Any marketer who’s been in the industry for more than five minutes understands the importance of a clear message.
But what happens when that marketer is talking to more than one group of people at the same time? How does she sell a product to both decision makers and end users if they have completely different pain points? How can the copywriters, designers and brand strategists be sure they’re presenting a holistic message, while also saying the right things to the right people?
At my agency, we’ve helped several clients overcome this dilemma. Here’s what we’ve learned along the way.
What defines a primary versus a secondary audience?
In marketing, a primary audience is generally the group with the buying power and the authority to make a purchasing decision. A secondary audience is made up of people who use the product, and they have some measure of influence, even if they’re not the buyers.
Here’s an example: In a previous life, I was an adjunct professor at a university. I was once called into the dean’s office to choose which of several textbooks I’d prefer for next year’s class. Although I wouldn’t be purchasing the textbooks, I had a major stake in the decision. And as you can guess, my considerations about the purchase were very different than the dean’s.
While I was looking at how the chapters were divided and wondering if the reading passages were appropriate for students, my dean was more concerned about price and publisher credibility. We represented two different audiences for the same product. One of us had the buying power; one of us would actively use the product. The publisher had to consider both of us as they visited universities and pitched their products. This situation illustrates how primary audiences and secondary audiences work.
Using audience personas to identify and reach primary and secondary audiences
To successfully market to both audiences, primary and secondary, it helps to know who they are. Who in your audience has the buying power? Who has the influence? What type of message would appeal to each?
There’s a powerful tool that can help you determine the answers and keep everything straight: audience personas.
Consider this example: a technology company develops a new medical app that needs to appeal to different groups—administrators, clinicians and patients. By creating 3 audience personas, a profile of each group, the tech company can understand how to address each group’s pain points.
For example, they might create messaging to target administrators that speaks to the company’s longevity and expertise. To appeal to clinicians, the tech organization may explain how their app will benefit doctors and nurses. Messaging that targets patients may emphasize how easy it is to use their product. By referencing these audience personas, the company can develop marketing materials that are more effective—reaching each audience with messaging tailored specifically for them.
What happens when companies need to reach a new audience?
B2B industries have seen record levels of mergers and acquisitions in recent years—and combining or acquiring new brands typically includes reaching new audiences. When you’re dealing with a firm that’s undergoing a merger or branching out into a secondary market, it’s important to get a grasp on their target audiences right away. Getting insight from brand leaders, stakeholders and customers can help you establish personas for the new audiences.
As you interview stakeholders and develop a messaging strategy, look for similarities and differences between the two companies. Identify the values they have in common. Finding common themes can help you maintain brand consistency across the marketing collateral you produce, no matter which audience you’re targeting. And that can ensure that the messaging is effective, even if one audience segment sees something intended for another.
Some companies, such as FedEx, take a slightly different approach to audience segmentation: the branded house model. Consider Google. When users check for a scheduled appointment, they use Google Calendar. When they need to reach a client, they use Gmail. Each of these tools have the same parent; they’re all sub-brands of Google. FedEx’ brand lineup includes FedEx Freight and FedEx Kinkos—different divisions under the same umbrella.
It takes strategy: getting from analytics to a messaging framework
Whatever solution a company ultimately lands on, it takes audience analysis and a comprehensive marketing strategy, complete with a carefully crafted messaging framework, to get it right.
Using Google Analytics or similar tools can give you insights into who is visiting your website, which pages they’re exploring, what devices they’re using and more. Social channels like LinkedIn or Facebook can give you similar information about your audience demographics. The insights you gather can help you determine which channels may be more or less appropriate for your target audiences.
Let’s go back to the medical app example. Your research may tell you that the best way to reach hospital administrators is with a white paper or a thought leadership article. That suggests that your primary audience would be best targeted on LinkedIn. Your secondary audience, however, would be more likely to check YouTube for product descriptions and tutorials. Thinking ahead like this, and choosing the marketing channels that will yield the best results, is an important step as you develop an audience-focused marketing strategy.
Once your audience and analytical research has given you a direction, it’s time to develop a messaging framework. Get out your charts. Your framework should first include a core, overarching value proposition and brand story. You should know who you are, what you stand for, why you’re in business and what you offer that’s valuable and unique. Second, you should establish messaging pillars that address each audience’s unique concerns. There’s where you can identify your primary and secondary audiences and write key messages targeted to each.
Audience-focused messaging begins with your website.
Marketing collateral is one thing. But the marketing resource you’ll rely on 7 days a week, 365 days a year is your company’s website. Audience-appropriate messaging should start there: in your site navigation, your landing pages and the resources you provide online.
Think about the way many B2B companies speak to customers across industries. Software developers like Netsuite and Square present different content on their landing pages to appeal to customers in different fields. While their products’ features and benefits may overlap, the copy changes to speak directly to each audience’s concerns.
Website navigation aids in this, too. When you visit Enterprise’s website, for example, you’ll notice that it’s primarily geared toward individuals who need to rent a car. But there’s another section of their website that speaks to a different audience—businesses—and there are resources specifically designed to address that audience’s main concerns. Naturally, these resources aren’t shared with individual renters. They wouldn’t be relevant to individuals, and the language used wouldn’t grab individuals. The messaging in these documents and marketing pieces is focused on answering questions a corporate fleet manager needs answers to. The professional tone and just-the-facts language is delineated in the messaging framework and emphasized in every creative brief.
The lesson is to consider your different audiences as you design your website, from navigation on down. And, as you think about how to write for your different audiences, don’t just think about what your targets would like to hear—think about what they don’t want to hear.
Here’s what we mean. One of our clients specializes in global logistics and supply chain solutions. Their technology saves time on the loading dock, which is a major selling point for their primary audience. However, their secondary audience—the dock workers who use this technology—may be reasonably concerned that saving too much time could mean they’re out of a job. That’s why, in their messaging, this supply chain company focuses on how much more their clients can accomplish with the same number of employees. The specter of a downsized workforce isn’t mentioned.
Writing for your target audience. And for your other target audience.
The moral of the story is to shift your messaging so it’s appropriate for your primary audience and your secondary audience, depending on where and how you reach them. Understanding which product features and benefits will appeal most to each audience, and which messages to tread lightly around, will go a long way. So, ask yourself:
- What messages will be most relevant to the primary audience?
- What messages will be most relevant to the secondary audience?
- Do any of these messages contradict one another?
- Do they all align with the overarching brand and core value proposition?
- Are communications tailored so they reflect each target audience’s needs and priorities?
- Are marketing efforts reaching each audience via the right channels?
Keep in mind that your tone may shift slightly as well, depending on audience. While more logical appeals may work for one group, more emotional appeals may work for another. It’s important to have a plan not only for what you’ll say to each audience, but how you’ll say it.
Do you need to better target your message for a specific audience?
A strong brand story, a clear value proposition and strategic messaging, segmented for different audiences, will help you reach the right people, at the right time, with the right message.