>> Listen to the audio version to find out additional commentary about the topics discussed in this post!
This is part of a series of posts that explores the “Adaptive Digital Strategy Framework”, an operative guide that I created to plan, execute and manage online strategy programs more effectively and efficiently. Each of post of this series comes with an audio podcast in which you will find the audio version of the post with additional audio commentary about the discussed topics. The name of the podcast is “FIR On Strategy with Andrea Vascellari”.
An audience analysis is conducted in the initial planning phase of a project and it helps us define who we want to reach with our communications.
It’s pretty simple and almost obvious, right? Well, this is the problem. People often make a mistake when they underestimate the importance of this analysis. See, in order to communicate information effectively, you need to understand who is receiving it. That’s why this analysis is critical.
In this cast/post we will understand how to conduct effectively and efficiently an audience analysis by identifying the different target audience groups and by understanding their needs.
Define your target audience groups
Depending on the project you are working on, you might have more than one audience so defining the target groups you want to reach is your primary task. Usually this is never an easy task so I find particularly helpful to always start searching for targets by looking at the area of focus that we identified in our context analysis. That’s a good place to begin an audience analysis but audiences can vary widely and, differently from stakeholders, audience members may be people that don’t know you or may not even be interested in your organization.
If you didn’t listen/read the cast/post about “context analysis”, I encourage you to do it now. The tips that I shared in that episode are the first steps that are going to help you with your audience analysis.
As we have seen we start by:
- Choosing the funnel’s stage you are going to focus on – awareness, sales/conversions or loyalty
- And then by picking two adjacent audience groups.
Great, so at this stage of our planning process it should be clear what we are trying to achieve with our project. As an example, in this diagram, we focus on increasing awareness and so we will look at “general audience” and “prospects”. Depending on your project you might want to focus on other audiences.
- General Audience: These are people you have access to that are potentially qualified to buy your products or services.
- Prospects: They self-identify as potential future customers. This means that they are interested in hearing what you have to say. For example if someone in the general audience starts to follow you on Twitter, that person is then converted into a “prospect” (a potential customer).
- Leads: These are people who show us their interest to begin the purchase process – i.e. they sign up for an email list or they fill up a real/virtual shopping cart.
- Customers: People who purchased your products or services.
- Evangelists: They are your happiest customers. Evangelists refer people to you and can’t stop talking about how great your products and services are. They are your unpaid marketing force.
Understand the needs of each audience group
To better frame target audience groups I usually go more specific by understanding the needs of each group. An effective way of doing this is to examine specific relevant areas.
Analyzing an audience can help us gain valuable insights that we can use to create a communications plan that is tailored effectively to reach each group. I’m mentioning this because understanding your audience is one of the most important elements of an effective communication plan. If you conduct a good audience analysis you will save a lot of time later on in your planning phase when you will define strategies and tactics.
These are the four main areas that I consider when analyzing audiences:
- Which is the primary audience? What types of needs do they have?
- Is there any other potential/eventual/secondary group related to the primary one?
- Are we aiming at narrow or broad audience groups?
- Is the audience homogeneous or heterogeneous? If homogeneous, how are they alike? What do they have in common? If heterogeneous, how are they different from one another? What do they have in common despite their differences?
- What concerns do they have? What are their interests and goals?
- Do they have special needs? (i.e. visual or audio impairment)
- What’s the most appropriate tone or attitude to reach them?
- Are they already aware of the organization/initiative/project? How much and what do they already know?
- What is the average age of the target group? What’s the range of ages represented in the group? At which age group/s are we aiming at?
- Are they mostly men, women? Is it an equal mix?
- What’s their socio-economic status? Where do they fit in society’s social status?
- What is your/your organization’s role in relation to the audience? Do you have a different, similar, mixed or equal status?
- What is their educational and cultural background?
- What occupations are represented in the target group?
- What are their political and religious affiliations?
- What ethic, racial and cultural groups are represented in the group?
- Are they technically savvy or newbies?
- Are they digital natives or digital immigrants?
- Where do they live online? What technologies do they use the most?
- What’s their experience level?
- What new information would they benefit from? How could they use this new information?
- What questions they might have about this topic/initiative/project?
- What information will fly over their heads because it’s too complex? What information will be too simplistic hence might not get them interested?
- What’s the expected level of engagement or participation?
- Are they open to new solutions or new technologies?
- What’s their attention span or their available time?
- What do they expect from this project/organization?
- What will motivate them?
- How could their attitude change toward the organization?
Keep in mind
Unless you’re a niche organization you probably look at several different types of audience. To define your target groups you must discover every aspect of their lives, from their income to what they like to do for fun. While you might use fictional characters to identify them in your project planning, you must keep in mind that they represent real customers, clients, etc. I’m saying this because I’ve noticed that when people work on this analysis, especially in digital initiatives or when for example they have no chance to meet in person “audience samples”, they tend to lose focus. If your strategic planning doesn’t resonate with your audience, you will not succeed.
The selection of the audience groups must be in synergy with the overall strategy, so it must be reviewed after having defined the objectives, as well as the scope and size of the project.
If you work on projects that involve design, you might call them “personas”, “models”, etc. but in the end you are talking about your audience. Your entire plan aligns around it. Keep your audience in mind at each stage of the planning and execution process so that you can address it and review it properly. This allows you to stay focused on who you are creating your strategies and tactics for.
What do you think about it? This is based on my experience, what would you adjust based on yours? Is something missing? Looking at the sector you are working in, would you approach this differently? Let me know in the comments.