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Segmenting Exhibitor Audiences and Developing Buyer Personas

Quick: think about five people you know.

Are you all the same age and gender? Do you all have similar jobs? What about your needs, motivations, and challenges — are your friends’ identical to yours?

Probably not, because you’re not the same as everybody else. And neither are your booth visitors.

To tailor your exhibit experiences to your audience’s needs, you must know more than just the surface level stats about what they like, need, and want. Audience segmentation and persona development helps you identify exactly who you should be targeting and how to target them by diving deep into data to uncover what makes them tick.

This checklist of easy steps will help you get started turning your audience from a monolith into a defined, strategic collection of personas. Review the list and download your copy below!

Collecting the Data

  • At every show, collect data about your booth visitors, especially those who engage deeply with you. Record whatever information will be relevant to your business, such as age range, gender, job title, industry, business size, any pain points they mention, cultural attitudes, where they live, where they seek out information, etc.
  • Collect data on your audience from as many sources as possible:
    • Digital analytics
    • Event analytics
    • Survey responses
    • Event management information
    • Show assessment
    • Existing data (CRM, databases, etc.)

Data Review

  • Haul out your data and start looking for patterns.
  • If you do not have a data analyst, a spreadsheet can help. Put each person in a new row, and each new characteristic as a new column header. As you review people, check off the characteristics they meet.
  • Feel free to lump information together if it makes sense. You may not need separate personas for marketing managers versus senior marketing managers, for example.
  • Note the patterns that appear and write them down (e.g., “50-something medium-sized marketing agency owners who are focused on business growth”)
  • Once you have a few rough groups formed, sort and prioritize them.
    • Which groups tend to make up the bulk of your customer base?
    • Which represent a market you’re dying to break into?
    • Which will determine the success of your exhibit?

Persona Development

  • Take your top-priority groups and gather more information about their event habits, either from interviews/surveys or from internal sources, like event organizers or your sales and customer service teams.
    • Why do they attend?
    • What barriers might keep them from attending?
    • How engaged are they?
    • What problems are they looking to solve?
  • Create buyer persona that represent each group and craft stories for each persona. For example, “Agency Angela is 53 and owns a 20-person marketing agency in Des Moines. She wants to grow her agency but is stretched thin. Angela comes to shows to seek out economical and scalable solutions that will improve efficiency, freeing up time for her to solicit new business.”

Marketing to Your Personas

  • With your personas defined, ask the question: Are we meeting their needs?
  • Review your brand experience strategy, messaging, and channels to tailor them to your personas for maximum impact.
  • During the event, note the people who fall into your high-priority persona(s) and how they respond to their experience in your booth.
  • After the event, monitor the behavior of attendees who fall into those high-priority personas to identify the impact of your event. If Hilary Jones fits the “Agency Angela” persona, and she attended the event and now engages with your emails 80 percent more than she did prior to the event, that shows solid movement down the funnel.
  • Using the data about attendee behavior during and after your event, brainstorm ways to keep improving the brand experience.
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