Think of an audience segment with whom you've recently worked. Do you really understand them? Or do you, like most marketers, review outdated research, think back to when you were that age/part of that group and make assumptions? Those assumptions are a curse on our industry, and with the rapid pace of today’s popular culture, could be your strategy’s death certificate.

http://youtu.be/2P3achkR-Ls

As marketers, we have priorities. Knowing the brand and strong execution are vital, but those branded campaigns won’t matter if you don’t know how to reach and interact with your intended audience(s). And in order to choose those intended audiences effectively, you’ve got to understand the plethora of audience sub-segments that exist.

You probably understand your own sub-segments (if self-aware), which are the communities in which you feel comfortable, but an infinite amount of communities exist throughout our world. Even an age bracket can be broken down into multiple sub-segments based on psychographic and demographic information. For example, yes, the “popular group” of U.S. high schools you recall still exists, but its members' habits, communication tools, decision matrices and dispensary income levels are not even what they were two years ago.

Don’t rely on existing white papers to tell you how to group people and what their traits and thought processes are. As a marketer, you need to understand people of all walks of life in the present time. How are you going to do that? You’re going to have to talk to complete strangers about their lives - regularly.

Escape the comfortable, especially if you're introverted, and get to know people:

  • Talk to anyone and everyone whenever an opportunity presents itself. (This is hard for me, too, as I’m an introvert.)
  • Change your routine. Go to a coffee shop on the other side of town (not just another Starbucks on the other side of town). Sit, listen and absorb the types of people and their conversations. What kind of people visit this coffee shop vs. your normal spot? Who tips the baristas? How do different customers use the space (i.e. as an office, to catch up with friends, to read)?
  • Make life one big field study. Become conscious of people’s reactions to discussions and things around them. What subjects evoke strong emotion with your grandmother? What causes someone to get out of line at the grocery store? What’s the last statement the store clerk makes that finally drives that customer to ask for the manager?
  • Consciously evaluate whether you really understand the intended audience in your marketing strategies. Even if you do, make sure you’re talking with and observing them directly on a regular basis.

Originally published Dec 3, 2011 1:00:21 AM, updated December 02 2014