Sara Baliti On Stage at SISO

Sara Baliti On Stage at SISO

SISO Leadership Conference Marketing Breakout: Using Personas for Your Events

A Retrospective by Sara Baliti, Senior Account Director at mdg


Lauren Ocoma, Vice President of Marketing at Clarion UX, Scott Sherpe, SVP Marketing at Informa, and I recently spoke about the integration of persona research into marketing strategies. While persona research is hot, many event marketers are unsure of how to maximize its potential. Our top five pieces of advice are:


  1. Your audience expects customization. I call it the “Amazon Generation.” It doesn’t matter if you’re a B2B show, your customers are consumers and they expect the same level of customized marketing they get from their everyday brands. Conducting persona research is the best way to tap into your audience’s motivations, what keeps them up at night, how they consume their content, how long it takes them to make a decision—all the things you need to create a marketing campaign that delivers them the information they need to make a decision when they want it and how they want it.
  2. Keep it simple to keep it effective. The three of us (Lauren, Scott, and I) all agreed that you really should not be creating more than five personas per audience. The further you segment, the more complex your campaign will become, and you aren’t as likely to keep up with the segmentation. Personas are a realistic generalization of attendee or exhibitor types so they can do a really good job of targeting, generally, what each attendee or exhibitor is interested in. You can get far more sophisticated with targeting through digital channels, but in our experience parsing your audience out into five personas allows you to effectively target your messaging and communications.
  3. Map your content. Now that you know who your audience is (and we mean REALLY know), it’s time to create content that addresses the challenges they are facing and the opportunities they are looking for. Sit down and reevaluate what you have been doing. Identify which track, conference, exhibit hall feature, or networking session would be of interest to each of your personas. This will help you see where you have gaps in your programming and if you are serving your core audience well.
  4. Align your database. The most common question we get when we do persona work is, “Well, this is great, but how do I know which of my attendees is which persona?” We recommend starting with an evergreen approach—sending to larger lists with links to content that you know will be relevant for each persona. Then you can create a trigger email based on where they click to validate your hypothesis of the persona (if they click through again, you can assume you were correct), and just like that you have started segmenting in your database.

Update your Compelling Value Proposition (CVP). As important as the persona work itself, so is understanding your event’s unique selling point. This will be the basis of all your persona marketing. You cannot target your messaging if you don’t know why it’s important to attend. Even if you think you know your CVP, I encourage you to look again and ask yourself, “Is this really what is unique about our event and what will drive attendance?” A strong CVP is the critical foundation of any strong marketing campaign and becomes even stronger when overlaid with personas.