How to Build Attitudinal Personas for Effective Audience Segmentation

How to Build Attitudinal Personas for Effective Audience Segmentation

Susan Baier, Head Honcho at Audience Audit, joins the Content Experience Show to discuss better audience segmentation through attitudinal personas.

In This Episode:

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Full Episode Details

Audience Segmentation with Attitudinal Personas

It is an unfortunate fact that in meeting rooms around the world, categories like “Females, 30-35, living in ___ area,” count as “targeted personas.” When you meet someone on a personal level, knowing their gender and age is hardly an introduction. Yet for many businesses, this comprises the basis of their audience segmentation.

In order to maximize the efficacy of your marketing efforts, you need a deep understanding of your audience. This means going beyond the standard demographic information. For Susan Baier at Audience Audit, this starts with extensive surveys of a large enough population to build what she calls “attitudinal personas.”

Audience segmentation based on attitudinal personas lets you create categories around decisions each group is likely to make on a more emotional level. After all, your audience is comprised of individuals, and people are never really defined by simple demographics.

In This Episode

  • How to find meaningful information for segmentation.
  • How to conduct research to build attitudinal personas.
  • Why typical demographic information is ineffective for segmentation.
  • How to balance “deep dives” with archetypal personas.

Quotes From This Episode

“We do segmentation based on how people feel about a category and about their capabilities to make a decision within that category. Nine and a half times out of ten, those things don’t have anything to do with what people look like on paper.” — @susanbaier

“Survey research has opportunities to get answers from folks that they wouldn’t necessarily give you if they were right in front of you or on the phone with you.” — @susanbaier

People often make the mistake of thinking that personas only affect marketing. Click To Tweet


Content Experience Lightning Round

What is the last show you watched on Netflix?


Regular or diet soda?

No soda, bourbon!

Walmart or Amazon?

Susan hates shopping, so Amazon for sure!

For food, Mexican, Italian, or sushi?


If you’re going to either read a magazine, read a book, or listen to a podcast, which one is your go-to and what is the title?

Satan: His Psychotherapy and Cure by the Unfortunate Dr. Kassler.

See you next week!

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Episode Transcript

Randy: Welcome to the Content Experience Show. This is the Conex Show. I'm Randy Frisch. Anna, we had an amazing guest this week. Her name is Susan Baier. You know her. You're both in Phoenix. Even just her title that she calls herself, Head Honcho at Audience Audit, that kind of just gives us the vibe that we are going to get someone fun, someone playful, which I don't know. It's not usually what I'd expect by someone who does research. No offense to anyone who does research. Anna: Susan is amazing. I would go so far as to say that she's rad. She is just awesome. She is so much fun. She knows her stuff like no other person I've met when it comes to audience research. As she alludes to in the background one of the things that I think makes her so amazing and awesome at what she does, is the fact she was on the marketing strategy side for so long. She just has all these different perspectives. The work she does is phenomenal with audience research. It's amazing. Randy: Yeah, I'd say. My understanding is Convince and Convert works with her a lot with some of their clients so that's the relationship her company usually has is you know she is the company that an agency, which is often very good at this stuff on their own, but they'll pull her in as the expert. Through that, we got a lot of great take aways in terms of how to move away from maybe the old school ways that we think about segmentation purely around age or demographics, something of that sort. She actually ... I didn't admit this during the podcast because I was a little ashamed, but I really liked her approach as to like don't put a picture for your persona. I was just like, I'm so glad we're not in the room where I have all the pictures of our personas up stereotyping- Anna: Now you have to go and revise them. Randy: I know, I am going to like tear them off the wall or something. What did you think of that part? Do you like the idea of the picture or no picture? Anna: You know what I'm ... It's so funny, I used to be on the same lines of when you create personas like you have the typical picture and those work. There's nothing wrong with them necessarily, but I think as we hear Susan explain you just get so much more when you take away that picture. You get to see more the buying behaviors and the habits rather than getting locked into what this person looks like and who they might be. Randy: Yeah. We actually have cutsie names for a lot of ours. Anna: Oh, nothing wrong with that. Randy: One of ours is ... You know we sell to Demand Gen marketers here at Uberflip, so one of ours is called the Demand Jen, like J-E- Anna: Oh, nice. Gotcha. Randy: Of course, we got that. Anna: That's funny. Randy: Yeah. We used to run into this really technical person, and we eventually changed the name because they became more of an ally to us as we built the functionality, but we called that person Digital Dick. Eventually that person became more of an ally as we built up more tools to them, and we realized we really shouldn't have to explain ourselves. Anna: I like that you went the subtle route on that one. Randy: Exactly. Anyway, this podcast was a ton of fun. You and Susan know each other, so you kicked it off. Let's roll the interview from this past week with Susan Baier. Anna: Hey Susan, thank you so much for joining us today. Susan: Oh, thank you so much, Anna, it's delightful to be here. Anna: I'm really excited. We have had a lot of conversations before on this podcast with others about audience research and segmentation and demographics and personas, and I'm so excited to have you here because you are absolutely the expert at all of this. I'm so excited to get so nerdy on audience segmentation and research with you, I can't even begin to describe. Before we jump into all that, could you give everybody just a little bit about yourself? Susan: Yeah, absolutely. I've been a marketing strategist for over 30 years now. That's a horrifying number when you think about it. I live right outside of Phoenix. I've worked on the client's side, agency's side, couple of kids, couple of dogs, like a good bourbon. You know, I'm just your normal nerdy segmentation researcher really. Randy: You had me at bourbon. You had me. Anna: I like how you had me at audience research and you had Randy at bourbon. Randy: It's all good. Susan: They really work well together I can tell you. Randy: What is your go to bourbon? Susan: Bulleits's my go to. That's the house bourbon here. Yep. Nothing too fancy. It's a good tasty basic bourbon. Randy: Nice. It is pretty good. I'm a little fancier, not to like- Susan: No, it's okay. Randy: I like Blanton's. Do you know Blanton's, the one with the little horse on the top? Susan: Oh, yeah. Randy: The problem is, you can only get it at certain times of the year. You kind of need backup. Susan: That's not functional for me for bourbon. Randy: I know. Susan: It needs to be centered around exercise. Randy: Sunday night men habit. Sorry, but I think we're here to talk about audience segmentation. Anna: I mean, I could talk about bourbon. Susan: I could talk about bourbon and audience segmentation. Anna: Have you done any audience segmentation on bourbon? Susan: I have not. I have not. I'd love to do that actually. We've done tons and tons of different categories, but I have never done that one, which would be interesting. Randy: There you go. Susan: Bourbon companies out there, I'll give you a break on it. Randy: If someone works for Diageo or one of the big companies, I mean, you've got your perfect audience segmentator. Susan: One of the little guys that are out there ... I like the segmentator. One of the little guys just making casks of bourbon, ring me up for sure. Anna: Right. Would you accept trade? Susan: Oh, yeah. Anna: I'm just kidding. I didn't say that. For real though, so you had just mentioned you do a ton of different industries. What is one of the more interesting industries you've been able to work with or one that you were kind of surprised at some of the results? Susan: Oh, boy. You're putting me on the spot. I mean, we do ... I guess every single project we do is interesting to me in some way. We never know what we're going to get, so it's sort of like Christmas. I've done lingerie. We've done recreational vehicles. I've done organizations supporting the drone industry. I've done mom and pop grocery stores. Anna: Everything. Susan: It just reminds you how extraordinarily interesting the world is. One of my favorite parts about my job is I just get a peek into the people who are buying certain categories and why they're doing that. I just find it endlessly fascinating. I don't know. I tell my husband about it, and he's like, "Oh, great. That sounds really interesting." I'm just all excited and tingling at the fingers because we found out something. We're like, "Cool." Randy: Can I ask you ... The term segmentation I think is one we throw around really loosely in terms of how refined we need to get. Not to draw too much on your examples there, but there are probably a lot of women between the age of 25 and 29 who are buying a car, shop at a mom and pop, buy bourbon, and lingerie. Right? How do you segment the ones that a brand actually wants to get to beyond the sex of someone, the age of someone, where they live in the US? Susan: Yeah. That's not how we segment. That's how. Those demographics are I would say 98% of the time incredibly unhelpful for marketers. That's how everybody segments. That's how we were all trained to segment. That's the easiest kind of information to get. That's what people rely on. It isn't helpful. It's a waste of time. We do segmentation based on how people feel about a category and about their capabilities to make a decision within that category, the kinds of attitudes they have about hiring somebody or buying something. Nine and a half times out of ten those things don't have anything to do with what people look like on paper. Randy: First of all, to reestablish my credibility, I was hoping you were going to say that. I didn't think you'd go the other way. Susan: I did not plan that. Randy: I kind of gave you a softball there, you know. Susan: Careful, you'll get me on a rant. Randy: Here's the part I don't know. Here's the part I honestly don't know. How do you get that information from people? Is this a survey game? Is this focus group game? What is this? Susan: There's lots of ways to get that information from people. As you point out, you could do it in focus groups. You could do it in one on one interviews. I like data that's reliable especially when you're using it for marketing strategies. Our work is all large scale survey data so that we can get enough people answering those questions that you as the organization or the brand that's using this information know that's what's out there for you. Focus groups are great for digging into things. The challenge with them is you don't know whether what you're hearing is represented on a larger scale in the population that you are trying to reach and be relevant to. Susan: They are notoriously beholden to loud voices, to strong opinions. Introverts have trouble participating and making their perceptions heard in those kind of spaces. Survey research has its shortcomings too. Every kind of research does. We've done research, for example, with people who suffered from particular medical issues that will not be comfortable talking about those face to face with another individual and certainly not in a group of people that they don't know. They're not going to talk about that. Susan: Survey research has some opportunities to get answers from folks that they wouldn't necessarily give you if they were right in front of you or even on the phone with you. I mean, even polling data is adjusted when they're talking to people on the phone because people are reluctant to tell somebody something that they are less reluctant to tell a survey that provides anonymity for them. We do survey research. We do large numbers. If we can't get large numbers of respondents, I won't do the research that we do because it's incredibly important to me that marketers are relying on statistically reliable data to make these big decisions. Susan: I mean, we've got many, many decades of marketers relying on our gut or a little bit of information. I specifically built this company to help marketers have something that's a little more reliable to work with. Anna: I personally have, Susan, worked with your research in the past. I can't even tell people how amazingly wonderful it is to go from what Randy was talking about like the stereotypical, "Oh, you know, this person between the ages of 25 and 36 who drives a car," which is like literally everybody almost. Going from that and trying to create content to this is a ... I'm trying to come up with a persona-ish name on the fly, like leading authorities- Susan: Like a modern millennial. Anna: That's right. At least something with a little more behavioral sort of representation to where you can go, "Oh, okay, I can actually understand what their motivations are. I can understand sort of their buying behaviors and habits. I can understand their preferences and where they're going to be because they've told me." It makes the output of content so much better and so much more targeted. Anna: First off, I also feel that marketers in some way are a little hesitant to invest in research sometimes because there is so much information out there. How do you help people understand the benefits of going this direction and understanding just how much they're going to get from it? Susan: I've been a marketing strategist for a long time. I'm kind of unique from a research standpoint in that I've sat where my clients are sitting. I do research for agencies and for their clients. Just having sort of that perspective every single client that I talk to who's a marketer has had the experience of having even very granular demographic personas to work with and still sort of have to sit there in front of a blank screen and come up with some content ideas or some messaging or whatever and still finding themselves having to make assumptions based on stuff that isn't there so they can move forward with the work that they have to do. Susan: You talk to clients about that. You show them what attitudinal personas look like and the light bulb goes on and all of a sudden we're having a different conversation. Honestly, it's as simple as that. I give them some examples, and they go, "Oh, now I understand what you're talking about." Randy: Susan, this is a great start to this podcast because I think we're refraining how people are thinking about segmentation. What I'd love to do with the rest of the chat is dig into how we tie this to content strategy. Susan: Perfect. Randy: Let's go there right after a short break where we can hear from some of our sponsors who've hopefully segmented properly to target you. We'll be right back here on the Conex Show. Jay Baer: Hi Friends, this is Jay Baer from Convince & Convert, reminding you that this show, the Conex Show Podcast, is brought to you by Uberflip, the number one content experience platform. Do you ever wonder how content experience affects your marketing results? Well, you can find out in the first ever content experience report, where Uberflip uncovers eight data science backed insights to boost your content engagement and your conversions. It's a killer report, and you do not want to miss it. Get your free copy right now at That's And the show is also brought to you by our team at Convince & Convert consulting. If you've got a terrific content marketing program, but you want to take it to the very next level, we can help. Convince & Convert works with the world's most iconic brands to increase the effectiveness of their content marketing, social media marketing, digital marketing, and word of mouth marketing. Find us at Randy: We're back here with Susan Baier, and we're talking about segmentation and understanding our audiences. I've got a tricky question for you because I think when we start to kind of take this to the content world our first gut is you would be talking to the people who are creating content because they need to know who they're writing for. I guess my bigger question that Anna and I often end up talking about is should that be established by the content team or the demand Gen team in some cases where they have to figure out who they're targeting and then in turn what content they need. Where does it start or who's at that table with you, Susan? Susan: I'm selling typically ... My direct clients are agencies working for on behalf of their clients. One of the reasons I did that is because I know agencies know what to do with this. Clients don't always know what to do with this. The conversation with the client is often really interesting. It often includes corporate leadership because those are the folks who have to buy in to who the organization is selling to. That really goes beyond who's in the audience. Right? It's a decision. It's a strategic decision to say our acquisition target is these people and not so much these people because we can't give these people what they want. They can't give us what we want. You know, whatever it is. That has to come from strategic lead, which is often ownership in the organization. Susan: Then I think the people make the mistake often thinking that personas just affect marketing because we see so often that different audience groups affect operational decision making, customer service, business development and sales. It's the whole gamut. There's content throughout organizations. It's not just marketing content. I think organizations have to think about what kind of content do they have from a customer service standpoint or a business development standpoint or an operational standpoint that are touchpoints for the audiences that they're trying to get. Susan: When we kick off our projects, we have a room full of people on the client's side from all sorts of departments talking about what they think is going on and what they wish they knew because we can help them across that spectrum when we build the research for them. It goes far beyond marketing. Randy: It's really interesting. It reminds me of a stat that I always go back to. It's now I guess a Gartner stat. It was previously CEB where they looked at the number of people who would weigh in to the buying decision just before we buy and let alone what you were hitting on in terms of once you're a customer. The number had risen last I checked to 6.8 people; 6.8 people are weighing in. To your point, not only do we have to segment our audience, we have to understand all these touchpoints. Randy: I'm reminded of a story. It was someone who all of a sudden realized that it was the procurement team that they were ignoring when they were selling their solution because it always got stuck with procurement, and procurement just didn't understand the nuances of their solution. They had to understand this whole other segment. Susan: Right, or has different priorities. I do a study every year with Drew McLellan from Agency Management Institute. We do an annual study called The Agency edge to help agencies sort of figure out what's going on in the minds of the customers that they're trying to sell to. We consistently see multiple levels and responsibilities involved in the decision, for example, to hire an agency or to hire marketing support. It's just we need to think past that individual person that we're talking to and understand there are a lot of different priorities that are driving decisions like that in any organization. Anna: The thing that I love about audience research too and audience segmentation is you so often, especially within organizations, have people who say like, "Oh, we know who our audience is," or "We know who they are." They're so convinced and they're so dead set, and then they get this research back, and they're like, "Whoa." To Randy's point it's like we're literally ignoring an entire segment that heavily affects our business. I just love those light bulb moments and just seeing people just get their minds blown. Susan: Yeah, it's so great. I mean, for me a perfect study is one in which the client sees things they totally expected and also sees things they didn't expect to see at all. I would worry if it was all of one or all of the other because clients do have insight into what's going on with their own customers. Absolutely. That's not to be denied, but often we find perspectives and motivations that people just didn't think were affecting their business in the way they are and were representing such large portions of the audience that's out there for them. That's always fun. That's always a good time to show them something they didn't expect to see. Sometimes it's good. Sometimes it's bad. You know? Anna: At least you just get to drop the research and kind of be like, "There you go." They're the ones who are like, "Oh, now we have to like bring these people into the fold a little bit." Susan: Yes, which is where their agency can be of great assistance. Anna: Exactly. Yes. So Susan, I have a question for you. One of the things that I've seen being in marketing over the last decade now is there seems to have been this pendulum swung all the way into these deep dive, in depth personas where they have a name and an age and a location and a backstory. It's literally like reading someone's biography. Then it feels like the pendulum is swinging a little bit back more towards archetypes, which I'm a big fan of. Just wondering where you stand on that? Benefits? Pros? Cons? What are your thoughts on that? Susan: I think that sometimes marketers make personas very complicated because they think they have to. I've seen situations in which agency clients are overwhelmed by what they see in a persona because there's just all of this, and it's just too much information. I call it the dusty binder syndrome. Right? It just ends up on a shelf, and nobody ever looks at it or uses it, and it's the same type of thing. Most clients can't deal with 30 different personas or 10. It's not practical. I always come back to how do you become more relevant to the people that you care about talking to than you were yesterday? How do you become more relevant? Over time, you can become more relevant progressively. If your organization can get up to being hyperrelevant with 30 different attitudinal segments, then great. Honestly, our sweet spot usually is around three to six personas that are strikingly different in terms of their attitudes and have differences that a client can hold onto. Susan: And I don't mean just the marketing people, I mean people who are in engineering and development and production and customer service and sales who can recognize these folks when they start talking to them, which is different than recognizing when they see them, which is why I have the huge problem and you know this, Anna, with pictures on personas. I don't let my clients put pictures on the personas that we develop because they don't have anything to do with those kinds of demographics. The instant you put a picture on a persona somebody in sales or in marketing or whatever instantly assumes that everybody that looks like that is in that segment and everybody in that segment looks like that. Susan: It's a real problem for our personas that have nothing to do with demographics. You know, we collect demographics in our survey so we can show clients none of these people look different on paper from these other groups. They don't look any different. So you can't say "Oh, if they're young. Oh, if they're female. Oh, if they come in driving a Volvo and dragging two kids." You can't make those kinds of assumptions. Anna: I think also going back to our initial conversation on this podcast is just that because I am a mid-30s female who drives a car doesn't mean that I'm going to go do X thing. I will do something because of my preferences, because of my buying habits, because of my behaviors. I'm not going to just do it because I fit into this weird demographic category. Susan: Right, which is why nobody's sending out emails saying, "Hello, women 25 to 47." Anna: I mean, I wish they would because that would be hilarious. Susan: Which is wrong. It's not going to work. We know this. We know that that is not a resonant way to communicate with people, but we keep doing it. Anna: Right. On that same topic and kind of final question here for you. How frustrated do you get when people start talking about marketing to millennials or marketing to Gen X or marketing to baby boomers? How much does that kind of frustrate you because it feels like sort of a hot topic everywhere you go is just Gen Z, the rise of Gen Z, kind of dumping everybody into like one big bucket. How do you kind of break people out of that when you have these conversations? Susan: Well, I mean it frustrates me, but I understand why they do it, and it's because they lack other data. I work with small businesses all the time and small business owners. I tell them the same thing I tell everybody else. How would you describe your ideal customers if you couldn't use demographics? If I didn't let you say male, female, age, company size, what would you say then? If you're drawing a blank, it means that you haven't gone far enough in understanding what really matters to the people that you want to connect with, which is what it's all about ultimately. Anna: Nice. I love it. I honestly cannot think of a better way to end this podcast. Susan, thank you so much for being here. For those who want to reach out and get in touch with you and know more about Audience Audit, where can they find you? Susan: The site is, and my email is Susan@audienceaudit. I'm on Twitter at Susan Baier, Facebook. You'll find me. Anna: Nice. Love it. All right. Susan, we got to know the professional side of you, and we got to know all about audience segmentation and research. Stick around for just a little bit because we want to ask you some fun getting to know you questions and get to know a little more of your personal side. Susan: Okey dokey. Anna: We're going to throw some fun questions at Susan when we come back. Randy: All right, Susan, so we just had a ton of fun learning from you. Now I want to do everything you said not to do, which is I'm going to try and like get people to stereotype an image from you by trying to understand your persona. We're going to hit you with like four or five lightning round questions. Then everyone is just going to judge you right after that as to the type of person you are. Susan: Excellent. Okay. Randy: Also, they're lightning round remember, so you got to decide. Go with your gut. No explanation. Just like, yeah. First survey. Okay. What is the last show you watched on Netflix? Susan: Romanoffs. Randy: Okay. Diet or regular soda? Susan: No soda. Randy: No soda. Everyone's judging you now. Susan: Bourbon. Randy: Oh, bourbon. Right. Okay, cool. Are you more likely to shop at Walmart or Amazon? Susan: I hate shopping, so Amazon. Randy: Okay, nice. If you're going to go out for food, are you more likely to go for Mexican, Italian, or Sushi. Susan: Sushi. Randy: Sushi. Okay, wow. You've got a very interesting mix of Sushi and bourbon and staying at home to order Amazon. Everyone's got this. Don't worry. I'm not going to ask the age question. We're staying away from that. We're staying clear. Susan: You can ask. I'm not ashamed. Randy: All right. We're not going there though. As you said, we shouldn't stereotype people by age. Anna: It's not about that, it's about behavior. Randy: Exactly. Susan: Right. It doesn't matter unless you're a hair stylist. It doesn't matter. Randy: Okay. Last one I've got for you, and you can choose the answer here because I'll give you some leeway. If you're to either read a magazine, read a book, or listen to a podcast, which one is your go to and what is the title? Susan: Book. The book is called Satan: His Psychotherapy, and Cure by the Unfortunate Dr. Kassler. Anna: That isn't even on my list. Randy: Yeah, we're getting that into the show notes because that one's going to just- Susan: It's hilarious. It is incredibly funny. It is incredibly funny. It's the funniest book ever. Randy: Amazing. Everyone is going to stereotype you as someone who likes Satan, bourbon, and Sushi. Susan: That would be pretty good. Randy: Susan, thanks so much. This was a ton of fun. Thanks for hanging out with us. For everyone who's listening to this podcast, please have a look at all the other podcasts that we have. You can check us out. You can go to You can go to You can go to iTunes, Stitch or wherever you get your podcasts. Leave us a review as to what we can do to make this more enjoyable on a regular basis. Until next time. Thank you so much for tuning in.  
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