When designing a marketing campaign, it’s easy to imagine you know exactly what your audience wants. But regardless of how well you know your company’s product or service, you are rarely its primary audience.
  • Older searchers may have different ways of phrasing search queries. They may also expect a slightly different search experience.
  • Your marketing experience may have made you a boffin at evaluating large batches of information at a time, but your target audience won't always share your love of options.
  • ...for some brands, full-blown social media campaigns are simply not necessary.

Even if you are also a client or consumer, you are almost certainly not the company’s average consumer.

If you are not aware of these potential biases, you could be designing messaging that is perfect for clients or customers who, like you, are also in marketing, but fails at reaching the wider audience you should really be targeting.

Here are four common misconceptions about audiences to look out for.

You’ve forgotten about the older market

Whilst some industries have identified a clear market among the silver surfers (internet savvy retirees), you don’t have to be providing a service or selling a product tailored specifically to an older audience to consider them in your marketing. Latest Ofcom figures show that in 2015 28% of people aged 65-74 use smartphones, compared to only 3% in 2010. There’s a similar increase in uptake of social media, from 11% in 2010 to 30% in 2015.

Older people often also have more disposable income than you might think and can both be generous givers and treat themselves to a little luxury. It pays to include them where you can. The latest figures from the Office of National Statistics shows that retired households, though the lowest earners on average, have access to more income now than ever before, on average £21k per household.

This is at least in part due to a reduced reliance on state pension and more investment in private pensions and annuities.

Consider their specific preferences and habits when setting up a marketing campaign.

Older searchers may have different ways of phrasing search queries. They may also expect a slightly different search experience. Older internet users (aged 65+) tend to primarily use laptops (36%), desktop computers (27%) and tablets (31%) to browse. Compared to those aged 25-34 of whom 58% access the internet mostly on their smartphones, they’ll be expecting different online experiences.

If you have access to demographically segmented data, consider that your older market is also most likely to be your most experienced one. They may have been buying what you sell for longer than your company has been around. Therefore, their concerns and queries can be invaluable for producing highly effective FAQs or tweaking your overall offering.

You’re giving customers too much choice

Your marketing experience may have made you a boffin at evaluating large batches of information at a time, but your target audience won’t always share your love of options. By the time a customer gets to your website they’ve already had to make a number of decisions: how to best phrase their search query, whether to choose your company page from one of ten on the first page of Google or to just click into the shopping feed (if it’s a product they’re after) or the local search map (if they’re looking for a service).

Giving them another long list of options to navigate is arguably not going to make for the best user experience. Most consumers don’t want unlimited options, they want a qualified choice .

How this applies to your company’s particular offering will differ, but it’s well worth spending time on the key points of entry to your site and ensuring that visitors are not given maximum choice but curated and targeted ones.

For product pages this may mean starting with a choice of categories first and only listing products after they’ve selected the category most appropriate. If you sell headphones for instance, your headphone landing page could start with categories that divide the product by features: in-ear, wireless, etc or application: sports, travel, telemarketing. Still give users the option to view all products, but try not to make this the first point of departure in your user journey.

Your message is too aspirational

There’s a fine line between selling the lifestyle benefits of using a service or a product and getting so conceptual about the general mood your brand is going to create. Go too far and any actual features of your service or product can get entirely glossed over.

The UK mobile phone market offers a useful example. Whilst provider EE ran a campaign that appealed to our shared frustration with buffering (waiting for video to load on slow networks), rival provider O2 was busy encouraging its consumers to “be more dog”.

Their appeal to our more adventurous side by pitting sloth-like cats against active dogs was cute, but it made a tenuous link between mobile use and attitude. It also seemed oblivious to the fact that most mobile data consumption occurred whilst users were fairly idle (more like cats) and, ironically, that a considerable amount of browsing online is spent looking at cat videos.

But not everyone is prone to erring on the more conceptual side of messaging. In fact, many marketing messages stop after diligently listing the features of a product or service without telling the customer or client about the real benefits. This is the other side of the extreme and equally detrimental to your messaging.

As a rule, any campaign should tell customers or clients about the real value that they can expect. Is a problem being solved? Will it make the client feel better? Give them an unforgettable experience? Tell them. This is particularly applicable to services.

Consider all this unless you are marketing perfume; an industry whose advertising is defined by esoteric, ephemeral messaging.

You are overestimating your audience’s use of social media

Growing uptake of Facebook and other platforms seems to suggest that virtually everyone is on some platform. But just because they’re social media savvy, doesn’t mean they’re active, much less that they’re engaging with brands on these platforms.

Social media behaviours and applications differ vastly from person to person, and many customers, though active, may prefer to keep business and pleasure entirely separate. Even where brands fit into the personal sphere (clothing, entertainment) they may still prefer not to broadcast their affiliations to their friends and family.

This means for some brands, full-blown social media campaigns are simply not necessary. Some presence is very useful; it builds your local search profile and indicates legitimacy. It can also be a valuable client communication channel and if you’re already producing content, you could fairly easily amplify it via social. But pushing too hard to reach an audience that couldn’t care to be reached can have an unwanted backlash.

Also be prepared to deal with disgruntled customers. A strong Facebook campaign can invite a lot of negative customer feedback. Ensure you have the staff available to deal with it appropriately before scaling up.

Overall, when designing messaging for an audience, it’s a good rule of thumb to try to listen to them at least as much as you communicate with them.