Remember that really cute guy who said he’d call…and didn’t?  Or the hiring manager who said you were the top candidate …and then the reject email arrived? Don’t take offense, they just weren’t in to you.

Marketers have similar experiences in attracting their audience.  In the past, many have built their campaigns following the marketer’s motto of the moment ‘Target audiences with the right message’ but sadly, many messages miss the mark with content that just doesn’t resonate with their audience.All too often companies get wrapped up in spiffy content based on assumptions about the target market that falls flat, leaving marketers wondering why the audience just doesn’t connect or engage with the brand. Marketers assume their customers want vanilla when really their more interested in Jamoca Almond Fudge with extra nuts.

Doing some strategic research ahead of time can help you avoid miss-the-mark messages. Start by building a picture of the ideal customer – their habits, attitudes, and beliefs – and infuse content with messages that mean something to them. Here’s a few tips on what’s important to learn about your audience and why.

Consumers are more likely to respond to marketing messages that reflect who they are in life. Start by identifying what your ideal customer ‘looks like’? By this I don’t mean a physical picture, rather a demographic snapshot of your best customers or the companies who are most likely to use your products and services. Create an online survey with tools like Survey Monkey®or Qualtrics® to identify their age, income, gender, marital status/children, education, occupation and most commonly used language. A yoga studio company is likely more interested in age and income than marital status, whereas a fertility clinic wants to know about gender, marital status, and age. With this information you can find out who has the financial means to buy your services and what age group is most likely to be interested. And don’t forget to use a mapping tool to find out where your best customers live.  Remember, the city mouse has different needs than the country mouse and your messaging should reflect where they hang their hat.

Audiences who can see themselves or people like them using a product or service are more likely to connect with the brand.  Use that survey to find out about what activities they like according to what you’re services are. For the yoga company, ask them if they like reading books about spirituality and psychology, or if they are purveyors of self-care activities like spa treatments. The fertility clinic will want to know if their audience attends community and family events, indicating they might be family oriented. Build your survey with questions that help you paint a picture of who they are at home, work and play. How do they get to work? Bus it or hop in the car with a Tim’s coffee? After a long day, do they kick back and binge watch Jeopardy or the latest vampire series? Maybe hiding out in the World of Warcraft is more their thing. Go a step further and find out how they access the things they need and want? Are weekends spent perusing the outlet malls for deals, or going online to hunt for the latest athleisure wear brands? Knowing what they’re interested in will help build a picture of your ideal customer. And when your audience sees themselves in your messages, they are more likely to click, connect and consume what you’re offering.

More than ever, today’s consumers want products and services that reflect who they are at a deeper, more cultural level. They want to know that you are interested in them for who they really are. Parent with young children want a car that can get them from point A to B in the most economical, safest way. Keeping their children safe and secure is valuable to them and their car should be too.  Learn what your audience truly values in life and what their core beliefs are. Focus groups and in-person interviews are ideal for this.  Conversations with customers and like-minded consumers can tap into the broader psychological and social needs – what motivates them to do the things they do, and what is really important to them beyond basic needs like food and shelter. Is improving their personal health most important, or improving the lives of others? Do they desire to be part of a community, or find a higher calling by being a leader to others? The yoga company can connect with their audience by creating messages that tap into a sense of belonging to a community and being with others who value that, too. The fertility company can build messages that reflect a deep commitment to building a family. Surveys are less able to capture these motivations so hire a reputable qualitative researcher to run some focus groups and interviews.

Ditch the assumptions about your market and do some research. Find out who your ideal market is and learn what is most important to them. With good research information you can create messages that mean something to them.  And next time they read your brand messages, they’ll think ‘oh, I’m so into you.’