Email Thursday – Understanding Your Audience

By Nik


For your email marketing program, it’s imperative that you push the envelope to get more in tune with your audience over time. So today, we’ll review a quick exercise that you can do to impact your email program by leap and bounds, bringing you thousands upon thousands of dollars ahead of where you are today with your program. It’s all about getting inside the unique mindset of your audience.

It’s easy to lose touch with your audience – the world of the internet creates changes in habits that very hard to stay on top of. Sometimes, you’ll need to do research to find what’s fresh, but also what basics of your audience are indelible to their nature, and can be banked on time after time again. The exercise we’ll do to get there starts with finding inspiration.

Ask yourself “what is a core part of my audience?” – and answer it in the lowest-common-denominator fashion possible. For our example, we’ll say: college students. Next, search Google for “top sites for (and then enter your audience)” – so for example, “top sites for college students”. When you find a few that stand out, make them your seed sites for idea generation. For our example, we’ll use two sites that are very in tune with the college audience:, and – both of which are in the same family of websites and share a strong inter-connection.

For starters, you want to find commonalities, but also force yourself to go beyond superficial generalizations to come up with some Confucius-like remarks about your audience – this will help you align yourself with the underlying ways of thinking that permeate your audience’s many actions.

For example, you may note that music is very important to this audience because both sites prominently are featuring the vote for the “woodies” – MTVU’s version of the Grammy’s. Great, you’ve found a soft spot. Now, let’s test finding more insightful truths.

One, is that voting is important to this audience. They feel empowered by their ability to vote, and they use technology to become powerful. When you think it through, you may be able to admit that, “yes, this seems very true – after all, look at Facebook, twitter, etc – now I’m on to something. Social is not going to simply be a way for me to get basic visibility out there, maybe I need to use social to empower my audience, not just my own website.”

Both sites also have sections for helping creating an impact on the world. As a college student, I remember the partying, the learning and the growing up, but I faintly remember how important it was to create change in the world. It’s something that would easily slip through most marketers fingers when trying to influence a college audience.

Something like this may be an area where it is much harder to game the system; where authenticity is akin to success. It would imbibe a sense of solidarity, commonality and trust with your audience. In the shopping process, these are invaluable assets to helping close deals. Investing in a way to connect with the morality and deep passions of your audience can help you create a bond that will help your company grow in ways that only the heart can do.

Keep your eyes peeled for contradictions. Taste is something that finds a balance between opposites. For example, the same audience that cares deeply about particular global issues can still be drawn to absolute (yet meaninglessly innocent) absurdity. This is true of most college students; they are a hotbed of contradictions, yet knowing where the fine line is today makes the biggest difference in terms of relevance. You may expect that idealogy-based message are more relevant during campaign season, for example – while absurd eye-catching media and art is more relevant during sweeps week. Defining the two opposing goal posts between which your audience plays their game of life will help you stay connected in a way that still somehow achieves balance.

Collect these notes and thoughts – just because you though them, doesn’t mean they’re correct. It’s time to test. If your audience is college based, throw in some very relevant musical imagery into your next email campaign and see if it helps capture more attention – of course, execute in an artful way – you need to connect your subject with your product in a way that makes sense and engages users into the shopping experience. Test your campaign against one that has all the same content, but doesn’t evoke a sense of musical appetite – you’ll need data to validate your ideas.

Do another A/B test where you focus on your store’s commitment to a relevant topic or charity. Try making your goal to drive revenue, not to raise money for the charity – it’s just a test. If the trust and connection you get with your audience helps increase conversion rates, then great. Tie it into the purchase of a product (buy today and we’ll donate $x for every purchase) and you may see even more of an impact on sales. The purpose of the test is to understand the pulse of your market. If it fails, try a different charity – or simply conclude that this is not as relevant as you thought. Then again, maybe you simply keep the program alive because you also have that college-like desire to help the world!

Finally, test absurdity – look up a few of the top videos from youtube and you’ll get a sense of what it means to be absurd. See if it gets clicks – and try to draw curiosity clicks if you can. A typical line that helps absurdity get clicks is along the lines of “see what happens next…” Finding creative ways to connect with your audience might be exhausting, but that’s the goal of your email marketing!