Triggers & Passions trump Demographics

Trigger EventIn a recent article, Hubspot’s Sarah Goliger published an article called How to Build Better Personas to Drive Killer Content.  While I love to read Hotspot’s blog as they always present tips on how to improve my blogging, this article – while technically correct – presented steps to developing a clearer perspective of your target market which varied from my experiences at Northwestern and at Marketing Synergy – my social consulting company.

In the article, Hubspot recommended you perform a three step process to build your persona.  They were 1] Segment your markets by demographics, 2]Identify each market’s needs, and 3] develop behavior based profiles.  While this is a time proven methodology used by traditional marketers to develop their target markets,  I have found it less than appealing when develop any type of social marketing plan. 

Demographics have always been useful in traditional marketing because it was some of the best data we had to define our markets.  While we knew demographics were always surrogates for actual motivators, we knew that analysis of age, income, household composition, wealth, life style and other data would produce segments with differentiated purchase behaviors.  While this works when we had little other information and were attempting to segment national markets, social networks and social communities have radically changed our ability to target social markets.

Think Communities, Triggers, and Passions

 Social networks are formed by consumers and businesses based on identified needs and desires.  They form regardless of our marketing and social activities and are created to fulfill some type of need.  While these communities have demographic dimensions, as a marketer I don’t care if a SciFi buff is 17 , 37, or 74.  If I am selling SciFi books and memorabilia, I want to target all SciFi buffs.

Rather than start with demographics, we teach our Northwestern students to think in terms of the “forces” which create social communities – triggers and passions.

Trigger Events are a Key

When you are considering social targets, the first question I recommend you answer is “what triggers a person [consumer or business] to action to begin considering your products and services.   It might be a specific life event – having a baby, getting married, graduating from schoolm etc – or a periodic event – tax time, new years, back to school, etc.  When these relevant trigger events occur, your prospects are likely to seek out community sites and begin search activities which predictable.  Identify where they will go and what they will search for and you can build a social marketing strategy to make them your customers. 

Passions are also important

While trigger events identify when a less interested person will trigger into action to consider your products and services, there are also people who are always in the market.  We call these the passion markets at Northwestern.  People who are passionate about a social topic – fashion, sports, politics, etc – are always looking for the new and trendy.  They are the ones who will tell others about your new products if it really excites them.  In creating our social marketing plans, we focus on the passion markets because these are often the people who are instrumental in taking your products viral.  They are heavily networked, aggressive in giving you their opinions, and active in blogging their point of view to your prospects.  These are the people who will likely read your blog aggressively and tell others about it if they like it.

Things you can do

Here are some recommended actions you can take to develop personas to drive your communications:

  1. Identify your trigger and passion markets – There are statistical ways we can do this but your market experience is often a great place to start.  From your experience, what are the events that trigger prospects to action.
  2. Learn what they do when triggered – Where do they go for expertise?  What search terms do they use?  Who are the influentials in their social space?  At Marketing Synergy, we created the Social EKG to quickly and effectively answer these questions.  If you know where they are going, you can intercept them and make them more likely to consider your solutions to their needs.
  3. Develop your social marketing strategy – Finally, develop a social marketing strategy to “be there” when they are actively seeking solutions.  This strategy should include a mix of social and traditional integrated marketing elements to reach out to influencers, social communities, and social news aggregator sites to show the social community your expertise and ability to address their triggered or passion needs.

By better understanding what moves your prospects to market – regardless of their demographics – you can better develop your communication, blog, and social marketing strategies.  To see more on how this is done, visit my social marketing page.  Also, please sign up for my blog to receive future article on social marketing with bottom line ROI, social monitoring, and social media.

Finally, let me know what you think of this blog article.  Always interested in your comments and views. 

Randy Thumbnail 1Randy Hlavac is CEO and founder of Marketing Synergy Inc – an integrated and social marketing company located in Naperville IL.  Founded in 1990, Marketing Synergy works with companies to build measurable, highly profitable marketing programs and the database and analytical systems to drive them.  Randy works with B2B and B2C organizations ranging from start-ups to Fortune 100 firms.  In addition to Marketing Synergy, Randy has been a Lecturer Professor of Integrated and Social Marketing at Northwestern’s Medill IMC program for the last 21 years.  His graduate and undergraduate courses focus on the development of high impact Social IMC marketing programs and many of the course “graduates” work in social marketing today.  Dialog with Randy on Twitter @randyhlavac or discuss social issues with this hash tag #NUSocialIMC.  Randy can also be reached through Marketing Synergy website.

 

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Randy Hlavac
Randy Hlavac is a marketing futurist who – since 1990 – has worked to integrate new technologies into the marketing strategies & tactics of B2B and B2C companies.

January 2012
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