In an ever-expanding digital landscape, it’s easier than ever for a brand to create and distribute content, but harder than ever to be heard. Today’s consumer is consuming more and more but when faced with unlimited choices and limited time, their standards and expectations for what they choose to interact with are high.
As marketers, it’s easy to put success in impressions and try to say all the things, to all the people, in all the channels. But reach does not bring success unless we’re reaching the right people. Instead of thinking about mass marketing, we need to be thinking about personalized marketing. And to do personalized marketing well we need to understand the consumer.
Consumers expect that when they interact with brands and platforms it will be personal. When that interaction is not personal, they ignore it. So stop simply targeting people and start understanding them. I’m not talking about your basic audience segmentation and simple demographics, I’m talking about deep customer research, knowledge and insights – customer research that gets under the skin and into the heads of your audience.
We see big brands investing in virtual reality and artificial intelligence and thinking those are keys to success. But is that audience using that technology? Does it solve their problems? Success comes from knowing your customer intimately and knowing your customer better than your competitor. In doing consumer research think about where they spend their time, what devices and technology they use and what leads them into points along the consumer journey. In addition, think about what their passions are, what drives them, what their world views are and what actually matters to them. Then take that research and infuse it into everything you do. The consumer should always be at the center.
Consumer research is becoming ever more important because our audience’s habits and needs are changing rapidly as technology continues to evolve. Consumers cultural and gender perceptions are also quickly changing and being redefined. TIME Magazine recently reported that 20% of Millennials identify as something other than strictly straight and cisgender. Facebook now has over 60 options for gender! If Millennials make up your audience, understanding how they define identity is a huge consideration for your marketing efforts. Authentically showing them you understand gives you immediate credibility.
Successful marketing isn’t solely about big budgets and fancy technology. By understanding our audience we can create personalized and authentic experiences, interactions and conversations. We can find our audience where they already are and solve problems they may not know they have. We don’t have to yell at the universe and hope someone is listening. Instead, we should talk to them like a friend and build a relationship because we have credibility. As Seth Godin, best-selling author and marketer says, “Having a targeted audience allows you to whisper to them because they already care.”