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.

Demographics__Overview_-_Google_Analytics

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:

Interests__Overview_-_Google_Analytics

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

Queries_-_Google_Analytics

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.

_5__Audience_Insights

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:

_5__Audience_Insights

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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Whose rules are you playing by?

Over the weekend, my daughter came to me to tell me all about a new iPad video game she had found called Wonder Zoo. If you’ve never heard of it (I certainly hadn’t), Wonder Zoo is a free-to-play (with in-app purchases) game that resembles Zoo Tycoon or Sim Zoo. You collect animals, assemble a zoom, follow quests, and level up. It’s got all of the stock tropes of a typical time-killer video game that wants you to spend lots of real world dollars to make gameplay more fun.

IMG_1482

When she brought it to me, my daughter was looking at the selection of buildings available in the game. There was a drink stand, a hot dog stand, a balloon stand, and a few other ones. She said she wasn’t sure which one to pick, they were all so cute. I said, what’s the goal of the game? Is it to make coins so that you can go and capture more animals? She agreed, and I switched applications to Google Spreadsheets. I said, let’s get the data. How many coins does a drink stand earn in what time period? How many coins does a hot dog stand earn in what time period?

We did the math and it turns out for efficiency’s sake, even though they’re not nearly as cool looking, balloon stands generate the highest rate of return. Even though from a real-world perspective it was illogical to build a zoo without refreshments, rest rooms, or decorations, from a gaming perspective, a zoo filled with balloon stands made the most financial sense. Likewise, when it came to laying out the zoo, I suggested that instead of laying it out randomly or by attractiveness, that she lay out the zoo in a perfect grid system to maximize the number of revenue-generating exhibits she could place before having to invest in more land.

She asked me why I don’t like cute zoos. I said that cute is irrelevant in this particular case. I told her that the game developers are counting on you to make emotional decisions and follow rules that are only in your head about what a zoo is “supposed” to look like. The actual rules of the game are different than the rules we assume in our heads. I mentioned that the developers – and their revenue model – are counting on these assumptions and the subsequent bad decisions you’ll make from them in order to make money on you. She could do what they wanted and not have much fun, or make rational, logical, forward thinking choices that aren’t as much fun in the beginning, but would provide a solid foundation for her to play the game how she wanted later on.

The core life lesson for my daughter – and for all of us as business professionals – is that we can do what other people want us to do, or we can set ourselves up for success so that we can do what we want to do. Make sure you’re optimizing for what the rules of the game actually are, and not what you think they are.


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Formulaic marketing

One complaint often heard about marketing is that it’s too formulaic, that it’s too rote and lacks creativity. “Don’t you have something new?” is a common refrain asked of marketers like you and I. Our answer, too often, is to scramble to try and invent something new on the spot and usually not produce something better than the formula. Perhaps, in the words of Chen Stormstout, there is a better question: “is the formula working?”

Consider this: some of the bestselling authors on the planet, whose works are loved by millions, obey clear, unambiguous formulae. “Trashy romance novels” all follow the same boy meets girl formula. Even one of my favorite authors, the late and beloved Tom Clancy, had clear formulae for his books. The topics and subjects may have varied, but the underlying structure shared many common themes.

MarTech 2014 Boston Watercolors

Think about what you cook in the kitchen. A recipe is nothing more than a formula, a way of ensuring you get a consistent result each time you try to make a dish. Ultimately, the question isn’t whether or not you should be using a formula/recipe in the kitchen, but whether the recipe is any good. If it’s not, you work on it until the recipe is a good one.

Do the same with your marketing. Don’t invent things for the sake of invention – one of the greatest lies about innovation in today’s marketing. Rely on formulae that work, discard or improve formulae that don’t work, but don’t mindlessly throw away the process of systematizing your marketing because it feels uncreative. Be creative within your marketing recipes, be creative about improving them, but keep the recipes. It’s the only way to ensure consistency and scale.


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