Want to be a Better Marketer? Join the Audience.

be a better marketer by joining the audience - target audience and buyer persona research
Like it or hate it, online insurance company Esurance’s latest ad campaign makes a great point about how marketers and business owners view their audiences.
In the ads, Esurance proves that just because two people have the same statistics on paper doesn’t make them anything alike in real life.
For example, one spot features tabloid-favorite actress Lindsay Lohan pulling up to a school in a busted minivan. When the kid at pickup claims she’s not his mom, Lohan says: “I’m sorta your mom. We’re both 25-35 years old, we’re both women on the go, and we’ve both clocked a lot of miles, believe me.”
The point of the ads is that “Esurance helps make sure you only pay for what’s right for you, not someone sorta like you.” Which is pretty brilliant positioning, since consumers today want and expect personalized content and experiences.
So how can you learn a lesson from Esurance and market to your unique audience members, not someone sorta like your audience members?
The first step is knowing your audience. And that does require some work, usually in the form of creating buyer personas.
Knowing the individual traits and personalities that make up your audience, however, is just the beginning. It’s not until you use that information to actually connect with and become part of your audience that you can form an authentic understanding of the individuals you are marketing to.
Here’s how to better connect with your audience by becoming part of your audience:

1. Surf Where Your Audience Surfs.

Did I just date myself by using the term “surf” to reference exploring the Internet? I’m OK with that. Because if you want to swim with the content marketing sharks, you need to surf where your audience surfs.
(Too much?)
Once you know your audience’s preferred online networks, you want to explore them – as a user, not a marketer or a business owner. This is especially important if you are not a current user of that network. Because once you understand why your audience members are hanging out where they are, you will be able to make a real connection with them there.
So what is the best way to do this?

  • Spy on the power players. To quickly understand an online network’s culture, check out the profiles or accounts of the most-followed users or brands.
  • Do an informal audit. How are the power players sharing information? How are they connecting and communicating with other users? What seems to be trending?
  • Join the conversation. As a user (again, not a marketer), take part in conversations or groups, and get a personal feel for what types of interactions feel most authentic.

2. Read What Your Audience Reads.

Do you know what your audience likes to read? If you’re creating content to connect with them, you better know. And you better know BEFORE you decide to invest those bazillions of dollars into a new white paper.
Because if your audience isn’t reading white papers, yours won’t be the first one they decide to pick up, trust me.
If you do know the types and sources of content your audience members read, it’s time to create a personal reading list. Start reading web sites, articles, books, anything you can get your hands on … even if they have nothing to do with your industry or what you’re trying to sell. Reading will not only help you gain a better understanding of your audience, but also help you step out of your internally-focused marketing mindset.

3. Go Where Your Audience Goes.

Once you’ve created buyer personas and assigned them cutesy names like Sales Clerk Susan and Stay-at-Home Mom Marie, it can be easy to forget that those personas aren’t real people. Having them written up in neat little packages doesn’t mean you know the actual individuals who make up your audience. And that’s why it’s important to meet real-life members of your audience. In person.
This might mean attending events frequented by your audience (again, as an attendee, not a marketer), or simply going to the places your audience likes to shop or spend time, and talking to them. One-on-one. Person-to-person.
Meeting real-life audience members will help you see a face behind the numbers on those spreadsheets you stare down each day. It will bring much-needed empathy and understanding to your content. And it will help you communicate like a person, not a marketing robot.
Do you have any tips or stories about the benefit of becoming part of your audience? Share in the comments – and don’t forget to subscribe below to get helpful content delivered to you weekly. 

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