The crux of any good marketing campaign, be it print or digital, is identifying the specific characteristics of your ideal customer. This includes geographic, demographic and psychographic variables, all of which relate to how you are able to attract, engage and convert your target audience into paying customers. The more you know about your audience, the more powerful your marketing efforts.

So what does ‘knowing your audience’ really mean? It means that it’s not enough to know the location and demographics of your ideal prospects, you have to know as much as possible, including:

  • Personality traits
  • Interests
  • Values
  • Opinions

Having this information on hand will help you optimize your marketing content and craft the perfect message to cause your target audience to take action. Knowing your customers and the messages that resonate with them, is the very foundation of any successful marketing plan. Everyone knows this. So why is it that many businesses get it wrong? They make misguided assumptions as to what the customers want, and that results in a campaign that totally misses the mark. There could be many things wrong with it. Perhaps the language and images used don’t hit their target, or maybe the message is delivered via the wrong channels. Regardless of the minutiae, failing to know your audience can mean wasted time, effort and funds.

Common Research Mistakes

What is the most common mistake that marketers when they set out to learn more about their audience? It starts with the audience itself. Marketers often confuse their actual target audience with the audience they thing they have or want to have. Frequently, marketers focus on who they think should be buying from them, and not on who is actually making the purchase. It is possible that there is some overlap between the two groups, but they are different enough that the kind of marketing which works for one group, will not work for the other.

The other most common error is mistaking preferences of the marketing team, manager or boss, and making decisions based on their individual preference. It doesn’t matter what the marketing team prefers, it only matters what your customers like.

When there is a lack of audience focus, marketing campaigns fail. You cannot target absolutely everyone, even if you serve multiple markets. It is essential to narrow down your target audience, their interests, priorities and pain points. Similarly, another mistake is not paying attention to the buying cycle. Typically, marketing is targeted to those who are in the buying phase of the cycle. This overlooks those who are in other stages of the cycle, like problem recognition, research, or comparing alternatives. Crafting messages for those prospects can help you reach them and convert them.

Going Beyond Demographics

How do you learn more about your target audience? The obvious answer is to ask questions, not only about your target audience, but also about your existing customers. A good place to start is by doing a deep dive into your current customer profile:

  • Who is buying from you?
  • Where are the buyers coming from?
  • Why are they buying from you?
  • What do they want more of?
  • What do they want less of?

Getting the answers to these questions will probably require conducting market surveys or focus groups. You could perform the same research to find out about your targeted audience, people who haven’t bought from you yet. The greater detail you can go into, the better your messages will resonate with your prospects.
If you have been wondering why your campaigns haven’t been getting results, then consider whether you’ve been making assumptions about your audience. You might be surprised by how much you have to learn, and what a difference a carefully researched, well crafted, and more personalized approach can make to your campaign.

Read more relevant blog post: Try These 5 Strategies to Attack Small Business Challenges Head On – and Thrive