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Reimagine Your Audience: You'll be Surprised What Happens

Wouldn’t it be nice if we knew each member of our target audience as well as we know our own mother?

What if we understood them, not as a “target” or an “audience,” but as a millennial who splurges on a Starbucks latte every day on his way to work? Or as an anxiety-prone single parent who seeks tranquility at the gym in the mornings after dropping the kids off at school? Or maybe an entrepreneurial wizard who’s driven more by a need to overcome loneliness than a desire to create the next tech wonder?

The marketers among us have undoubtedly considered the profound value of such insights. In fact, this type of individualized, and somewhat psychological, evaluation is becoming more of a necessity and expectation than an aspiration for many in the profession. It’s what Forbes Insights and Teradata Marketing Applications described as the move from “mass personalization” to “individualized marketing” in a survey released earlier this year. Their report concluded that data-driven, agile marketing techniques yield stronger customer interactions—ones that directly impact the bottom line.

Individualized marketing is about “the ability to build experiences with an individual on his or her channels of choice in a consistent, dynamic and engaging way,” they said. Seventy-nine percent of their respondents cited individualized marketing as a “high” or “very high” priority for their companies, with 43 percent claiming they are already delivering that experience to all customers.

As they put it, mass personalization—those email messages with standard greetings and generic copy, sent with a fresh name cut and paste at the top—has failed. Instead, we are moving toward a world where we engage individuals on their own terms. The report refers to a mother of three shopping for her children’s backpacks, too busy to sit down and search for options on her laptop. Savvy marketers would understand the best way to reach her is through a clickable offer delivered by text between breakfast and lunch.

Getting to know the individual members of an audience, psychologically, professionally, and emotionally, is not without its challenges. Working at that granular level can be exhaustive and time-consuming. But creating personas of these individuals can be an effective way to discover nuances. HubSpot, for instance, offers a guide on creating these personas, or “fictional, generalized characters that encompass the various needs, goals, and observed behavior patterns among your real and potential customers.” It’s a process that involves building out a person with details of his or her typical day, required job skills, strategies for overcoming challenges, shopping preferences, and other habits.

There are obvious advantages to delving into the psyches of individuals, learning not only what products and services they consume, but what drives them emotionally and what relationship dynamics influence them. It’s about understanding their challenges and desires outside of a mass audience label, including the pressures in their personal life and the motivating factors of their professional one.

That might mean discovering whether someone has a penchant for innovation or struggles to think “outside the box,” or whether someone’s professional success depends more on anecdotes than analysis. It’s a way to gain new insights, and ultimately new channels to connect. Ultimately, we learn about them – and they feel more understood by us.