Internet marketing, and especially social media marketing, understandably has given marketers a strong interest in finding and exploiting the right tools and techniques for an environment that is constantly evolving new ways of doing business, new opportunities for consumers, and new attitudes. There are new ways for marketing campaigns to fail as well as new ways for them to succeed, and marketers have to read their situations with extreme care.

But one eternal truth remains: Failure to know and understand your audience is lethal. So many marketing campaigns fail because they ignore this basic verity in one way or another. Here are some key points to remember in assessing your audience and failure-proofing your campaign:

Craft the correct persona.

To whom, exactly, are you trying to sell goods or services? Being wrong or careless about this will sink you. It doesn't matter how good the product is if you don't put it in front of the right people.

You'll need extensive research to determine what sort of consumer your product appeals to, what needs and problems they have, who your competition is, and how to differentiate yourself. Then you should concern yourself with storytelling, with a story or persona centered on your target consumer and that person's interests, problems, and purchasing habits.

Consider age, gender, income level, preferred types of media and devices, and, where applicable, geographic location. Will the information you're providing really help them meet their needs? Can they can find that information elsewhere? You want to make your content readily searchable, but you also want to differentiate yourself from the competition by providing something they don't.

Even in mass marketing, reach isn't enough. Identify your audience with care, and target people who are likely to produce leads and conversions.

Create appropriate content.

Obviously the content should align with the persona. The message and how it is conveyed should align with those values and sensibilities. What is less obvious is the role of form. Some marketers get sloppy in this arena, assuming that social media allows them a ready audience for pretty much anything. A 2,000 word post isn't likely to make much of an impact on an audience with a limited attention span. Slapdash writing will damage you with a highly educated audience, while excessive formality can torpedo you with young readers. What works for desktop might not be appropriate for mobile devices. Videos and graphics are usually helpful, but knowing your audience will help you decide how much is too much.

Choose channels with care.

If you have a strong presence somewhere other than in front of your intended audience, you are irrelevant. Facebook is in the 80 percent range with adults and is excellent for a cross-section audience and for generating "shares," but if you're marketing nail polish to a young audience, you're probably better off on Instagram, which is used by about 60 percent of people ages 18 to 29. Young males love YouTube, while Snapchat is all the rage with the 13-24 age group. Spend energy and money where the persona is, not where it isn't.

Take timing seriously.

In the era of the connected consumer, with its glut of information, timing is more important than ever. Your audience is awash in data, and your message will be drowned if you post it at the wrong time. Consult that persona to determine what time of day and what day of the week your intended audience is likely to be exposed to your message instead of letting it get lost in their feed. Afternoon rush hour is not a good time to post content for office workers, just as 11:00 a.m. on a Sunday is poor timing for clergy and final exam week is bad for teachers.

Remember seasonal considerations. Where are your potential customers and what are they doing at a particular time of year? Remember your story about your customer, which means imagining what kind of experience they're having at any given time. Late summer probably is not a good time to go all out on swimsuits, but it's crucial for school supplies and dorm decor. Put yourself in the other person's place.

Choose influencers with care.

Influencer marketing is one of the marvels of the contemporary marketing landscape, but it requires intelligent application.

Again, put yourself in the customer's place. What are their aspirations? What problems do they want to solve? Find out who they follow, then step into their shoes and start following and engaging with the same people they do. Find out what kind of interactions they like to have, and with whom.

Then make sure the influencer's brand personality matches yours. If you're selling funeral prearrangement plans or disability insurance, a hip and funny influencer might not be right even though they have a horde of followers and they like the product. An influencer who sounds like Winston Churchill might not be right for your pimple cream. Does your influencer attract the people you want to attract?

Consider how much sponsored content an influencer is producing. If they're above 50 percent, you might want to look elsewhere. The connected consumer wants authenticity, which wilts if your influencer resembles an old-fashioned product spokesperson.

On one level, it's surprising that so many marketing campaigns fail because of infidelity to these basic principles. On the other hand, it's understandable because marketing people are by nature creative, and what they like personally sometimes doesn't align with what the audience wants.

Today's connected consumer wants a sense of relationship, and good relationships depend largely on the ability to put ourselves in the other person's place. Consistently doing that one thing is the key to eliminating a host of failures.

Published on: Jul 19, 2018