Are target audiences holding you back?

Ah, the target audience. That great unknowable mass of people who are interested in whatever it is you happen to be marketing, even if they don’t know it yet. In fact, they probably don’t know it yet; it’s your job to make them know it (although not too forcefully).

Marketers, including SEOs, dedicate a great deal of time to coming up with target ‘markets’ and ‘audiences’. These audiences are then disseminated into ‘customer profiles’; Jill, who is 34 and likes fried chicken; Fred, who is 45 and likes the films of Rob Schneider; Phil, who is 62, likes playing the drums and is a big, big fan of Phil Collins and so on. Quite what product they’re all collectively interested in, I don’t know, but you see where I’m going.

crowd

Image: Flickr – moses namkung – The Crowd For DMB 1.jpg retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.

The idea behind all of this is that it allows us marketing types to focus our efforts, be they content-related, PPC, Facebook advertising and so on. If we know who we want to target, then we theoretically spend less time working while achieving more results. And that’s what we all want, isn’t it?

There is no doubt that defining and knowing a target audience for your products and services is essential. But are they inadvertantly holding us back?

Pandering to expectations

To determine the answer to that question, we first need to look into how a target audience is drawn up. For the most part, meticulous research is employed in the form of questionnaires, surveys, focus groups, one-on-one interviews and so forth. In some instances, a company will pay high prices for access to market research reports commissioned by major research companies.

This data gives marketers a pretty sound idea of the kind of people they are targeting and a good idea of what those people are into. From there, we can then draw up a group of people whom are interested in the product, and define a couple of profiles of people within that group (and how, ideally, the product could improve their lives).

With that data underarm, we all skip off to do our respective jobs, of which mine would be creating content. I have to determine a) what kind of content people are going to connect to and b) the best way to get that content out to the relevant people.

That determined, I do what I do and what do you know? Everyone loves it and traffic starts going upward, conversions are up and the client is booking a nice Caribbean cruise with a champagne and gold-plated quail eggs theme.

A few months down the line, however, things start going stagnant. What once drew likes from across the land musters up a single thumbs up. 20 links to a post becomes none. No-one even bothers leaving me a nasty comment. We’re in a rut and boredom has set in.

It’s a common problem and there a couple of reasons why it occurs. The first is a tendency for marketers and content creators to fall back on what has worked in the past, without any attempts to change things up a little. This occurs because it’s so easy to forget that your target audience isn’t just a theoretical concept designed to make your job easier but a living, breathing mass of hysterical, crying, farting humans. And, like any human forced to sit through the same thing 100 times (even if it’s the Kenan and Kel classic ‘Good Burger’), they’re eventually going to get bored.

Getting Over The Hump

Variety is apparently the spice of life, so don’t get complacent that what you are doing is going to work forever. Think of ways to change up your content plan; this doesn’t necessarily mean tearing it up and starting again but could mean changing the platforms you use, or changing the formats and themes of your blog posts slightly.

The second reason is that, for all the meticulous research we may have done, a target audience can consist of hundreds of thousands of people. While we can make some educated assumptions and generalisations about all of these people, creating something that pleases them all on a consistent basis is nigh-on impossible. We simply don’t have enough resources to learn everything about every face in the crowd, which means that what we think might work in theory might not always work in practice.

You don’t have to market based on assumption, however. Instead, you should treat your target audience as an ever-changing, fluid concept. Use the first few months of content creation to determine what does and doesn’t work. Make a list of all the content you create along with the metrics they achieve; from this, you can determine what concepts work and which ones don’t and build your content plans based on this data. Review your content plan every month and don’t be afraid to change things up.

Remember that you can’t please everyone, so don’t be worried if otherwise well performing posts and content have received a tiny bit of negative feedback – the needs of the many (wallets) come before the needs of the few (wallets).

So, the target audience. While it’s undoubtedly an essential tool in any marketer’s arsenal, it can also be the root cause of stagnation and content misfires. However, if you consider your target audience to be an ever-changing entity, with changing interests and ideals, then you should be able to harness its full power without the fear of failure.

(P.S: if you’re feeling creative and fancy winning a luxury Christmas tree, why not enter our ‘design a cover photo’ competition? All you have to do to enter is design a festive cover photo for our Facebook page. If we like it, your photo will appear on our Facebook page and you’ll win a lovely tree courtesy of our friends at Christmas Tree World).

Chris Smith
  • Written by on 12th November 2013 at 10:41
  • “Chris Smith is a copywriter and social media manager at Fluid Creativity.”
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