketing research or marketing plans or marketing tactics that they never put to use — or don’t even know how to use.
It. Just. Sits. There. And gets stale. And sad.
We’re not into that. So, we put hard work to work, insisting that the time we’ve spent uncovering a brand’s DNA is never wasted. We’re kind of like drill sergeants for insights, without those annoying whistles.
Once we understand a brand’s anatomy, we build out a complete profile. We know who you are now, so we find out how you’d speak to the people you’re trying to reach. But it’s not just about how you talk — it’s also about what
Anatomy Profiles include the development of core messages, a sort of content compass, informing content plans for any number of platforms, from taglines to digital ads to tweets. These core messages steer your content creation, ensuring a brand’s anatomy shines through, consistently, with every word.
Anatomy work has the potential to uncover a more applicable direction for a brand or organization, and often does. Because it drills down to a common denominator (no fractions needed) and builds a fresh foundation that otherwise may have gone undiscovered.
It’s the whole “forest for the trees” thing.
The entire process allows a brand to reset or rediscover how it wants to make people feel and how it wants to be viewed. Once that self-discovery is done, the army of insights turn and face the audience, because that’s their
The information gained from the development of Anatomy Profiles trickles up, if you can visualize that anomaly. It improves your understanding of and ability to convey your unique differentiators in the tone that fits your brand and your audiences.
It’s a delicate dance, and if done properly, can positively impact organizational struggles related to recruitment, retention and recognition, among other issues that start with the letter “r.” There actually are a few more.
And once it’s complete, we start looking at Audience Personas. The Anatomy Profile flows right into it, like a hand into a glove — a working glove made of leather or suede instead of a fancy, white one from those old English shows.
Because, like we said, we put this work to work. Intrigued? Our Anatomy Profile work is something we love to talk about, so let’s connect.
We’ve all wondered who we are, exactly, at some point. That great existential introspection can be terrifying or exhilarating. Or, maybe both? Regardless, that monumental personal discovery can create understanding, facilitate empathy, inspire connections and fuel change.
It’s heavy. Who we are is pretty much our everything.
Same goes for brands.
It’s foolish to launch marketing efforts, create digital campaigns, and develop logos and taglines and websites if you have no idea who you really are. And you’d be surprised at how many businesses don’t know who they are. It’s startling, actually.
You have to understand yourself first, inside and out. Or, it’s all a waste. We’ve seen the aftermath. And it’s not pretty.
This is what WHYFOR’s Anatomy Profiles accomplish. Part of the H.A.L.O. business system, WHYFOR’s Anatomy Profiles ask all the questions. And by all, we mean every last one.
What makes a brand tick? How does it feel? What would it say? Would it wear tie-dye or cuff links? Cream or sugar, bagels or donuts? All the most important things, from the hard-hitting to the warm-and-fuzzy.
We ask, because we string the answers together to build an organizational gene code. Yeah, our Anatomy Profiles is basically DNA research for brands. It’s actually a science, we just don’t wear lab coats — because despite how serious we are, even we know that would be a bit much.
The work we put into the intensive lab workshop spits out a customized brand recipe, a brand anatomy that acts as a foundation for its larger personality, intentions and direction. It informs the strategic approach towards its audiences and delineates the avenues it will use to reach them.
WHYFOR refers to these elements — anatomy, audiences and avenues — as the 3As. They’re a big deal. And as we said before, they all start with anatomy — knowing what you’re made of.
Brand anatomy uncovers voice and tone, establishing an appropriate feel when delivering messaging, be it in an email, on social media or embedded in ads and collateral. It’s how a brand speaks. It’s what it sounds like.
Is it authoritative? Is it a jokester? Is it educational, empathetic or empowering?
Beyond voice, it also develops a strategy statement, identifies values and sets brand standards for imagery and style, specifying colors and fonts and building a compass of organizational integrity.
WHYFOR’s Anatomy Profiles are vital, basically. And although the profiles unearth a substantial volume of critical intel on a brand, they’re only one step — the first step in the process.
Because finding out who you are is big. But, finding out how to flex, how to use your superpowers, that’s the next step.
To learn more about WHYFOR’s Anatomy Profiles or its H.A.L.O. business system, reach out. We’d love to fill you in.