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Understanding Audiences & Personas In Digital Marketing

This article was updated on: 07.02.2022

Audience targeting has existed for as long as the concept of marketing itself. In order to be a successful company, a business needs to drive sales from a customer base in a profitable way and targeting the most interested parties is an obvious way to do that. But not only do we need to identify our regular customers whom we can build a business around, we also need to be able to spot the groups who can be wooed and persuaded over time to grow the customer base too.

So how does this age-old technique translate into the digital realm? How can businesses make the most of their online audiences, whether they be brand new website visitors or loyal social media fans? What is the best way to tap into what makes your users tick and to capitalise on this to drive sales and revenue? Well, I asked our team of expert marketers for their thoughts on some of the burning questions concerning audiences and personas in digital marketing, so read on to find out what they said!

How important is it to know your audience in digital marketing, and why?

  • As SEO and PPC specialists, we rely on accurate audience data to inform our campaigns, whether it’s on user location, age group, general interests or the buying journey. Knowing your audience also informs keyword targeting and content creation, which form the foundation of website optimisation.
  • In order to effectively reach your target audience, you need to understand their intent, what they need and how they relate themselves to your products or services. By knowing this, you’ll then be able to effectively tailor your marketing strategy specifically to fit your audience. However, if you’re unaware of your audience, users are likely to go to a competitor who better relates to their needs.
  • Without knowing your target audience, you run the risk of communicating in a way that does not resonate with the audience. This will lead to a lack of engagement and a campaign which flops.
  • When you’re running PPC campaigns, knowing your audience is vital unless you want to spend loads of money and not get results.
  • The success of your marketing plan hinges on how well you know your target market, whether you’re optimising your content for user intent to drive better SERPs visibility, crafting effective audience targeting strategies for your paid ads, or building audiences through top of the funnel PR campaigns.
  • It’s important to find the audience whose needs will be satisfied with your product, and market to them. Your PPC campaigns are unlikely to be very profitable if you put a +100% bid adjustment on a 65+ year old demographic when you’re trying to sell the new installation of FIFA.

What are your top tips for identifying your audience?

  • To gain a holistic perspective of an audience, it’s important to complete a segmentation, targeting and positioning (STP) analysis that is relevant. This helps to fully understand where to target our organic efforts towards, resulting in the best possible outcome for our clients.
  • A quick and easy way to perform some top-level analysis is by looking into your Google Analytics data. However, I believe the best way to identify your target audience is to speak to members of your business who have the most interaction with your customers. They will have the best understanding of who your target audience really is.
  • Google provides us with high converting age groups, genders, locations, and in-market audiences to help us identify the audience that has converted well in the past and we need to focus on. Feedback from the client is also useful, as they are the experts.
  • My first step is always to speak to my client, as more often than not, the business knows their own audience at least fairly well and is able to articulate audience categories and demographics even if they can’t delve any deeper into motivations and intents. Next, I call on data to inform me. CRM data can also be really telling of not just who the audience is, but which areas of the audience are most likely to convert, which makes for more effective marketing prioritisation.
  • In the first instance, we can use common sense as, for example, a student isn’t likely to buy a coffee machine worth hundreds of pounds. We then check these ideas against data from Google Analytics and social media audiences to discover which user groups are engaging most with the website and social media channels.

How helpful do you find it to use personas?

  • When creating content, personas are incredibly useful as you can gear terminology or visuals to different audiences. If you’ve got retired Doris who would love to buy some gifts for her grandchildren, you need to speak her language. Personas help you to choose the words you pick, and to decide what kind of content would be most appropriate.
  • By personifying your audience, you can create something that’s “real” and therefore build empathy for your audience. Creating visual graphics of your typical customer personas can provide a quick and easy reference for your team when they are making key decisions in how they design and communicate.
  • As marketers, our job is to understand what users need and how they search for it, once we know this, we can build a marketing strategy fit for our target audience. It’s important to think about everything from the messaging we’re using in our ad copy, all the way down to the locations and age groups we are targeting, ensuring that we’re reaching the right people at the right time.
  • Audience personas are a useful first step to knowing your audience. However, the personas may change over time, so they should be reviewed regularly to reflect updates in the industry and wider economy.
  • Personas are a tool that, in my opinion, should occupy every marketer’s tool kit. They take simple categorisation of audiences and delve deeper into the motivations, intents and characteristics of those audiences, drawing out insights such as whether or not the persona is time poor, how they make their decisions and the problems they seek to solve.

How do you use knowledge about your target audience in your work?

  • I use my knowledge of audiences for PPC both for direct audience targeting across search and social as well as identifying likely user behaviour e.g. search engine choice, channels that are likely to convert.
  • In SEO, understanding our clients’ audiences helps us to granularly map keywords within the site content with different levels of intent; awareness, interest, desire and action. This helps to broaden existing audiences and to develop new ones, which can inform in driving relevant traffic towards the site, as opposed to users that may bounce straight off.
  • Every PR campaign is made for an audience and there’s a lot considered about this audience’s life, too. We want to know how much free time they have, how much money they have, what their goals and ambitions are, and then tell them a story that fits into some aspect of their life.
  • As marketers, our job is to understand what users need and how they search for it, once we know this, we can build a marketing strategy fit for our target audience. It’s important to think about everything from the messaging we’re using in our ad copy, all the way down to the locations and age groups we are targeting, ensuring that we’re reaching the right people at the right time.
  • I believe understanding your audience has the most impact on the way you write your on-page content. Once you understand your consumer’s journey and what their needs are at each stage, it can completely drive the strategy you make in how you structure your content, what format to use, and what tone of voice your brand should be taking.
  • At Impression, we use a PR framework called circles of focus, whereby we ascertain the topics which are of interest to our audience and that sit most closely to our core offering, as well as those which expand beyond what we have to sell but stay within the realms of our audience’s interest – you can read more about that here. In order to do this successfully, we have to really understand our audience.