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Audience profiling is how brands identify exactly where they should invest time and money to get the best return.

In this blog we’ll take a whistle stop tour through the key points of this important topic, starting with a quick look at…

Why audience profiling matters

At the heart of audience profiling is the common sense idea that if you know who your audience is and what matters to them, you can create content that targets them in a way that cuts waste and creates a better response. 

That’s important because of an inconvenient marketing truth neatly articulated by Orvel Ray Wilson back in 1984: “Customers buy for their reasons, not yours.”

In other words, successful marketing is about what audience members want to hear, not just what businesses want to say. Put it like that, and the case for audience profiling makes itself.
Marketers consistently say that understanding consumer data is one of their most important considerations today, highlighting how important data analysis is for their organization. That’s a great start, but not quite enough.

To reach consumers, it takes far more than the data we’re used to seeing.

Marketers need to understand behaviors, perceptions, attitudes, desires, needs, wants and so on, and create content that reflects all this. It’s a serious challenge as today’s consumers are more complex, more demanding and more in control than they’ve ever been.

No longer passive viewers, today they’re actively engaging with media, deciding what, when and how they’re exposed to advertising.

So by revealing fundamental truths about consumers, audience profiling is the key to creating messages that resonate. That’s why leading agencies, brands and publishers are using this kind of data to power insights-driven marketing that puts consumers first.

Now it’s so easy to personalize the branding experience for every single consumer, there’s simply no excuse not to.

Four big benefits of audience profiling 

OK, so audience profiling means moving away from traditional segmentation based on demographics, and toward a far more comprehensive, data-driven, approach.

This has important implications for every stage of the customer journey and the four core marketing disciplines of segmentation, messaging, engagement and measurement. Let’s look at each in turn.

Benefit 1: supercharge your segmentation

Audience segmentation was once how every brand tried to understand their target audience members. Splitting consumers into groups based on demographics like age, gender and location was the only way to create targeted campaigns.

At least that was the plan; in practice it didn’t always deliver. That’s why today, advanced audience segmentation has taken on a whole new meaning. With the help of global data and platforms that track consumer behaviors and perceptions on a massive scale it’s now possible to create custom audiences within seconds and build accurate audience profiles to zero in on exactly the right people.

Audience segmentation tools not only take into account specifics like age, gender and location, but lifestyles, attitudes, self-perceptions and interests. That enables marketers to create data-driven personas and marketing campaigns that are true to life and easy to understand. Here’s how to do exactly that with a little help from GWI.

Benefit 2: master your messaging

Creating content that resonates begins with understanding your audience – in particular the perceptions you want to change.

That’s because any truly impactful marketing message needs to build on specific audience insights, the golden keys that unlocks their attention and underpin so much content marketing.

Using audience segmentation tools and techniques to understand the perceptions that are blocking – or indeed driving – repeat purchasing means you’ll know what to say to achieve your goals.

Insight into your consumers’ behaviors and attitudes will enable you to keep them at the center of your content marketing – exactly where they should be.

Benefit 3: enhance your engagement

With target audience analysis shaping your content in a way that all but guarantees impact, the next step is knowing where to place it for maximum engagement.

Engaging today’s consumers means knowing where they are, and what they do.

By using audience profiling data that looks at consumer behavior across platforms, devices, channels and social media platforms you’re in a strong position to improve where, when and how you reach potential customers.

In short, uncovering insights that are specific to your target audience and target market means you’ll elevate your voice in a way that guarantees impact.

Benefit 4: maximize your measurement

Every marketer knows measurement is a key aspect of their overall marketing strategy.

By continuously quantifying the impact of your efforts, you can tweak, optimize, and repurpose your content marketing to reflect your consumers and attract new audiences and new audience members.

But getting the answers you need isn’t easy, especially when it comes to social media.

Research by HubSpot reveals that 88% of marketers say they need a better understanding of how to measure this kind of ROI.

The challenges of ROI measurement are largely due to the quality of marketing data in existence today.

Ensuring the data you’re tracking is both accurate and informative demands a more robust approach providing target audience validation and measuring campaign effectiveness.

This closes the loop on audience profiling, giving marketers the tools to measure their activity with reliable data that reflects real people and different target audiences. For agency planners, this shift is bringing about much-needed change in the way they work and putting consumer insights at the heart of everything they do.

Top tips for awesome audience profiling

Having made the case for audience profiling let’s look at some proven ways to improve its delivery.

Tip 1: optimize your segmentation

Use a single source of data. With the abundance of data now available, you can definitely afford to be picky. Choose the source of consumer research that promises the most relevant data, and stick with it to make damn sure you’re not losing detail or creating multiple versions of the truth.

Know what you’re looking for. The sheer volume of data can be overwhelming and unhelpful if you don’t have a plan. Having an aim in mind means you can create actionable and well-executed insights, and avoid getting lost in the research.

Split your segments to your objectives. Not everything will be relevant to the objectives you’re working towards. In the same way you tailor your marketing, tailor your segments to cut down any unnecessary noise.

Start with personas. Perhaps the first thing you should use data for is creating in-depth buyer personas. That way, you’ll know your target audience and the reasonings behind their behaviors.

Track the right footprints. When you know who your target consumers are, you can identify the touchpoints they’re engaging with – and why they’re attractive – using detailed and reliable consumer journey maps.

Keep searching. Consumers’ behaviors and opinions change. Your audience research, audience analysis and segments need to be consistently updated to reflect this, reassuring you that you’re still targeting the right people in the right way.

Tip 2: craft compelling messages 

Analyze current brand perception – including how target consumers are responding to messaging.

Validate the perceptions you’re trying to shift. Does the data back-up your assumptions?

Quantify perceptions. What are the actual figures you need to focus on?

Map this into a business opportunity. Ask yourself, “How can this data help me to create an impactful message?”
Look at your segments. Make sure you’re clear on who you’re targeting and their key characteristics and behaviors.

Identify the problems. What issues are target consumers facing and how can your product solve them?

Present your proof. What are the results so far? Can you incorporate brand success stories?

Find your niche. How does the brand you’re promoting different from competitors?

Find the hot buttons. What’s the most compelling way to position your brand as the top choice for target consumers?

Drive personal engagement. Personalization is at the very heart of engagement. With this in mind, you need to appeal to target audience interests and Invest in the right channels.

Knowing how and where to engage is a vital part of a strong marketing strategy.

As consumer expectations and behaviors change, brands need to be confident that they’re creating tailor-made, useful insights into their target audience.

Tip 3: measure everything

Use a single source of consumer data. That’s important because if you’ve complete control of the research you rely on, and you genuinely trust its source, you can use it with confidence.

Run ad effectiveness studies. Ad effectiveness studies that evaluate the true impact of your campaign on your exact target audience are worth the investment.

Use analytics that track people, not devices. This sort of real-time analytics offers a more holistic portrayal of audience behaviors across time, location, devices and platforms. It’s the final puzzle piece you need to succeed with your target audience profile, based on reliable data that reflects real people.

Audience profiling in action

As we come towards the end of this audience profiling blog, let’s bring all this into the real world with a look at how TMW Unlimited, a customer engagement agency with clients like HSBC, Sony and Unilever, uses audience profiling to help their clients understand consumer behaviors across platforms and channels. 

These days every brand knows the importance of social media, but knowing which channels to focus on is far from easy. TMW uses in-depth audience profiling data to make informed recommendations and guide their clients in the right direction, so they use the most relevant platforms.

If a particular audience analysis shows a decline or plateau in their use of certain platforms, then TMW can strategically advise their clients on how best to respond.

This sort of audience profiling adds real credibility to TMW’s pitches to new and existing clients, and enhances their channel planning. When TMW are briefed to uncover insights on a particular target audience profile, the first thing they do is look at the audience profiling data to see how their target group engages with brands and products across various channels, building a strategy on those insights.

For TMW, audience profiling really pays dividends in three key areas:

  • Social media, including looking at account ownership, actions and influences in terms of brand and purchasing decisions
  • Devices, especially examining device usage among various audiences and deciding where to focus our efforts
  • Media consumption, like measuring time spent by particular audiences on various channels

In short, audience profiling enables TMW to back up their ideas and make sure everything they do is steeped in real data and real facts – giving their work real impact. 

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