My next topic is difficult to write about because it’s difficult to quantify. How do you know if your advertising is reaching your target audience or missing it by a mile?
Imagine you’re a middle-aged white woman who runs, does yoga, bicycles, and runs a farm in addition to her professional career (hint, it’s me).
Imagine you log into social media and get the usual daily flood of advertising. I’ll list a very typical assortment plus a comment as to why each is an obvious miss. (And yes, these are very real.)
- Ad for hair extensions for black women. – I have a thick, full head of long dark blonde hair.
- Ad for full-figured support bras. – I wear an A cup.
- Ad for gun holsters. – I’m a member of Texas Gun Sense.
- Ad for designer purses. – The last purse I bought was four years ago at a thrift store. I think I spent $8 on it. Maybe $12.
- Ad for cattle semen storage tanks. – This is HILARIOUSLY weird. I raise bees and apples and vegetables. Plus I don’t even want to know how you fill these.
- Ad for high-end luxury automobile. – My idea of a luxury vehicle is a used truck with heated seats and a trailer hitch.
- Ad for an evangelical church in Kentucky. – I’ve never lived in Kentucky and I can’t even remember the last time I set foot in a church. Probably for my grandfather’s funeral.
- And my favorite – the mystery ad, which shows neither the product nor the company name and hopes you’ll click out of curiosity.
I hope the problem is beginning to reveal itself – ad targeting that is way off the mark. As a business trying to find the right audience for your products and services, how do you avoid wasting your limited advertising budget on bloopers like these? You want to find people who are really likely to be interested in what you sell instead of annoying (and getting blocked by) people who are nowhere near your target.
Who Are My Customers?
Some years ago I had the luxury of working on a marketing project for a blood bank and having the entire database of all of their donors, present and past, to work with. I sliced and diced that data, had fun with pivot tables, and arrived at some conclusions about their donor base that informed not only who they needed to market to but how. Here’s what I discovered.
- There was a surge of donations among high school and college age youths.
- There were few donations from young adults in the 25-40 age bracket.
- Older adults were the most reliable and frequent blood donors.
- Men were the most frequent blood donors. (Anemia is much more common in women and prevents blood donation.)
While the blood bank definitely wanted to reach potential new donors, they also knew they could get a lot of benefit from focusing on their most reliable donors and encouraging them to donate even more frequently. They set a target of 4 donations a year from this category and built marketing messaging and incentive programs to support this goal. It was wildly successful.
What Do They Want?
The second thing you have to know is, what does that target audience want/need from me? This enables you to create messaging that really works.
In the blood bank example, we found that positive messaging worked much better than negative “pleas for help.” Instead of “We only have 3 days worth of blood supply! Please donate!”, we refocused on the positive. “You can save two lives with one donation! Anyone can be a hero!” And, instead of imagery of blood and needles, we switched to imagery of smiling children whose lives were saved by blood transfusion.
Where Are They?
The third thing you have to know is, where is this target audience? How can you find them and get your message across effectively?
It might sound like a cliché, but we discovered those “reliable donors” were the kind of people who play golf, who listen to NPR, and who like to garden. That gave us some online and offline options for targeted messaging that was highly effective. For example, if they followed NPR or All Things Considered or Rick Steves Travel or Masterpiece or Golfing World on social media, it was a pretty good bet they’d be receptive to our marketing. And of course, when people came in to donate, we encouraged them to go to the website to check their “frequent donor” status, make a commitment to 4 times a year donation, and pick out the prizes that they earned.
How Do I Reach Them?
The fourth thing you need to consider is, how can you stand out from all that ineffective advertising like what I listed in my anecdotal example?
Our blood bank project occurred before the ubiquity of social media platforms like Facebook. Is social media the best place for you to spend your advertising dollars? Can you reach the slice of the social media universe that you need to target? Maybe, but it’s probably not the only place you should be. Local TV and radio advertising can also be very cost effective, especially for a local or regional business. And, if you happen to be a blood bank, you can put really cool vehicle wraps on your blood mobiles. That rolling advertising was actually super useful in creating interest and excitement. I think sometimes people avoid these “old school” methods because it’s harder to track metrics, and metrics are EVERYTHING in today’s marketing world. I think it’s a mistake to get too narrow though. If everyone else is doing the same thing, be the one thinking outside the box.