Who is your ideal supporter? [10 of 15]

think,design[This is part ten of our 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree Step-by-Step series, written by our fabulous intern, Vicki. If you’re new to the series, you can catch up on previous posts. If you haven’t already gotten a 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree, now is a great time to either buy the awesome poster-size version or download the free version, so you can follow along. You can find the free version in Claxon’s DIY tools a la carte menu or in the Marketing 101 Toolkit. You can buy the super spiffy poster here.]

Let’s talk about mind reading, shall we?

The next branch of the 1, 2, 3, Marketing Tree asks us to get in the heads of our ideal supporters. Specifically, it says:

Based on what you know of your best supporters, describe your ideal one.

This step is very, very, very important. Here’s why: When creating marketing materials, our natural inclination is to assume everyone has the same preferences as we do, and we design our materials accordingly. This is an erroneous assumption and a costly mistake. Because, turns out, your supporters aren’t necessarily motivated by the same things as you, nor do they behave like you do.

Luckily, you have a super power that can help you avoid making this extra super bad mistake. You can read minds.

You perform this amazing feat, called theory of mind, by holding a mental model of the mind you are reading in your own head. Imagine sharing good news with a friend. Do you think they will be happy for you? Can’t you just see how their face will light up? You may even have an idea of what they will say. When you do this, you are creating a simulation of their mind and you can then read that simulated mind whenever you want. Admittedly, this isn’t quite as cool as actually being able to read their mind, but it is still pretty cool.

Geeky neuroscience tidbit: Many scientists think that we learn how to do this because of mirror neurons, which are super interesting and the reason you wince when you see someone else getting a paper cut. Whenever you see something happen to someone else, this part of your brain responds in the same way you would if it had happened to you, which can help you understand how someone else might be feeling.

So what does all this mind reading have to do with your marketing materials? Now that you have learned this trick, the nifty thing is that these minds you can read don’t have to be based on real people. If you have ever read a book and come to feel like you know the characters, you know what I’m talking about.

What I’m talking about is creating a persona. A persona is a fictional character based on your target audience. The idea is to include enough details, like career aspirations and relationships, that you can develop a mental model for how your persona thinks and acts. Like the author of your favorite book, make the characters vivid in your mind. Then, as you are developing messaging and prioritizing mechanisms, you won’t be stuck in your own head, but rather that of the person you are trying to engage. .

In developing personas, it is important to base them on good research so that the mental model you create is relevant and useful. (See previous posts on your best supporters and who else you need to reach.) Hubspot has a fabulous free template to help you get started.


Chirp, the school for birds founded by Claxon’s mascot, Roxie, wants to recruit new students. Let’s look at the personas created by the leadership team. (Check out previous posts for the full back-story and follow links for demographic research.)

Ruth, the Rockin’ Robin:

Background & Habitat:

  • Busy, young mother of three
  • Makes herself at home in a variety of habitats from gardens to woods.
  • Frequents Mrs. Timberlake’s bird feeder to stay abreast of the latest gossip


  • Warm and cheery
  • The quintessential early bird
  • Industrious
  • Curious Explorer

Goals & Challenges:

  • Needs to collect worms for her chicks
  • Concerned about nest safety
  • Struggles with addiction to honeysuckle berries
  • Wishes she had more time to chat with friends

Relevance to Chirp:

  • Curiosity will make her open to learning new things
  • Social connections will help spread the word about the school

Charlie, the Copycat Catbird:

Background & Habitat:

  • Proud owner of his own thicket
  • Vacations in Mexico


  • Enjoys imitating the songs of other birds, frogs, and even mechanical sounds
  • Energetic and hardworking
  • Keeps to himself
  • Most comfortable in his gray, respectable suit
  • Not afraid to ruffle a few feathers to get a job done
  • Prefers to be short and to the point and so has started using Twitter

Goals & Challenges:

  • Is considering a move and eyeing a new development by a recently abandoned barn
  • Wants to makes sure he clearly communicates the boundaries of his territory
  • Likes learning new songs

Relevance to Chirp:

  • Already shows aptitude for learning new words
  • Has practical reasons for wanting to communicate better
  • Not as social as most previous students and so will be a good test case for the school

Olivia, the Observant Owl:

Background & Habitat:

  • Living in a barn which she is renting from a farmer in exchange for keeping rats away from the grain stores
  • Married for 12 years
  • Empty nester


  • Observant and thoughtful
  • Foodie who enjoys analyzing what she has eaten
  • Values knowledge
  • Careful listener
  • Avid recycler

Goals & Challenges:

  • Wants learn new things but struggles to find ways to expose herself to novel perspectives
  • Plans to attend the annual parliament meeting
  • Wishes she could communicate better in discussion groups

Relevance to Chirp:

  • Will be a careful student and may be a good prospective teacher in the future
  • Will solidify connection to owl community through Chirp co-founder Albert the Owl.
  • As their first student who is a bird of prey, Olive is a significant stretch for Chirp and will be a valuable learning experience

As Chirp moves forward in developing its messaging, the team will make sure they are optimizing their message so it resonates with Ruth, Charlie, and Olive. Then, in the spirit of  “meet them where they’re at”, the Chirp team will pick the mechanisms  their target personas prefer/already use. For example, when Albert goes to the owl parliament to network, he will want to the pitches he uses to be targeted to Olivia. And, any notices posted at Mrs. Timberlake’s birdfeeder should be tailored to appeal to Ruth. And, of course, they will use Twitter as a way to connect with Charlie because that bird is already tweeting his heart out.

Personas are a great tool for evaluating options and predicting how people will react to you. They are only as helpful as they are representative of the people you want to reach however, so make sure you do your homework. Next week we will move on to developing messaging and will want to make sure the message resonates with the personas for whom you are optimizing your marketing efforts.