How Marketers Dig Themselves Into Holes When Designing Audience Profiles

Today’s marketers are tasked with staying on top of martech tools that have grown 45 times since 2011. Additionally, they must manage countless influencers across half a dozen social platforms and an advertising environment that’s now three-quarters mobile. Then, there are the ever-growing generational marketing gaps. Is it any wonder they spend too much time thinking about how they should connect and too little thinking about who they should connect with?

Despite all the new territory marketers are supposed to cover, their mission remains the same: lead as many members of the brand’s target audience into its sales funnel as possible before competitors snag them. Technologies and influencers certainly help but only if the marketer has targeted the right consumers in the first place.

What makes marketers, who were hired for their keen instincts, sometimes go the wrong way? The following mistakes have marketers perennially barking up the wrong tree:

1. Assuming surface-level information is all that counts

The vast majority of consumer data brands buy focuses on demographic information like age, gender, and geographic location. But, it’s not possible to build an audience profile with this information alone. Their purchase decisions are not the same across a certain age group or location. Instead, today’s consumers are much more complex and fickle. While some older demographics may not be technically savvy, there is an entire segment out there that is first in line to buy every gadget that comes to market. Going on the surface-level data means you’ll miss out on these other potential customers.

To narrow their audience profiles, lifestyle-based brands, in particular, rely on psychographics. A brand like REI targets affluent, well-educated men and women between the ages of 22 and 45. Plenty of people who fit that profile, however, would prefer to read books in their free time than backpack through the mountains. Psychographics are what makes demographic details actionable for niche brands and help them identify their specific customer.

2. Failing to truly “see” their audience

For many companies, the buyer is typically the same person as the user. But, with other products like school supplies, the target audience may not be so straightforward. Many products with less-than-obvious buyer-user splits are bought as gifts. Two of last year’s most popular holiday gifts, for example, were Google Home and Fitbit’s Ionic Watch. This year, don’t be surprised to see TV ads for those two products targeted at busy moms doing their last-minute Christmas shopping rather than gadget gurus and exercise enthusiasts. In this case, it’s most often the mom in the household that takes care of this annual task, buying for the teens and gadget lovers in the family.

The lesson here is that marketers should conduct interviews with buyers. Find out whether they plan to use the product themselves; if not, determine what motivated them to choose it for someone else.

3. Trusting data merchants

In marketing, third-party data sellers are notorious for telling buyers what they want to hear. They know somewhere around 71 percent of purchased data is inaccurate.  To make the sale, these data merchants claim their data is different and capable of helping a marketer to build a full audience profile. In reality, data is most accurate when it comes from consumers who are willing to share it. Give your users an incentive to truthfully and thoroughly describe their backgrounds, interests and opinions.

4. Neglecting cultural differences

Cultural nuances that can cause problems when marketers don’t bother to interact directly with their audience members. Sometimes, simple demographics like age can make the difference. When it came back to the U.S. market after a 15-year hiatus, Vespa Motor Scooters assumed its target market would be 20-somethings, as it is in Europe. However, in the U.S., the 20-to-30 demographic commutes longer distances and is more accustomed to cars. In contrast, Baby Boomers turned out to be Vespa’s most enthusiastic U.S.-based customers. They are retiring and ready to relive the bicycle-friendly days of the 1960s and 1970s. Once Vespa figured this out, it redirected its marketing efforts and achieved success.

Hitting the Audience Bullseye

It’s no easy task to accurately target, reach, and engage with the right audience. Marketers don’t want to harass their audience with questions or make them feel uncomfortable with too many questions that seem personal. They also don’t want them to be concerned about what happens to the personal data they may share.   

In reality, the audience wants to tell you what they want so you can hit the bullseye and deliver on those desires. And, the closer brands get to their audience, trust develops, specific preferences and expectations are shared, and brands are much closer to the market — if not, on target. With more data and analytics tools, marketers must go deeper in their development of personas, look for more niche segments, never assume and be ready to evolve as those profiles change over time.


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