The 5 Stages of Getting To Know Your Audience

Posted on Jan 30, 2014
The 5 Stages of Getting To Know Your Audience

NOTE: I’ll be giving a 1-hour talk on this topic on February 12, 2014 from 12noon-1pm at Anvil Media – please join us! It’s free and lunch is provided. Details

During a more extensive branding process, there is a point at which we consider the target audience in depth. Those of you who went to business school or majored in marketing are familiar with demographics. But to really be able to understand who you’re talking to requires spending a little more time with the audience. Get to know them. This is more than a one-night-stand – ideally you’re entering into a long-term relationship with these people, and maybe they’ll even commit to you by bestowing brand loyalty on to you. So it’s worth it to spend some time at the beginning to develop a more in-depth understanding of who you’re talking to.

1) Demographics

Traditionally demographics are the basic info: a) gender, b) age, c) socio-economic status/income, d) geographical location, e) ethnicity, f) marital status, g) family size.

This is a great place to start. But I can definitely think of two middle-class white women in their 40s living in Portland with their young families, who look nothing like each other and have very different buying habits. For example, consider one lives downtown in a high-rise and the other on an urban mini-farm in close-in SE. Clearly there is more to learn about these people.

2) Lifestyle

Next it pays to consider the lifestyle of these people. Are they hippies? Hipsters? Urban jet-setters? Understanding how your customers define themselves gives you an insight into what motivates them.

Their philosophy, how they express their individuality, and their priorities will tell you if your product is competing with their budget for a new tricked out commuter bicycle or a vacation to the Hamptons.

3) Relationship with Your Company

Now that you have an idea of who these people are, how does your company fit in? Do they see your brand as a trusted friend, a wise & challenging coach, a nurturing mother-figure, or a wing-man?

Once you understand this relationship, it will be very clear what sort of tone and voice should be used in marketing materials and speaking to your customers.

4) Sub-Audiences

By now you may have found out that you have more than one sub-audience within your main target audience. For example, perhaps originally you had defined your target audience as that middle-class white woman in her 40s living in Portland with her young family. But 1/2 of your audience is likely to live in the West hills, shop at New Seasons, get her nails done weekly, and drive a hybrid car. Whereas you have this whole other 1/2 of your audience who tend to live on the East side of Portland, dream of owning chickens, wear buddy-holly glasses, and go to a knitting circle once a week. These two different categories of women would qualify as sub-audiences and it’s worth considering them slightly differently.

Understanding your sub-audiences will help you determine which media are the best ones for staying in touch with your various customer types. It will also help you make decisions about things such as distribution, packaging, marketing language, and more.

5) Decision-Making Process

For each sub-audience, consider what their decision-making process is. Start with when these people first decide they need something such as your product or service – is there a certain situation or time of year when this is likely to happen? What sort of mental state will they be in when the realize they need it? If you know that they will be frustrated, thrilled, sad, hungry, nervous, etc. then anticipate this and consider it when deciding how to structure and design your website, your business card, your voicemail greeting.

Once the customer has learned of your product, what is the criteria with which they will judge you by? If you’re a service-provider will they look at price first, and then immediately want to see a photo of you to get an idea of what you’re like? If so, you’d better book a portrait session!

As you can see, understanding your customer’s decision-making process can help you provide the information that your customer is looking for so they can quickly evaluate whether or not your company is a good fit for their needs.

Why You Should Care

I know this seems like a lot of work, and it is, but it will pay dividends moving forward. Once it’s all mapped out, it makes marketing easier. This information can be used to guide the subject, voice, style, timing, and placement of your messaging across all media – website, marketing materials, in-store decor, customer processing, company voicemail, email signature, uniforms and more. If this seems overwhelming, get in touch and we can talk about how we can help you define your audiences and anticipate their decision-making processes.