Last September, Rolling Stone announced that it would be putting itself up for sale. The magazine that once focused solely on the music industry has changed its identity throughout its 50-year history, but its most notable transformation was during its “Perception vs. Reality” campaign, which focused purely on redefining its target audience.
For Rolling Stone, they wanted to show that their readers were no longer deadbeat hippies – like before – but instead, consist now of a younger audience – yuppies, classy, professional, with money (an appeal to both readers and advertisers). And it worked.
Before beginning any marketing work, it’s always best to first consider your target audience. These individuals create the group that will be your heaviest of users. They are the ones you will [wisely] spend your marketing dollars on. They are the ones who become brand advocates and act as walking, talking salespeople that you don’t even have to pay (well, not in salaries, anyway).
A firm and stable understanding of your target audience is critical to strategizing and selling. We call this target market identification or, the buyer persona process.
Stop. Close your eyes. Spend a few minutes thinking about perception vs reality for your brand for just a moment.
You may perceive your audience as one that is far different than it is – either because of ignorance or because of who you want it to be. Or, your target audience may have changed over the years. Maybe your most lucrative buyers have aged out and are retired, and you’re now out of touch with the Millennials who have replaced them (you should refresh your buyer personas every three to four years).
The various traits and makeup of a person can influence how you might want to reach and market to him/her. Many different aspects should be identified and explored and understood, and later combined, to create a profile of each persona. The sum is a detailed description of each buyer, how you might be able to connect with them, and vice versa, how devoted they might be to your brand, how much they are willing to spend on you, and how often.
A target audience is made up of both demographic and psychographic traits.
Demographics are innate traits that make up a person. Many of these qualities are outside of that person’s control. This information is much more traditional to look at for marketing purposes, but still significant nonetheless. Some examples:
- Education Level
Psychographics are a much newer way of looking at buyers. They are based on habits and lifestyle patterns. These are decision-oriented and can change over time. Psychographic qualities are extremely important to decision-making. Here are examples:
- Political affiliation
- Marital status
Where Can I Find This Data?
Formal market research is always a great idea. Large agencies will follow a very structured process to build questionnaires that will address important business problems within a company (in this case, understanding who your brand currently appears to, and/or how they feel about your brand). Quantitative and qualitative research would be conducted, and questionnaires would be built and carried out to develop both valid and reliable data on the demographic and psychographics of your target audience. The only problems are: true market research takes time, and it can be very expensive.
A second option – you can lean on an agency to perform digital-based research, conduct interviews with your team and build buyer personas. This establishes target audiences and provides insight into how you might be able to reach and market to them. This is also a formal process, but is less expensive and can be turned around more quickly since much of the insight is generated by internal insight from sales/marketing team members, rather than from questionnaires among consumers themselves.
Finally, you can lean on readily available online resources to access data on your own. These can be owned channels or third party sites. There are a number of sources to use to perform self-market-research and gain a deeper understanding of your target audience. Good news: many of these resources are free or inexpensive, allowing brands to more easily gain a deeper insight of customers and build accurate buyer personas.
Check out this slideshow to find out eight free tools to help with market research.
What Can I Do With This Data?
All the data in the world is useless if there are no decisions made because of it. If you and your team are going to spend time researching, interviewing, and building buyer personas – you have to put them to work. Resorting back to the 4 Cs of marketing, here’s some example of what buyer personas can help marketers answer:
- Consumer: What does your buyer want out of a product? What are his/her pain points and what can your product/service overcome? What is the shopping/buying experience like? Is it positive? How can you improve it? How long does it take them to buy and what goes into that process? How can you make it easier?
- Cost: Are you charging the right amount for your product/service? Can you charge more? Less? What accessories or add-ons do you provide? How can you upsell better? Not just to make more money but to provide a better experience for your buyers. What are other fees involving in buying? Travel? Shipping and handling? What can you do about those extraneous costs?
- Convenience: How does a buyer learn about you? How easy is it to get in touch or to work with a salesperson? Or, to trial your product or service? Convenience doesn’t stop at the cash register. What type of post-purchase services do you offer? Support? Help Desk? What do your consumers need?
- Communication: Are you leveraging channels where your buyers are present/active? Are you advertising in the right place? Are you setting the right targeting parameters when creating advertising audiences? How can consumers get in touch? Phone? Text? Twitter? What software are you using, what can you use instead?
There are so many questions that can be answered when buyer personas are developed. In doing so, you can be more strategic and effective in your marketing and have a greater return on investment.