Targeted Audiences
Published July 15, 2022

Audiences Are In, Personas Are Out

4 min read

Personas are old school. They’ve been around a long time, giving us a vague idea of who used our products and services. But they aren’t real. They’re like the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus. They just don’t exist in the real world. 

That’s because they’re ideal collections of specific demographics siphoned into a single avatar. But how useful are they now in an age where we can reach an actual audience? Not very. 

We need a new approach. A new way of thinking about how we build products and services for our intended audience. Funky named personas ain’t it. 

Audiences. That’s where it truly is at. Let’s break down why audiences are more valuable than personas.

Personas Make Presumptions

First and foremost, there’s nothing wrong with using a buyer persona, but you won’t be getting real world data from it. That’s because it’s an ideal customer. And customers aren’t one-size fits all products that come off an assembly line.

Robot factory from The Black Hole.
You can’t build customers off an assembly line like robots. (Photo Credit: The Black Hole, Disney)

The goal of a buyer persona is to drill down at a specific member of your target audience. Each persona is given a name, background, goals, challenges, and location. Usually, it outlines what that person’s needs are and how your service or product could meet them. Identifiers, such as values and personality, are also outlined. 

But users aren’t artificial constructs with clever names, they’re real people with real needs.

Example of a Buyer Persona.
An example of a Buyer Persona. Source: Meticulosity.

It’s an ass-backward approach. As Rand Fishkin points out, personas are “a solution looking for a problem.”  He advocates for building a better persona with a data-driven approach: 

  • Step One: Aggregate a list of apps, products, services your personas are solving for. 
  • Step Two: Audit that list using data-gathering methods to determine which ones are realistically fit with your product/service. 
  • Step Three: Collect data from internal customer data, statistical market data, customer interviews, audience intelligence data. 

Data is always great. The more data you gather, the better you can build your products. But why not just reach out directly and put your concepts, ideas, and designs in front of an actual, targeted audience?

Reaching a Target Audience is the Solution 

It’s not so much building a better persona as it is reaching an audience, one that fits the attributes of your product or service. You can gather all the data about them. But you’re still making assumptions on how they’ll interact or what problems they are trying to solve. 

Targeted Audiences are the way to go. They’re a specific group of people with similar characteristics that are more apt to buy your product

Audiences can be divided into segments, based on social, psychographic, behavioral, and geographic demographics. You know, all the details that you’d put into a buyer persona. But these are people that actually exist. No guessing. No assumptions. Direct data from the source. 

We use targeted audiences exclusively at Helio. You can reach all those demographics and refine it further into a variety of professions. 

Targeted Audience in Action 

When working with a fashion brand, we reached out to the audience most likely to wear their jeans. We put the brand’s website in front of them and gathered actual data on a variety aspects of their brand and site. Some of things we examined were Ad Perception, Homepage Comparison, Brand Value, and Browse Functionality.

We collected 35,000 answers from an audience made up of men/women, 15-50 with a household income of <$75K in the United States. Further, we broke it down into other attributes, such as online shoppers who shops with particular brands. 

Helio findings.
Example of information we gathered from a targeted audience.

From there, we tested our hunches with that targeted audience. 

Here is a snapshot of some of our findings: 

  • The site was overwhelming. Although benefits from clear sales offerings. 
  • A lack of brand awareness led to missed expectations for higher price points compared to competitors.
  • Confusion over “out of stock” items.
  • Confusion over the checkout process. 

From that, we were able to make several recommendations to improve the overall experience. 

Targeted audiences can move a project forward. And you don’t have to create a persona just to talk to them. They can be reached at any point in the design process. 

Ready-Made Audiences in Helio

We’ve also done a lot of the legwork for you, creating Ready-Made Audiences.

Use them when you want to reach an audience quickly. Here are a few examples:  

  • Online Content Readers: An audience that reads online content and spends a lot of time on their phones and computers. 
  • Streaming Consumers: An audience that streams videos, TV, and film regularly. They also subscribe to more than one streaming service. 
  • Medical Practice Industry: An audience that works in the medical industry within a group of three or four doctors. 

Reach your audience now with Helio. Get started for free!

Test and Learn
with an Audience