What Does ‘Knowing Your Audience’ Really Mean?
When you’re developing a marketing plan, the first rule of thumb has always been “know your audience.” Knowing your customers and the messages that will resonate with them is the foundation of any successful marketing plan.
So its surprising, then, how many businesses get it wrong. They make assumptions that are misguided at best, and the result is campaigns that miss the mark, whether you’re selling inexpensive trinkets or high-priced legal services. Perhaps the language and images used in the marketing materials miss the mark, or the messages are delivered via the wrong channels. Whatever the case, failing to know your audience and not hitting the right targets can mean a lot of wasted time, effort, and money.
Thanks to the marked shift of consumers to the online space when it comes to all stages of the sales funnel, it’s easier than ever to uncover your target audience and the messages that will resonate with them. But first, getting to know your audience requires identifying where you may be going wrong.
Common Audience Research Mistakes
The most common mistake that marketers make when determining their target audience is confusing your target audience with the audience you think you have or want to have. All too often, marketers focus on the “aspirational audience,” or who they think should be buying from them, and not who is actually making the purchases. Sometimes, there is some overlap between the two groups, but often, they are different enough that marketing efforts fall flat. For example, when planning law firm advertising, knowing which types of clients you want to take on and targeting your marketing to them will help avoid calls from people you can’t help and prevent you from accidentally overspending on your advertising.
Another common mistake is mistaking your marketing team for your ideal customer and making decisions based on individual preferences. It’s not uncommon, for example, to hear statements like “My boss hates the color red, so we can’t use that in any of our ads.” It doesn’t matter what your boss likes — it matters what your customers like. If they respond more to advertisements featuring shades of red, then you need to use red, regardless of personal preference.
A lack of audience focus also tends to torpedo marketing campaigns. Simply put, you cannot expect to be all things to all people. Even if you do serve multiple markets, there isn’t likely to be much overlap among the effective marketing messages. For example, insurance agencies cannot expect to use the same materials for empty nesters and new parents and get positive results. It’s not enough to market in general terms, like “females, 35-50, with an income over $100,000.” There is a wide range of interests, priorities, and pain points within that group, and the more you know, the better off you’ll be.
And finally, another common mistake is a lack of attention to the buying cycle. You must understand where your audience is in the buying cycle — and what need you are trying to fulfil — in order to effectively market to them. Typically, marketing is targeted to those in the buy phase of the cycle, but crafting messages for people in the problem recognition, research, or comparing alternatives phases can help you reach people sooner — and convert them sooner.
Knowing that your target audience isn’t yourself (even if you perhaps share characteristics with your ideal customer), it’s not always who you think or want it to be, and it’s more than a set of demographic statistics, how do you learn more about your audience?
The key is to ask questions, both about your existing customers and who you want to meet. Start by digging deeper into your current customer profile: Who is buying from you? Where are they coming from? Why are they selecting your product or service? What do they want to see more or less of from you? This may require conducting focus groups or customer surveys, but the information you glean from these sources can help you fine tune your marketing to better meet their needs.
If you’re reaching out to a new audience, you need to conduct similar research to find out who you are marketing to, how they think, and what they need. Consider creating buyer personas, which go beyond the customer profile and actually develop a specific person to represent your audience. By going into a greater level of detail, you can better develop messages that will resonate and generate a positive response.
Making assumptions about your audience is the best way to ensure your campaigns fail. If your campaigns aren’t getting results, analyse your audience assumptions and do some homework to learn more. You might be surprised at how much you don’t know — and what a difference a more personalised approach can make.