5 steps to find and engage your target audience

What's the path to best-in-class online marketing? First, identify and target the right audiences, and then get your brand and message in front of audience members via highly relevant campaigns to drive conversions. Seems simple enough, but this road to marketing greatness is much more easily conceptualized than traveled. To reach the prospects that matter, today's marketers must develop and leverage the power of their brands across all digital platforms, from corporate websites to Twitter, to anywhere their target audiences might travel online.

5 steps to find and engage your target audience

Here are five steps to successfully reach and engage the target audiences that matter most to you, wherever they might be.

Identify and segment your existing audience

Talking to your current customers and your sales team that engages them every day will go a long way to helping you understand your ideal prospects. And getting a handle on the people who are actually visiting the online channels you own will get you the rest of the way. In order to more clearly define the prospects that matter most, take advantage of analytics-based tools to help you identify trends within both your existing audience and target audiences. Online analytics tools can help you determine the demographics, such as industry, job function, and company size, of the people visiting your website and landing pages, helping you define your audience segments more clearly.

Next, analyze your social media followers and in-house marketing database to enhance buyer profile attribution and determine exactly which segments are engaging with you. Once you have identified your actual current audience, focus on identifying target markets that you aren't reaching successfully, or markets that you're reaching -- but are not converting. You might find that your tactics and message have been hitting the wrong target.

Refocus branding efforts to appeal to prospects

Branding campaigns are necessary to build awareness among prospects you haven't yet touched. They also help to increase interest and engagement among your existing prospects as well as shape perception of your company, brand, and product offering. The end goal of any branding effort is to get more of the right prospects into the top of your funnel, and to increase the velocity of leads through your funnel to ultimately convert a prospect into a customer.

Use your customer segmentation data to develop specific "buyer personas" for the stakeholders involved in either influencing or making the "buy" decision. This might be information such as role in the organization, challenges and business needs, preferred type of marketing content, and purchasing behavior. You can glean the data from website analytics tools, contact and lead attribution data in your existing CRM, and marketing automation platforms, as well as from external research that illustrates the buying behavior of each customer segment.

Armed with a clear picture of who you are looking to reach, focus on developing messaging, creative, and content that clearly communicates your brand's value proposition based on each audience segment's needs and role in the purchase process.

Engage and educate through relevant content

Even if your product or service has an edge over the competition, prospects are not likely to become customers until they've gained familiarity with and trust in your brand. Good things happen when you get your target audience members to understand who you are, what you do, how you're different, and why you're the right choice for them. To this end, you need to give them every opportunity to educate themselves where and when they take the time to do so. 

Develop an integrated online marketing approach that provides full coverage by incorporating display advertising, email, search, social marketing, and other tactics that allow you to put relevant content in front of prospects at each stage of the funnel. And remember, relevancy is the key to good content. Be sure to tailor your content to address the target personas that you've defined and map the content to the appropriate purchase stage in the funnel -- as well as the online channel that is most likely to engage the prospect.

Retarget to increase conversions

Prospects that have clicked on your ads, shared tweets, or visited your website or corporate blog are already engaged with your brand and have signaled an interest in your product. These prospects would likely be considered lower in your marketing funnel and more highly qualified prospects.

Through display ad retargeting, you can keepyour brand, messaging, and offers in front of your target audience members, wherever they travel across the web -- increasing their likelihood of converting. As you prepare to launch a retargeting campaign, create customized ads based on a specific audience segment defined by a prospect's interests or demographics. For example, if someone has visited your homepage and done nothing else, retarget that individual with ad creative that focuses on increasing brand awareness and highlighting your overall value proposition. But if they've navigated to a specific product page on your website, take the opportunity to focus the ad creative to reinforce the value of that particular solution.

Apply the right metrics to understand a channel's impact

Carefully define and track your marketing campaigns' metrics to determine the role that each program has played in influencing prospects to convert. For instance, track how many conversions you're receiving from campaigns that combine display and search marketing. How many prospects convert after viewing both a display and a search ad, versus a search ad alone?

To get started on the path, apply a basic attribution modeling approach that evaluates and gives "equal credit" to all channels involved in reaching, nurturing, and converting prospects. Don't fall prey to last-click attribution. To understand the impact any one channel is having on conversion "lift," compare prospects who've been exposed to multiple campaigns (such as search and display) to a control group of prospects who've been exposed to just one program.

David Karel is the vice president of marketing at Bizo.

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