Who looks at your organization’s blog and other online content?

You may have met a few of your readers personally. But chances are you know little else about the others besides a name or an email address.

That’s a problem. You need to know what all your readers care about. Otherwise you can’t create content that appeals to them. And that makes it much harder to attract, build, and keep an audience.

One of the best ways to get insights into what your readers want is to create customer personas, a composite sketch of your target audiences. In just a few paragraphs, a persona offers a portrait of a target audience. It includes a name, key demographics like gender, age, and income, and a list of important interests and problems.

How does this help you and your organization? You now have a clear idea of whom you serve and what keeps them up at night. That means you can plan and write content that directly addresses your reader’s needs. And this will help you get and keep more online traffic.

Here are four steps you can take to create customer personas on your own to grow your online audience:

Dive Deep into Your Data

Your organization’s website and social media accounts offer a treasure trove of information about your online community.

Facebook Analytics, for example, can tell you the gender and geographic location of visitors to your organization’s account. Twitter Analytics has facts about your follower’s interests, spending habits, and even the television shows they watch. And there’s no better free tool for websites than Google Analytics to get the basic facts—age, gender, and location—about those visitors.

Talk to the People You Serve

Interview selected customers, donors, or other stakeholders. Ask about their biggest challenge.  The answers may surprise you.

If possible, survey your customers using existing databases like newsletters or donor lists. For best results, keep you poll short, perhaps 10 or 15 questions. This will increase your response rate. Both Constant Contact and Mailchimp offer free survey tools.

Paint a Picture You Will Remember

Once you’ve finished your research, bring it all together. Use simple worksheets like this from Kivi’s Nonprofit Communications Blog to identify and describe your customer personas.

Start with the basics: name, gender, age and picture (use public images online). The best personas include personal details, such as habits and interests. Describe how the person spends a typical day, who they trust, and where they go for information. Lay out their concerns about your issues or services, and their pain points, or what might motivate them to act.

Make Your Personas Part of Business as Usual

Once you’ve completed your personas, make them part of your daily business. Post personas in your office and conference room when planning editorial calendars and other content decisions. Know and remember these customers throughout the year.

Need an example of a completed customer persona? Check out this post from the Hubspot blog.

How have you used customer personas in your cause marketing? Share your experience in the comment section below.