As you probably know by now, creating marketing that resonates with audiences is really difficult. Even good campaigns can go unnoticed because consumers are inundated with information and aren’t sure what brands or products to give their attention to. When people are faced with too many choices, we feel stressed out and confused. In that state, we are more likely to pay attention to nothing at all.
Here’s more bad news for marketers: It doesn’t matter how good your marketing campaign is if you can’t catch your audience’s attention and keep it long enough for consumers to take action.
There’s not much you can do about the sheer number of demands your audience faces. In an attention economy, everyone is fighting for consumers’ attention, yet consumers have finite attention to give.
In order to capture consumer attention, effective marketing must be so compelling to a market segment that they can’t help but focus on it.
Think of it this way: A flower bed filled with white flowers will render each individual flower rather unremarkable. Anyone viewing the bed will only see a group of flowers. But if you plant one pink flower in the bed, you’ll pull the viewer’s attention toward it. In fact, they’ll find it difficult to focus on anything else. In a world of white flowers, the most effective marketers will be the single pink flower in a sea of white.
To do this kind of targeted marketing that will draw and hold consumer attention, you’ll need a strong and effective research process. You won’t stand out in a crowded marketplace unless you know exactly what your target consumer base needs to see and hear in order to fully capture their attention.
Here are four steps you can implement right now to improve your market research. Once you have your market research completed, you can create marketing strategies that will stand out from all the rest in a noisy marketplace where attention is almost impossible to capture.
- Develop a Research Process
It doesn’t matter how much research you do or how good it is if you don’t have a process in place for collecting, recording, and using it.
Create a detailed research plan that includes the following information:
* What information do you need to know about your target audience?
* Where can you find that information? (Focus on low-cost methods first. You may find that much of the information you need is easily available.)
* How will you record that information in a way that makes it easily accessible to anyone who needs it?
* How will you make the information you find digestible and usable for marketing strategists, designers, and copy writers?
* What kind of primary research will you do? (This might include interviews, focus groups, observations, and/or surveys).
* What kind of secondary research will you do? (This might include website analysis, brand analysis, and/or review of scholarly research–academic journals often include helpful studies that are applicable in practice, but largely ignored by companies).
* What is your timeline for collecting information?
* Who is responsible for conducting the research?
- Record Information in a Usable Way
Before you start collecting information, figure out how you plan to record the information you collect. Research is not helpful if the person conducting it fails to hear or see key points that are worth noting.
Likewise, research isn’t helpful if the researcher records absolutely everything. You’ll end up with so much superfluous information that you won’t know what matters and what doesn’t when it comes to using the information.
There are easy things you can do right now that will ensure you are picking up the right information and recording it in a usable format:
* Identify key categories of information you want to obtain before you begin your research. For example, you probably want consumer demographic data, psychographics, and competitor analysis (among other things). Create a document with these categories.
* Within each major category, create sub-categories of types of information. For example, in your psychographic category, you probably want information about consumers’ passions, fears, hopes, and biases. You definitely want to know what your target audience pays attention to and what they ignore. Create sub-pages in your document for each sub-category within your major categories.
* As you conduct primary and/or secondary research, record your findings in the appropriate category and sub-category of your document. Include a parenthetical for each entry that indicates where the information came from. Think of it as a modified citation.
* Keep a separate master list of information sources. That could include survey results, transcribed interviews, and/or publications.
Once you complete your research, you’ll have a robust document with information that’s already organized into categories. Information will be easy to find and easy to use.
- Create Personas
If you want your marketing campaign to stand out, you need to make sure you are targeting specific audience segments. If you focus too broadly, you’ll end up speaking to nobody in particular. Your chances of being noticed will be quite small.
Personas are an excellent (and low-cost way) of making sure that your strategies are narrowly targeted. Based on the research you collected, create three or four personas that represent a very specific segment of your target audience.
Use an image of an individual (a stock photo is fine) and create a story about that individual based on what you know would likely be true about that person. Be sure to give the person a name to make referring to them easy.
Your previous research will be invaluable here as you make informed decisions about your ideal target consumer persona. Every choice you make as you create your persona’s story should be based on the research you completed.
For example, if your company wants to get the attention of Gen Z’ers, create a profile of the most typical Gen Z consumer. What does that person like? What do they fear? What do they avoid? How much free time do they have? What things compete for their attention?
Each of your persona documents should be about a page or two long and organized with clear headings and sub-headings.
Remember: Don’t create more than three or four personas. If you can’t narrow your target audience down to three or four specific personas, you are marketing too broadly. That means you need to go back to your research to determine who is your niche consumer.
Once your personas are complete, refer back to them for every marketing decision you make. Every line of copy, every design decision, every media buy can be “tested” against the personas. Would “Mike” respond to this? Would “Alexis” notice that?
- Test Your Ideas
Personas are an invaluable market tool, but they are only as good as the research you used to create them.
Create a small marketing piece based on a persona and then test them on focus groups that share at least five key characteristics with your persona.
Show your focus group your marketing piece along with a competitor marketing piece they likely wouldn’t be familiar with. (If no such thing exists, create a mock-up for a competitor product or service using similar strategies as existing pieces).
After distracting your focus group for a short time (you can show a short unrelated video or ask them to do a series of tasks), survey them to find out what they remember from the marketing pieces you showed earlier.
You’ll know based on the survey whether or not your piece captured their attention. If they remember key ideas from your piece, you’ll know that you are correctly aiming your strategies at your personas.
If you haven’t captured your focus group’s attention, it’s time to do further research on your target market, revise your personas, and/or tweak your marketing strategy to better meet the personas’ preferences.
Good market research is the key to ensuring that you are targeting a narrow audience. Capturing that audience’s attention is the biggest challenger marketers are facing today. A strong research process with a method for using that research is the edge you need to be noticed in a crowded space of marketing that all looks the same to the overwhelmed consumer.
Make it impossible for your audience not to notice you.