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Targeted Marketing Requires Persona Granularity

November 16, 2015


“For marketers,” writes Brad Meehan (@bradmeehan), a platform architect at VML and stand-up comic, “the ability to pinpoint their exact target audience and personalize their experience has proven to increase both visitor engagement and ultimately revenue.”[1] To achieve the kind of targeted marketing success discussed by Meehan, marketers can’t ignore his main point — namely, they must “pinpoint” their exact target audience. That means broad customer segmentation (e.g., by age, race, or gender) is insufficient. Carrie Cummings (@carriecummings) reports that a new study from Trendera concluded that age is a particularly poor way to segment customers.[2] According to the report, “There’s not much difference in lifestyle preferences in consumers ranging in age from 13 to 50.” Liz Gray, Trendera’s president, told Cummings, “The days of impressing consumers with targeted marketing based solely on demographics are in the past. Marketing in 2015 is about treating your audience as fans, not customers. We found that 63 percent of people wish brands treated them like a friend instead of a consumer, so it’s important to understand the attitudinal and behavioral nuances of groups in order to do that well, and connect in a more intimate way.” Emily Adams, content manager at Automated Marketing Group, sums it up this way, “There is no one-size-fits-all strategy for mobile marketing and online advertising.”[3]


Of course there is only way to learn about attitudinal and behavioral nuances of potential customers and that is to collect and analyze information about them. Adam Groff observes, “By targeting your current customer sales data, you can quickly get an idea of which types of customers buy certain products and which don’t.”[4] He adds, “Whether you break this customer data down into buying trends or demographics, tracking purchase histories will reveal your ideal market. If your current data doesn’t provide enough insight, you can try implementing customer surveys or loyalty programs into your marketing endeavors.” Adams believes that most companies already have access to sufficient data if they know how to use it. She writes, “With so much information about consumers readily available online, it is just waiting for your marketing department to tap into the resource. When you know who your ideal customer is, you can build a marketing message intended just for them.”


Kevin Page (@1nonlyKevinPage), Project Manager & Business Development executive at Synecore, agrees that developing a detailed understanding of your ideal customer is essential for success. “When it comes to developing your marketing and branding strategy,” he writes, “there is nothing more important than having a clear understanding of your target audience.”[5] Even though basic demographic information is insufficient to create the detailed persona required for effective targeted marketing, that kind of information is still important as a place to start. Adams and Page each provide a short list of the types of data your company should consider using when creating an ideal customer persona. Page’s list includes:


  • Demographic Information
  • Details about Employment
  • Educational Background
  • Values and Goals
  • Problems Faced
  • Day in the Life
  • Common Objections
  • Main Sources of News and Information


Adam’s groups data into three categories:


  • Demographics: How old are they? Where do they live? Are they primarily men or women?
  • Psychographics: How do they feel about your product of service? What are their religious or political beliefs? What makes them happy or sad?
  • Behavior: How do they spend their time? What are they talking about online? What are their interests or hobbies?


The common thread weaving its way through both lists is the necessity of gathering enough detail about your ideal customer that you understand both essential and aspirational buying patterns. Depending on the product or service a company offers, the importance of each type of data may change. If you haven’t developed personas for your ideal customers, Synecore, the company where Adams works, offers four steps to help you get started.[6] The company claims that “buyers are 48% more likely to consider providers that personalize their marketing to address their specific business needs.” The four steps are:

Step One: Gather Information — First start by gathering demographic information for your persona. This can include their income, occupation, interests, gender, level of education, and where they live. This information can be based off of trends found in your contact database or through interviews/surveys with customers and prospects.


Step Two: Define Goals — What is it that you are trying to achieve? How can we help you face these challenges? What types of material can we provide to get you to your end goal?


Step Three: Ask Questions — To get a better understanding of how, where, and why your customer makes a purchase. Ask detailed questions, like, What are your goals? What are your challenges?


Step Four: Create Your Persona — Use your research to identify patterns. When doing research and building a persona, pay attention to why someone is using a particular tool, looking for a specific solution, or trying to reach a certain goal. This will help you to determine what type of content your business should be creating.


Adams believes that Step Three (asking questions) may be the most important step. As I’ve noted before, good solutions always begin with good questions. Adams asserts there are important questions to be answered in what she calls the “Five Ws” of digital marketing. They are:


Who: … The ‘who’ is … arguably the most important factor for building effective marketing. Targeting the right customer comes from understanding your customer base. Once you have answered this question, the same information can be used to target your ads. Demographic information leads to hard statistical targeting, while psychographic information can be reflected and targeted in their interests, activities, and opinions online.


What: Crafting the right message takes practice, but again comes down to understanding your customers. What do they value? What language will resonate? What will make them act?


When: It does not make sense to run a click-to-call campaign after business hours when no one is available to answer the phone, just like it does not make sense to advertise swimsuits when kids are headed back to school.


Where: Are your customers on Facebook? Run social ads. Do most of your clients come from online searches? Consider AdWords. Are they being referred from other Web sites? Try content marketing. The secret to getting in front of your customers is knowing where they are spending their time. There are many platforms available to target your audience, from search to social, email, display and media buying. You can even create specific ads based on device – are your customers looking on smartphones? Some ads cater better to mobile devices, some to desktop.


Why: What are you trying to accomplish with your marketing? If you want more followers on Facebook, the strategy looks completely different than if you want to drive sell products online or drive traffic to your Web site.


By now it should be clear that targeted marketing requires much more granularity than can be provided by basic demographic information like age, race, or gender. As president and CEO of a cognitive computing company, I believe that targeted marketing requires the capabilities that cognitive computing can offer. A cognitive computing system can deal with many more variables than previous computing systems; it can integrate both structured and unstructured data; and it can provide actionable insights that can optimize campaigns. In fact, once a cognitive computing system is in place, users will find an endless number of useful things it can do for them — including helping them identify their best potential customer base.


[1] Brad Meehan, “Responsible Personalization: How Brands Can Build Trust With Consumers,” Advertising Age, 7 August 2015.
[2] Carrie Cummings, “Infographic: Brands Should Treat Consumers as Friends, Not Age Groups,” Adweek, 11 October 2015.
[3] Emily Adams, “5 W’s of digital marketing,” Luxury Daily, 24 September 2015.
[4] Ada Groff, “Make sure to properly target your customers,” Business Review Canada, 4 September 2015.
[5] Kevin Page, “Why Buyer Personas Are Crucial To Inbound Marketing Success,” Business 2 Community (B2C), 11 September 2015.
[6] Jordan Bruhn, “How to Create Your Buyer Persona,” Synecore, 27 August 2015.

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