The Association Blog: News and Resources for Association Executives

What's a Member Persona and How to Create One

Posted by Allison Reilly on Jun 19, 2014 8:00:00 AM

corporate member caleb member personasA buyer persona is defined as, "a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers." A buyer persona is useful to many businesses because the representation is incredibly helpful in crafting marketing materials and in determining the biggest needs and pain points of the customer base. Knowing this information makes any marketing or content strategy more effective.

However, as an association, you don't have buyers or customers per say. You have members! But the concept of a "buyer persona" can also apply to associations and other member-based organizations. Creating a persona of your member (or different types of members) can help your organization recruit and retain the right people. Adding 100 members don't mean much if 85 of them aren't going to renew their membership. So, here's what a member persona is and how to create one for your organization.

What Does a Member Persona Entail?

A solid member persona that can be used as a guide for membership marketing, recruiting and retention should include the following information:

  • Demographics - gender, occupation, employer, age, education, socioeconomic status, family, career asperations etc.
  • Behavior Patterns - What does their typical day look like? Where do they go to find information? How did they find out about your organization? How often do they show up to meetings? How often do they volunteer to help? How do they network?
  • Motivations - Why did they join your organization? Why did they renew their membership? Why do the volunteer or attend various events? What objections do they have to membership and membership renewal?
  • Goals - Why did they join and/or renew? What do they want from your organization? What do they hope to achieve as a member? What are they responsible for, whether as a member or in life?
  • Persona Image - Use a stock photo. DO NOT use a photo of an actual member. You're creating a representation of your ideal member, not a profile of a specific member.
  • Anything else that your organization thinks would be helpful for membership recruitment and retention.

How to Create a Member Persona

  1. Conduct Research by Interviewing Current Members - To create an awesome member persona, you need to talk to your current members. Talk to as many members as you can. You need to ask them the questions mentioned in the section above so that you can put together a member persona that will be helpful in your association marketing. The point is NOT TO GUESS. A member persona is not a representation of who you want your members to be or who you think they are. If you're going to guess how members find out about the organization or why they join the association, then you might as well not have a persona at all.
  2. Use the Answers to Create the Persona - No matter the size of your organization, you want to interview about 10 current members to gather enough information for your member persona. Your association may be able to do fewer interview if it can already answer many of the questions in the first section. Here are a few examples of what great buyer or member personas can look like.
  3. Give the Persona a Name and a Face - As previously stated, you want to use a stock photos for the face/image. But, for the name, you want the name to reflect the type of member persona you just created. So, something fun like "Corporate Member Cathy," "Association Member Alex," or "New Member Nathan" will make it clear who the persona is targeting but also humanize the persona a little bit more.
  4. Rinse and Repeat - It's possible that your organization may have several member personas i.e. a corporate member persona, a millenial member persona, an industry veteran persona. This is okay. If your organization finds that it needs more than one persona in order to tailor marketing materials or to address different needs and pain points, then go ahead and create as many as you need.

Note - If you find out that you have more than one member persona, then you want to interview at least 10 people for each persona. If you interview 10 people, but discover that your association has five personas, then two interviews for each persona isn't going to provide enough information to create an effective and accurate member persona.

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Topics: member outreach, marketing for associations, member recruitment, member retention, lovable marketing, association marketing