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How Student Personas Can Help Increase Class Registrations

Nic Lyons

April 10, 2023

The nosy neighbor. The cantankerous co-worker. The level-headed lifeguard. We tend to create character sketches of people in our lives to help us learn to interact with them. This tendency to try to understand people can help you create a valuable marketing tool: student personas.

Student personas are representations of your ideal students based on what you know and understand about people in your target audience. You can think of them like composite sketches of your ideal students. Using student personas will help you better understand the needs, motivations, and behaviors of your students. This information can help shape your program’s marketing and sales strategies so you can ultimately get more registrations for your classes.

What Is a Student Persona? 

A student persona is like a character sketch of the type of person who is most likely to register for your course. Its purpose is to help you better understand who you’re selling to. In fact, campaigns built for specific personas can drive 18 times more revenue than generalized content.

Marketing campaigns created with specific customer personas in mind can drive 18x more revenue than generalized content.

Demographics like gender, age, and race are a good start, but personas look deeper to provide context. They dig into the goals and needs of your ideal student. Each student persona you create should represent all of the students who share certain characteristics or motivations. 

The best way to understand how this works is with an example. 

Student Persona Example

Let’s say your average student is a white woman, age 40, who is married, employed as a teacher, and lives in an urban area. That information tells you about her, but it doesn’t say much about her goals or motivations. To create marketing messages that resonate with her, you need to know more: What are her goals? What does she worry about? What motivates her? 

It would be valuable to know that she:

  • Enjoys taking sophisticated pictures on her iPhone but would like to better understand how to use the phone to edit photos 
  • Has an Instagram account dedicated to her photography
  • Doesn’t have a car and relies on public transportation
  • Has disposable income but is thrifty in her spending habits
  • Does all of her banking entirely online 
  • Has taken the Annie Leibovitz MasterClass on portraiture and storytelling

With that information, someone trying to sell her a digital photography class might choose to:

In fact, highlighting value rather than focusing on cost is almost always the right choice, unless you’re specifically marketing to deal-seekers. 

How to Create Student Personas

Begin by collecting as much data as you can about your current and prospective students. Use this persona template as you work, copying the original template slide as many times as you need to create as many personas as you’d like. 

Use this template to create as many student personas as you like, using as much data as you can about your average and ideal students.

You can use existing student profiles and records, feedback forms, and insights from social media. You can also ask your instructors for their insights. How would they describe your average student? They may be able to give you more information based on in-class conversations. 

Make a spreadsheet to help you organize the data, including categories for: 

  • Approximate age
  • Gender
  • Income level
  • Level of education
  • Geographic location
  • Class(es) taken or indicated an interest in taking
  • Other information

Next, begin identifying trends in that data. Don’t just look for the average, instead, see if you can find groups of shared traits. For example, if 30% of your students live in your town but 20% come from the surrounding rural area, you might need a persona for each of those groups. 

Questions to Help You Create Your Student Personas 

With this basic information in hand, you can start asking questions that will help you better understand your students. Seek out answers to these kinds of questions: 

  • How does this student spend their free time? 
  • On what does this student spend their disposable income? 
  • What social networks does this student use? What kind(s) of content do they consume? 
  • Who are this student’s friends? Who do they socialize with? 
  • Does this student belong to any groups, organizations, or political parties? 
  • How does this student get around? (car, public transportation, bike, etc.) 
  • Where do they live? (urban, suburban, rural) In what kind of residence? (House, apartment, condo, etc.) 
  • Who do they consider to be family?

As you build your persona, it can be helpful to give this person a name. That way your marketing team can easily identify who each marketing message is for. You might humanize these personas even more by including a stock photo to represent each person.

Sample student persona, "Adult Learner Andrea"

Goals and Pain Points: The Heart of Student Personas

After you have the basic profile for each persona, it’s time to dig deeper. This is where the value of student personas becomes obvious. At this step, you’ll begin to understand what motivates your students and what might stand in the way of their registration. 

To understand the persona’s goals, ask:

  • What does this student value? 
  • Why is this student interested in taking your course? 
  • What does this student hope to gain by taking your course? 
  • What are their short-term and long-term goals? 
  • How can this course help them achieve their goals? 

To understand the persona’s pain points, ask:

  • What kinds of things does this person worry about? (money, the future, their kids, their career, etc.)
  • What challenges or barriers does this person face? 
  • How might these things prevent this student from enrolling in your course?

This helps you begin to create a narrative for your persona. The narrative is a vital part of the student persona, because it sets up the problem that you’re going to solve with your course. 

How to Use Personas Beyond Marketing

Imagine you learn that your 40-year-old photography student is interested in taking the course because she has a true passion for the subject, but she’s also toying with the idea of starting her own part-time freelance photography business. Because she’s a teacher, she envisions herself spending her summer vacations photographing weddings for some extra income.

You can use all of this information to adjust your classes to better support your ideal student. You might decide to offer an online version of the course, change the way you accept payments, or adjust class times to better meet her schedule and goals. 

The more you flesh out your student personas, the more you’ll understand what motivates them to register and the easier it is to create classes to fit their needs.

The more you flesh out your student personas, the easier it is to create classes to fit their needs. Give yourself creative freedom to build stories and create full people—people who will want to take your classes! 

As you consider your student personas, you may find certain traits that unite all types of students. For example, every student would appreciate a simple and easy registration process. CourseStorm can help you make online registration simple for everyone. To see how it works, start your free trial or contact us today. 

Nic Lyons

Nic is skilled in scaling start-up edtech and education organizations to growth-stage success through innovative marketing. A former journalist and copywriter, Nic holds a postgraduate certificate in digital and print publishing from Columbia University School of Journalism's publishing course.

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