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Know your audience, build a community.

Get personal, it’s about time. ‘Know your audience’ is one of the most overused phrases in marketing. Although cliche, it is very effective and can be the most rewarding thing you’ll do if you can get it right. Well…no time like the present, new year, new you etc. make time to reflect and set some customer-centric goals! Some of the tips on best practice in this article might be useful. Keep reading.

Finding the right audience and developing meaningful connection is not always an easy task, but is key. To do this well, you need to first understand who it is you are serving and why? Always ask why.

Why is it important to know your audience?

Knowing your audience is the major key to any good marketing strategy. It enables you to make content that connects, develop meaningful connections with people who are invested in your product/service and helps you to find new audiences. All resulting in time, energy and money being better invested and not wasted (strong ROI!). Understanding who you are marketing to will enhance your growth, conversion and engagement. It will also help to identify different groups within the target audience; further enhancing your ability to tailor your messaging and deepen your connection.

How? Defining your audience.

Getting to know your audience can take various different forms, solid market research is a good starting point. Focus on a target audience and zoom in on them; study their demographics identifies age, race, sex, income and socio-economic information (Pitts & Price, 2020). You also want to understand characteristics and traits such as values, desires, goals, interests, and lifestyle choices known as psychographics (Dan Ariely, 2009). Once you have an understanding of your target audience, you can create personas to bring them to life. Back in the day, this used to be enough, however, in this digital era, you need to go deeper to extract as many insights as possible. Learning about what actually matters to the people you are speaking to their pain points, what they read and watch, listen to, what frustrates them, what websites do they visit, what apps do they use? This data is gold! Think of this as the ingredients to elevate any recipe.

Level up

Getting to really know you. Enter social graphics, this is the study of attitudes, characteristics and motivations of customers online, which teaches us how audiences act in digital spaces therefore enabling you to react, attract and retain customers. Taking it a step further, cultural context is also very important. Understanding what people are actually like in their natural environments, rather than relying on basic assumptions is where ethnographic insights come in. This provides “deep insight into the contradictory nature of much of human behaviour: the focus is on what people really do versus what they say they do” (IPSOS Mori, 2018). Picturing ‘Big Brother’ vibes, you are not far off — although nowadays, this can take various forms. These insights can impact the type of product or service that is being created, you understand it’s place as well as how you communicate with your customers.

Communities and audiences, same but different

Learning about the cultural contributions that shape audiences will also help your brand to connect with the communities, another piece of gold! Why? Because the community is where the influence and impact really is. Nurturing these communities can contribute to generating new leads, improving customer retention, adding value for your existing customers, and giving you deeper insights.

Ultimately, your audience and community steam from the same pool — but there are differences. The communication and interaction is what differentiates them: your audience is who you speak to and the community is who speaks to you. Your audience may care about what you have to say, but your community connects the people who care and brings them together to form a shared identity. Communities are the influential collectives a.k.a realest advocates that are setting the pace and trends. They hold the power through the people, traditions, preferences and opportunities they foster, defining the cultural zeitgeist. The community are the leaders and not to be ignored. Does your brand need to create a sense of community within audiences? A great place to start is social media forums, Facebook groups for example.

Essentially, your audience belongs to communities, audiences you purchase communities you must earn ( Audiences are essential, but a community value will last far longer.

Connect, for real.

Once you have developed relationships with your audiences — you have to work to keep them and acquire new leads. David Ogilvy once said, “Unless you have some reason to be solemn and pretentious, write your copy in the colloquial language which your customers use in everyday conversation” (Confessions of an advertising man, Ogilvy, 2012), in other words — to connect you’ve got to have the conversation, in a way that your audience, community — can relate too. Meet your customers where they are, don’t be a weirdo, make it organic. Speak their language, don’t make them work to understand you or you’ll lose them for sure. Try to apply the most suitable tactics to hear from them & speak to them: surveys, polls, social listening, emails, hotline, Q&A sessions, open days (virtual) etc. This also includes engaging with them, no this doesn’t mean ‘gloves on’, just ensure that you are responding to comments, behave (You’re Not Listening, Murphy, 2020).

To connect and acquire new audiences, you need to build trust. And one of the best ways to do that is to give a value — give something of value away for free. Think of ways to elevate your engagement by creating dedicated spaces for your customers to mingle, learn and exchange for example. Create useful content. Or a loyalty program, still a great way of incentivising and engaging audiences helping to foster trust and long-term relationships. Think about what suits your brand and your audience.

Send a fax

One of the best ways to connect and acquire customers is through peer to peer aka word-of-mouth marketing. Peer to peer marketing is about giving your audience something to rave about, which can lead to them telling others and they tell others and so on… it’s old school sales. This is a slow burner but it will bear great fruit. Marketing author, Seth Godin explains this technique using the example of the fax machine. People experienced the value of having a fax machine and went on to tell others about it. The audiences were not thinking about their contribution to the brands — they were focused on themselves and telling other people as it benefits them — practically and socially.

In social media realms, this would take the form of comments, shares and saves — forget the vanity metrics likes, it’s all about the engagement. Give your audiences a reason to talk about your product.

Tips Remember, you have to nurture your existing audience — and seek out new audiences. Here are a few tips to help with this:

  • Hire experts to help you connect with the audience you want to reach. Understand that you don’t have all the answers and probably won’t have a clue about what the audience is actually about.

  • Put the work in. Your customers won’t find you, you have to find them — once you know who you are looking for — go get erm. Devise a plan to acquire them.

  • Get obsessed. Customer-centricity is about focusing on ensuring a positive customer experience throughout. Don’t stray from this.

  • Be specific — target effectively. It will be cheaper in the long run. In the short term you’ll get a lot of data which will help you inform the future.

  • Be purposeful — do “work that matters for people who care”, Seth Godin. You’ll probably connect more with the audience if you understand that they care about purpose.

  • Study. Success leaves clues, familiarizes yourself with the audience, what works for your community. The changes and how they are impacting their lives.

In a summary, know thy audience

Knowing your audience is crucial and executing a successful customer-centric strategy doesn’t happen overnight. It takes research, commitment, agility and consistency. Unlearn the traditions and start partying attention to the patterns and trends that have been left behind which are informing the future including tech, sustainability, inclusivity, civil media (trendwatch, 2020). DO — Lean on social — social listening and immersing yourself in digital spaces where your audience is will enable you to develop deeper more meaningful relationships. DO NOT rely solely on this.

Essentially, your audience belongs to communities, audiences you purchase communities you must earn. Listen and then ask. Thanks for reading, please share and let me know what you thought!


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