Validating your marketing audience

One of our toughest challenges in marketing is new people – specifically, how to find the right new people to keep our businesses growing. Without new audiences, without new growth at the top of the funnel, our businesses will tread water at best, if not decline. In the bad old days of marketing, we had to take out massive numbers of advertisements to very broad audiences in the hopes of catching the attention of a tiny piece of a part of the audience that we actually wanted to do business with. We had no idea who our audiences were, and certainly no way to tell who they should be.

Today, things are a little better. Thanks to the abundance of data from social media and digital marketing analytics tools, we can gain an understanding of who our audience is, and who it should be. Let’s look now at how to determine whether our company’s audience is aligned with the broader audience we could have.

We’ll start with the characteristics of your existing audience. For this, we’ll use Google Analytics. If you don’t have demographics turned on, now would be the time to do that. (if you don’t know how, I’m available for hire through my employer ;) )

We’ll use my website data as the example. Here’s the broad demographics of my audience.


What we see here is a sweet spot of sorts, ages 25-54 where the bulk of my visitors are coming from. That’s one thing to note. There’s a gender imbalance, about 3:2 in favor of males. Is this good? Is this bad? I don’t know yet. Let’s keep digging.

I can also look at their interests:


Finally, I can go search – assuming my Google Analytics is tied to my Webmaster Tools account – to see how people are finding my website.


So now I’ve got a reasonably good starting place to understand my audience. From here we’ll flip over to Facebook Audience Insights, part of the Facebook advertising suite. If I plug in some of the basic characteristics of my audience, like age and topic (marketing), I can see what that audience looks like.


There’s an immediate and painful disparity: Facebook shows me that the gender balance for marketing folks is 2:1 female. My audience is a mismatch to the broad population. Now suppose I want to reach executives in digital marketing. I’d restrict the annual income to over $100K household income:


Now I’ve got a sense of what my audience should look like versus the reality of what it is today.

At this point it’s safe to draw a conclusion: my audience could and should look a little different than it currently does. Since I just built this exact audience on Facebook using their Audience Insights tool, I could simply hit the advertising button and start showing ads to them immediately. I could also do some research to find out where else this audience spends time online and look at those outlets for either advertising or contributed content opportunities.

So to paraphrase the popular credit card slogan: what’s in your audience? Go find out and then see if it’s in alignment with reality.

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At a very high level


There are over 400 messages in my LinkedIn inbox that are unread. A good quarter of them are solicitations for feedback about someone’s project, someone’s book, someone’s this or that. (I will eventually get to those messages, just not soon) Almost all of those solicitations ask for feedback “at a very high level”.

That’s such an interesting ask, such an interesting request. What exactly does “at a very high level” mean to you? To me, it means something stripped of all of its tactics and execution details, all of its campaign strategy, and left only with a little bit of grand strategy and overall perception.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you had a web page that you were working on. What kinds of feedback might you receive?

Lowest Level of Feedback

I’d move the red button 14 pixels down and change the phone number to be (XXX) XXX-XXXX format. That should help conversion by a couple of percentage points.

Low Level of Feedback

The red button needs to be moved, and the format of the phone number standardized. Conversion should increase by about 2%.

Moderate Level of Feedback

The page layout needs to be improved. Clean things up and standardize them and conversion should increase a little.

High Level of Feedback

The website isn’t working as well as it could be. It’s messy. Clean it up and conversion should increase.

Very High Level of Feedback

The website probably isn’t going to do what you intend it to do.

As you work your way up from tactics to strategy to grand strategy, details get lost, little details that can point you in the right direction. The most valuable marketer on your team is going to be the marketer who can operate at a very high level (so as to be efficient and focus on the most dire problems), but when everyone else is stuck and there’s a burning problem, that marketer can jump from very high level to very low level. Such a marketer can then find the problem, fix it, and resume their high level work.

That’s what I hope you aspire to be as a marketer, and one of the reasons why, even at senior levels and in strategic roles, you still need to polish and perfect your marketing skills (particularly in the areas of creativity and technology). You should have an operational understanding of what’s going on so that you can lend fast, insightful assistance at every level of your organization.

What do you think? What’s your take?

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How to get started with Google Tag Manager

Ever had a situation in which you updated your website and forgot to put your Google Analytics tracking code back on all your pages?

Ever installed a new piece of marketing technology like a CRM system and gone in to tag pages, but forgot a few one-off pages that were still important?

These are problems that a tag management system can solve, and fortunately for the budget conscious, there’s a terrific, free one at your disposal: Google Tag Manager. Tag managers are useful utilities that should be in the toolkits of any digital marketer. Here’s how they work, conceptually.

Think of all of the different website tracking codes you have on your website. You have Twitter tags to identify and associate with your Twitter account. You have a Google Authorship tag to verify your ownership with Google. You have Google Analytics tags to track visitors. You might have marketing automation and CRM tags to help score leads. You might have advertising tags like AdWords or AdSense to monetize your site or remarket to your audiences. That’s like having lots of papers strewn all over the top of your desk, and when you go to find something, it takes you a while.

Cluttered Desk

Now imagine putting all of those papers in a folder. When you want to find something, you just locate the folder, open it up, and there’s your stuff. The rest of your desk is uncluttered and ready for you to work on. That’s what a tag manager does: it provides a digital “folder” for you to keep all your website tags in one place. One of the great benefits of a tag manager is that for any page on your website, all you need to do is put the “folder” on the page, and all of your individual tags and services magically go along with it. That helps you solve leaving tags off of certain pages, or not applying tags consistently to all your pages.

To get started with Tag Manager, go to (hereafter GTM) and sign up for a free account. You won’t pay money, in exchange for telling Google all of the third-party tag-based software that you run on your website (which they already know anyway). The first thing you’ll do is get your “folder” from GTM and copy the container code to place on your website.


You’ll next create a new tag:


And for simplicity, you’ll want to start by using Google Analytics with GTM:


The next thing you’ll need to do is to create a firing rule.


GTM is different than regular Google Analytics because you can specify firing rules. This allows you to run tags on some pages, all pages, or pages meeting certain conditions. For example, suppose you were using Facebook’s website retargeting advertising feature, and you wanted to advertise only to people who put an item in your shopping cart but did NOT check out. You’d set up a firing rule to run the tag only inside the cart and not run on the checkout confirmation page. For now, because this is Google Analytics, we simply want to run it on all pages.


Hit save and publish to make your changes live.


This is another useful feature of GTM – if you screw something up, you can rollback to previous versions very quickly without having to edit your website.

The next step after this is to go to your website, and replace your existing Google Analytics tag with the GTM container from step one. Here’s the good part: for any future tags you implement, you won’t ever need to go change your “folder” again – you’ll just remove your existing tags as you create them in GTM, and put any new tags you receive from future services into GTM and publish them – no more touching your website!

This is a great advantage in larger corporate environments where you have to engage your IT department to get things done on the website. By using GTM, IT only has to deploy one tag and then never touch it again, while you as the marketer can make changes to your heart’s content, add new services, test things, even set up conversion metrics, all without having to pester the IT department.

That’s the barebones introduction to Google Tag Manager. If you have more than one tag on your current website, I would strongly encourage you to read up on it and get started using it. You’ll find all kinds of wonderful uses for it. If you want someone to do it for you, I do consult through SHIFT Communications, and would be happy to chat with you about it.

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