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Debunking the 'my target audience is everyone' myth

“Everyone! Everyone should use our product - it’s life changing! It’s available to absolutely anyone with a pulse, and we should market it that way, so everyone can benefit from it! We need to reach the masses, every single one of them!”

If you’ve heard these words before, chances are you’re a marketer resisting the urge to facepalm while you strategize the right plan for your client.

Targeting the right audience is important for any brand, and discovering exactly who they are is part of the fun! Once you’ve dialed in on who is actually using your client’s product, it is important to compare and contrast this information with who you think the target audience should be. From there, you’ve got the bones for building a great brand strategy. But getting there and helping your client (or boss) understand the importance of audience segmentation isn’t always easy.

If you’re in the midst of a ‘my product is for everyone’ challenge, read on to discover how to help your client hone in on audience segmentation to fully understand their customer’s wants and needs.

Start with the right language

As a marketer, it’s easy for us to understand the terms ‘audience’ and ‘target audience’ and the differences between the two because we assume everyone knows that there are parts to a whole. But for someone who doesn’t speak marketing proficiently, they may have some difficulty in understanding why we, as marketers, aren’t looking for “everyone” as a defined audience. It is critical to help your clients understand the correct terminology and language to use, so both you and your client can come out on top.

Use terms like ‘audience segment’ and ‘key audience group’ to help provide clarity and help your client visualize how pieces of the whole may vary widely from one another.

Understand the audience’s intent

Understanding the audience’s intent is another essential part of helping your client establish their target audience. For example, maybe your client sees a lot of online traffic, hears from a diverse group of customers, and interacts with several core audience members each day. These types of interactions can certainly skew their view of who their audience is. As you learn about your target audiences, it's important to understand how each of them differ in what they’re looking for.

Let’s imagine you’re working with a banking client. At first thought, their audience could be everyone in their geographical area. But, you know the client’s goals are to increase mortgage loan inquiries. First, take stock of all the content you have or can reasonably create on the given topic. Next, understand how traffic is coming to that content online - using a tool like Google Search Console will help you catalog what people are searching for when they interact with your site. Other tools like Semrush help you see similar searches for your competitors.

Are people searching for specific mortgage rates and providers? Or are they searching for information to educate themselves on the mortgage process? Are they searching for a career in the mortgage industry? By understanding the intent and thought process behind what people are looking for, we begin to understand what type of content will perform best in helping us achieve our goals.

Another way to properly segment your audience is to understand what common attributes both new or frequent buyers have. Do they fit into a specific age range or lifestyle category? How can you compare and contrast new customers from your most loyal and engaged customers? Think of these groups as primary audiences that will help you build your business and spread the word to new customers. These are the key audience segments for growth toward your goals.

By segmenting your audiences by common or shared traits, we also begin to understand who is not our audience. For instance, when looking to increase mortgage loan inquiries, we might discover that adults 25-35, skewed male, are a primary audience for this type of inquiry, while adults 45-65 are less likely to inquire about new home loans, but may search more for refinancing options. Understanding how these two audiences differ will highlight how different messaging should be in order to reach both of them. In fact, if we were to develop and promote one line of messaging to these two audiences, it’s likely we could miss large portions of both segments with irrelevant content, or worse, make them determine we’re not a good fit for their needs at all!

Define your personas

Additionally, when determining your target audience, it is important to define your personas. Once you understand these common groups or personas, it is time to develop each of them. Aim for 2-3 to start, although some clients may require several more. Using social media usage statistics, CRM software data, Google Analytics, or any other tracking tools you have access to, apply demographic and geographic inferences to your audiences.

Once you’ve identified that 25-35 year-old men located in a few specific zip codes are most likely to contact you inquiring about new home loans, give that persona a name and develop other notable details about who that person is. Pick a common name, list objections he may have as well as value statements that reach him. The more details you can provide about your persona, the easier your messaging will be down the road. It’s ok to get creative here - the point is to define a specific audience member that you can think about when targeting a group of like-minded individuals. Look at digital intelligence tools to organize your persona. Repeat this process for your key audience groups.

Personas are finished, now what?

The last step in helping your client define audiences is to think through each persona as it relates to your sales/targeting funnel. Listing out the steps in your targeting funnel and where each persona belongs can help you identify the most effective marketing strategies to reach these customers. It is essential to understand where each of your personas live in the funnel, and what marketing activities you have developed to reach them in each stage.

For example, are your customers aware of your brand, but need to be compelled to contact your team to get started? They’re likely in the Consideration stage. In that stage, marketing activities like social ads, retargeting, email campaigns and special promotions are helpful in driving this specific persona to the next step in the funnel.

Lastly, it’s also important to note that not all sales journeys are linear; it may take several activities in each step in order to nurture a lead into the next phase.

Putting it all together

Once you’ve helped define your audience and understand the steps you’ll use to reach your customers, you’ve got the framework for creating a marketing machine that delivers.

By helping and educating our clients (and yes, bosses) on the importance of why it's essential to understand who their audience is, we relieve the pressure as a marketer, to be the expert on all things. Once we’ve identified the right audiences, it’s easier to develop clearer, more consistent messaging and marketing that is aligned towards goal-driven metrics.

This leads to smarter ad spend, higher conversion rates, and less clutter which is something that any client can appreciate. Every single one of them.

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