March 25, 2015 ↘︎

Your offline and online audiences are the same people.

I’ve been doing a bit of work around Digital Personas and Digital Profiles and why every business investing in digital marketing needs them, and it got me thinking about something else I’ve been concerned about for a while. The issue is the increasing disconnect that I sense between the view of a customer audience as owned by the marketing function and the view of the customer that is derived from data.

My gut tells me that the disconnect is caused by the marketing function viewing the audience via a technicolour world of personas, lifestyle attributes and attitudes as well as behavioural statements, while other functions are viewing the audience in a monochrome world of ‘what they did’.

Audience: what’s the right definition?

I’m a brand marketer through and through, so I’m used to working with constant intent – a future based determination to recruit and engage a certain audience, one that is the absolute epitome of who I want to love my brand and products. Truth is, this definition of an audience is inherently (even insanely) optimistic and aspirational.

The other functions within a business deal with ‘what just happened’. Therefore, we’re dealing with an audience of users – people characterised by what they just did in relation to our brands and products. We’re defining via data – the cold, hard facts related to their behaviour – what they bought, how much they spent, how often they purchased.

In an increasingly online world we’re also dealing in how often they visited, what content they consumed, what pages they visited, what enquiries they made, what they put in their cart, where they abandoned, what they purchased, which device they used to access your site, etc., etc., etc.

All great stuff right? Yes, I agree it is. Absolutely transparently brilliant information, BUT not sexy in the slightest. It pales in comparison to the bright shiny world of Kyle, 32 loves taking the kids for breakfast and then driving his Toyota Hilux to the beach at the weekend.

However far from being sexy it is (although beauty is in the eye of the beholder), it is bloody useful. So, how do we integrate these two views of the same world?

Connecting the dots

Well, it’s a stealthy progression to identifying the connection points between the broader marketing defined brand personas and digital definitions of personas and profiles. This guide will give you some more specific definitions plus it has a handy audience planning matrix to refer to. In the meantime here are some starting points to get you thinking.

Identify where they came from

The wonderful work done in audience and media planning when organising your campaigns is an important starting point. We can create segments so that you can make assumptions about the visitors based on the channel they came from, the specific publisher and even the specific ad or message they responded to.

Incentivise information sharing

Once a visitor is on your site offer them an incentive to share some further information with you. This could be as simple as a newsletter sign up or something more complex such as a competition to win. You’ll be amazed at what you can gain via simple info like postcode and email address. For example, with a postcode you can pull in geodemographic information from sources such as Mosaic or Helix. Suddenly you can marry online behavioural data with information about their likely income, class, home ownership, etc. From here you can use this data to make lifestyle assumptions via data sources such as Roy Morgan ‘Single Source’.

Create targeted content on your site

I use the definition of content loosely here – it might be specific product segments e.g. ‘Healthcare for the under 30s’ or actual content blocks e.g. ‘Health tips for weekend warriors’. You can then measure a visitor’s engagement with these specific segments and make assumptions about who they may be. If you then integrate these assumptions with additional insights (as listed in the previous point) you can begin to create a wonderfully rounded view of your audience. You may even start to see Kyle, 32 appear!

Create a premium or utility based account function

The key point here is that you need to offer something worth trading personal information for, and that usually falls into one of two buckets: 1. content that’s really interesting and offers a deeper, more meaningful experience or 2. functionality that makes delivery of your product/service/experience more efficient.

For example, offers a combination of content and functionality by signing up to become a Taste Member. The free sign up gives members access to their weekly newsletter, ability to rate and review recipes, enter competitions, access personalised menus and shopping lists and the opportunity to participate in their ‘Taste Tasters’ sampling programme.

Synergy’s My Account function offers paperless billing, the ability to monitor your electricity usage, allows tracking of billing and payment history, quick and secure payment options and the ability to update your personal details including change of address. This is a great example of offering additional functionality in order to gain access to a customer’s email address and to ultimately generate better understanding of their online behaviour.

Email addresses and phone numbers now enable you to create ‘custom audiences’ on Facebook and ‘tailored audiences’ on Twitter so there’s an immediate and practical application of data capture in your outbound marketing and targeting.

Social logins

If your website offers the option to login using Facebook connect or Google then you’re able to access contextual information about the user. Be aware that if you offer these options then your website should offer advantages to using these social logins.

If you don’t offer a social benefit then people will quickly realise that you’re just looking for more data.

Trip Advisor is a great example, the social login allows you to share your travel interests, see who is using Trip Advisor within your friends network and see any reviews that they’ve posted etc.


Commit to getting closer

The critical aspect of integrating your audience personas with your segmentation information is a commitment to getting closer to who your audience are and what drives their interaction and engagement with you. And ultimately, what potential they represent to your business. In order to build insights, your commitment has to be married to the passage of time. The longer you collect and analyse data and learn about patterns, trends and segments the more insights you will uncover that you can attribute to your audience personas and profiles.

The result will be an ability to understand how your persona targeting in your outbound marketing efforts is translating through to recruiting actual customers and users. Whilst this is an ongoing process you can also begin to look at additional critical methods of building audience from establishing KPIs to Engagement Scoring to Channel Attribution. The more you know, the more you can segment your audience effectively and begin to test the most effective methods of increasing their engagement and positive actions online and use this information to inform your broader marketing efforts.

The content and advice contained in this post may be out of date. Last updated on March 25, 2015.
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