How to Create a Patient Persona (Includes Free Worksheets)
Be sure to download the free Worksheets at the end of training…
Defining a patient persona—also called a customer persona, buyer avatar, audience persona, or marketing avatar—helps you target your ideal patient.
It’s easy to get lost in the details of tracking your latest engagement rates and campaigns as you market your practice. Patient personas remind you to put your patient’s wants and needs ahead of your own.
What is a patient persona?
A patient persona is a detailed description of someone who represents your target audience. This is not a real patient, but a fictional person who embodies the characteristics of your best potential patients.
You should give this patient persona a name, demographic details, interests, and behavioral traits. You want to understand their goals, pain points, and buying patterns.
You can even give them a face using stock photography. Some businesses have gone so far as to create cardboard cutouts of their patient personas to make them a real presence within the office.
The idea is to think about and speak to this model patient as if they were a real person. This allows you to craft marketing messages targeted specifically to them. Your patient persona will guide everything from service offerings to your brand voice to the digital channels you use.
Since different groups of people may avail themselves to your services for different reasons, you might need to create more than one patient persona. You can’t get to know every patient or prospect individually. But you can create a patient persona to represent each segment of your patient base.
How your business should use patient or audience personas
Reframe your work from the patient’s perspective
Doctors too often use medical-speak and a lot of buzzwords that don’t really mean anything to the average person. Patient personas can help doctors avoid that trap by reminding them to think about the real people who engage with their digital media and interact with their practice.
Patient personas keep you focused on addressing patient priorities instead of your own.
Think about your patient personas every time you make a decision about your digital marketing strategy (or overall marketing strategy).
Does a new campaign address the needs and goals of at least one of your patient personas? If not, you have good reason to reconsider your plan, no matter how exciting it may be.
Build your digital strategy based on helping your personas meet their goals, and you’ll build a bond with the real patients they represent. It’s all about boosting revenue while creating brand loyalty and trust.
Target your digital ads more effectively
Digital advertising offers incredibly detailed targeting options. Once you define your patient personas, you can create digital ads that speak directly to the target audience you have defined. Then, use digital ad targeting to get your ad in front of exactly the right people.
You can create separate ad content for each of your defined patient personas. This advanced level of targeting increases conversion rates and improves digital ad campaigns.
How to create a patient persona
Gather your information as you work through these steps. We’ve created a free patient persona template you can use to put it all together in a PDF Template.
- Do thorough audience research
Your patient personas need to be based on real-world data, not gut instinct. Here’s a basic overview of how to learn about your audience.
Compile data on your existing patients and digital audience
Consider details like:
- spending power and patterns
- Stage of life
Gather this information from:
- Analytics, especially Facebook Audience Insights
- Your patient database
- Google Analytics
Learn which digital channels your audience uses
You need to reach your patients using the right channels. Start by learning where they already spend time online. Some great tools to help include:
- Keyhole.co: Find top referring sites for relevant hashtags
- Google Analytics: See which digital networks appear in your referral traffic report
Check out the competition
Take some cues from the patient research your competitors have already done, using tools like:
- Buzzsumo: To search for top shared content across digital networks, including engagement data.
- Search streams: Set up digital media streams to monitor your competitors’ posts and look for patterns in hashtags, post type, and content strategy.
For more detailed strategies, there are several digital tools that are available.
- Identify patient pain points
What problems or medical issues are your potential patients trying to solve? What’s holding them back from obtaining treatment? What barriers do they face in reaching better health?
One key way to find out is to engage in some digital listening and digital media sentiment analysis.
Setting up search streams to monitor mentions of your brand, services, and competitors gives you a real time look into what people are saying about you online. You can learn why they love your practice, or which parts of the patient experience are just not working.
It’s also a good idea to check in with your patient service team to see what kinds of questions they get asked the most. Find out if they can help you identify patterns about which groups tend to face different kinds of challenges. You could even ask them to collect real patient quotes that you can use to help give your audience personas depth.
- Identify patient goals
This is the flip side of pain points. Pain points are health issues your potential patients are trying to solve. Goals or aspirations are positive things they want to achieve.
Those goals might be personal or professional, depending on the kinds of products and services you provide. What motivates your patients? What’s their end game?
These goals might be directly related to solutions you can provide, but they don’t have to be. This is more about getting to know your patients than it is trying to match patients exactly to features or benefits of your services.
Your personas’ goals are important even if they don’t relate specifically to your practice offerings. They can always form the basis of a campaign, or they might simply inform the tone or approach you take in your marketing.
- Understand how you can help
Now that you understand your patients’ pain points and goals, it’s time to create a really clear picture of how your products and service can help. As part of this step, you’ll need to stop thinking about your practice in terms of offerings and dig deep to analyze the benefits you offer to patients.
It can be hard for doctors to get out of the offering’s mindset—which is one reason patient personas are so important. They help you flip your thinking and consider your products and services from a patient’s point of view.
An offering is what your service is or does. A benefit is how your product or service makes your patient’s life healthier or better.
Ask yourself three key questions for each of the pain points and goals you’ve collected:
- How can we help? Capture that in one clear sentence and add it to your persona template.
- What are your audience’s main purchasing barriers? And how can you help overcome them?
- Where are your potential patients at in their buying journey? Are they researching or ready to purchase? Looking for reviews?
Again, talking to your colleagues who deal directly with patients can be a great way to learn. It can also be a good idea to consult your patients directly through a survey.
- Create your patient personas
Now, gather all of your research and start looking for common characteristics. As you group those characteristics together, you’ll have the basis of your unique patient personas.
For example, let’s say you identify a core patient group of fathers in their 30s who live in big cities, like to camp, and own motorcycles. Great—now it’s time to take this abstract collection of characteristics and turn them into a persona that you can identify with and speak to.
Give your patient persona a name, a job title, a home, and other defining characteristics. You want your persona to seem like a real person.
Tip: Aim for about the amount of information you would expect to see on a dating site. Or what you might learn from a short conversation on an airplane or at a bus stop. Don’t forget to include pain points and goals.
For example, your group of motorcycle-owning urban dad campers could be represented by the persona you name Moto Mike. Based on research, you’ll give Mike representative characteristics that make him a real person:
- He is 40 years old
- He has two kids, aged 4 and 1
- He lives in Dallas
- He works at a tech company
- He owns a touring motorcycle
- He likes to camp throughout Colorado
- He has limited vacation time
And so on.
Remember, a list of characteristics does not equal a persona. A persona is a realistic description of a person who represents one segment of your patient base.
Sure, not all people in this patient group match the characteristics of your persona exactly. But this persona represents this patient group to you and allows you to think about them in a human way rather than as a collection of data points.
It’s a lot easier to speak to Mike than it is to speak to “men.” Or even “35-year-old dads who own motorcycles.”
As you flesh out your patient personas, be sure to describe both who each persona is now and who they want to be. This allows you to start thinking about how your products and services can help them get to that place of ambition.
Be sure to think about your patient personas every time you make a decision about your digital media content and overall marketing strategy. Do right by these personas and you’ll build a bond with the real patients they represent—boosting new patients and growing your revenue.