Your audience research is the starting line, not the finishing line

Matt Popkes

Audience research is officially important.

As a marketer, this is good news. The need to understand the audience has hit a critical mass within marketing, where the more audience research we take on, the more important and widely adopted this research becomes. We’ve recognised the reality that the way people interact with content, brands and each other has had a massive impact on our job as marketers and the one-size- fits-all, mass marketing approach has become outdated and irrelevant.

As an industry, we are breaking our mass audience into distinct segments. We are creating personas to humanise our customers, defining their priorities, challenges and unique circumstances. We are mapping the customer journey to understand when, where and how we can engage with and interact with our customers.

We’re aligned in the pursuit of relevance, speaking to human beings as human beings, not as pre-programmed machines of consumption. What a concept.

In many cases, between agency and client, we’ve done the research, put in the work and built the blueprint for how to better interact with, engage and build a relationship between our clients and their customer. If we’re not quite there yet, we’re at least having the conversation.

The challenge

What happens next is the challenge. Because often, what happens next is nothing. The tools created from research (segments, personas, customer journeys, etc) can get filed away in a desk drawer. The project gets checked off the to-do list and a myriad of other marketing priorities takes over.

Often this can mean reverting back to business as usual, trying to determine the best single message to send out to the largest audience as possible in hopes that it strikes a chord with a few.

We lace up our shoes but forget to run the race.

The reality 

Your audience research is only as valuable as what happens next. Achieving a better understanding of your audience is the starting line, not the finish line.

An internal compass

Tools like personas, segments and customer journeys are meant to be absorbed, institutionalized and actioned upon across the organisation. They should be used and referred to for every decision concerning your customer, from product development to customer service to marketing plans. From the C-Suite to the front desk, everyone in the organisation should have exposure to your audience research and, as a result, a fundamental understanding of who you’re trying to reach.

From concept to action

Personas, customer journeys and audience segments are blueprints to a personalised marketing strategy and should have tangible impacts on the copy, design, development and placement of your actual marketing.

Ensure that you can apply your segmentation to your actual customer database. Determine what data points can be used as identifiers of a particular segment and use them to actually separate segment A from B from C. If lack of data points is the challenge, use this as an opportunity to define the data you need and create the system to capture it. Your customer data is what allows you to make segments and personas real, tangible and actionable within your database.

From a creative standpoint, begin concepting, writing and designing for distinct people you’ve defined, rather than the market as a whole. Determine what messages and calls-to-action will be most effective for each segment and use your customer journeys to determine when, where and how you will best deliver that message. This is where audience research turns into meaningful interactions, on an individual level, at scale.

In the end

As marketers, we’re moving in the right direction and evolving towards a more sophisticated and meaningful approach to our craft. We’re more educated and informed on our audience than ever before and it’s building the blueprint to more effective marketing.

This is good news.

Now it’s time to put that research into action and run the race.

The Brand Agency head of digital strategy Matt Popkes

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