Audience strata mismatch

ear megaphone

If I were to write in this blog

“18th century art has always been my passion.  It’s my belief that mid-18th century, art, as captured by oil on canvas, has never been surpassed in terms of quality.”

You may ask what on earth that has to do with you – a visitor to a blog about high-technology marketing.  You’d be right to question it because I’d obviously written the wrong thing to the wrong audience.  My message may have been exactly what I wanted to say but I chose the wrong audience to deliver it to.  As it happens, I’m afraid I’m a bit of a philistine when it comes to art appreciation – but hopefully you get the point.

This happens a lot in the marketing world. Many hi-tech vendors are confused about who their audience is or should be for outbound communication.  Others are not confused but through desperation, they will simply throw out as many credible messages as they can, hoping that some of it will stick with someone.

As we know, effective communication comes from providing the right level of information to the right audience.  Just because a message “works” or seems credible, doesn’t mean it the right message for any audience.

When marketing high-tech products, you have a number of ways of communicating to the potential end user of the product.  But first you have to understand how your target audience is segmented and what each segment wants to hear.  Lustratus refers to this as the audience strata and we broadly categorise the segmentation for end-user consumers of IT products as follows:

audience strata 2IT Technical – Represents the overtly technical disciplines within the IT organisation that have no management, strategic  or commercial responsibilities
IT Business – Represents the  higher management levels of the IT organisation that have strategic and/or financial responsibilities
Business – Represents the line of business functions outside of the IT organisation

Both the language and the type of communication used at each level has to be directed specifically at the needs of the individual audience stratum.  Take the example below.  If I was communicating to the Business stratum about our new product called “Product A”, would I write?

“Product A complies with the latest duplex standards (KPT2, RRI v4) and is able to perform the Smithson Benchmark is 18.2 seconds (19.2 with override).”

Or if I was talking to the IT Technical layer, would I write?

“Product A will make your software development team productive in a quarter of the time needed for traditional products”

Finally, is this of relevance to the IT Business layer?

“The risk of corporate governance failures is reduced dramatically with Product A.  Internal systems can be brought up to date quickly as Acme Ltd. found out.  They implemented a complete change of governance systems in less than 2 months, removing risk of failure and resulting in a 20% cost saving.

The answer to each of these questions is obviously “no”.  Well, you could make a case that the IT Business audience MIGHT have an interest in that last proposition. But in reality the message has zero IT content so is unlikely to pique their interest.

Whilst each of these messages may be valid for the capabilities of Product A, we have to understand the specific needs and drivers of each level of audience.  The question as to whether one vendor can legitimately communicate to all three layers is moot, but selecting the most important audience constituent and developing messages that specifically talks to them is key.

After all, whilst each audience constituent above might be able to understand the implications of the statement, in their day to day jobs these statements add nothing, solve nothing and give no value.

It’s not easy for early market or innovative companies to understand who their audience should be.  As a vendor grows and evolves so the audience that they need to reach will change.  A useful technique to ensure that you are saying the right things to the correct audience layer is to monitor closely what your competitors do.

The diagram below is taken from a recent REPAMA Segment Analysis Study (the vendor names have been changed to protect the innocent).

REPAMA Segment Analysis - Primary Audience

The Market Element Distribution diagram shows the priority of each audience strata for each of the different vendors in the study.  As you can see, there is a high degree of correlation between the different vendors as they are all very close to the market mean. If I were a vendor in this space, I would have two choices.  Either I assume that each of the vendors has got it wrong and I should aim at a different layer of audience.  Or I believe that my competitors each understands who the audience is, and I aim for the same category.

Either way, understanding who will be most receptive to the value you can provide is essential.

All of the above will only makes sense you you if I’ve done my job properly.  That is, if I’m right that the average reader of the Lustratus REPAMA blog is a right-handed, 32 year old male product marketing manager living and working in the US.

So if you’re an art critic, apologies but you’ve come to the wrong place.

Danny Goodall

Posted in All Blog Categories, communication, Competition and Competitive Intelligence, marketing, Marketing Strategy, Marketing Tactics, positioning, product marketing and tagged , , , , , , , , .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *