Top Ten Mistakes In Advertising: #3 Identify Your Target Group

As we saw in articles 1 & 2, we talked about testing and about the critical importance of identifying each and every ad you prepare.  Those should be the foundation for everything that goes out to the marketplace. One challenge that I’ve run into on a number of occasions is that my clients have considered themselves to be the target group. While that may or may not be the case, in the majority, you are selling a product or service to fix someone else’s problem. Your tastes as the product or service-solution provider are probably really different from the recipient who needs your expertise, or product or service.

Several years back, I had one client who was infamously attached to a particular media. It’s a very fine media, but it was the only one he would use because it was the only one that he felt delivered the message that He would see. My challenge to him was quite simply, Ian, please remember, you are not the target audience for what we are trying to sell. I applaud you for being so attached to this particular media, but it should not be the only vehicle that we utilize. Ultimately he relented and we did use a mix including his favourite, but used the mix of media to reach a broader platform and still stay within budget.

I think that’s a critical component for too many advertisers.  They unfortunately, and unwittingly, sometimes have blinders on so that they only want to use the media that they see, recognize, understand, appreciate and are familiar with. That’s excellent.  It’s always a good comfort zone to be using something that you know and like and trust. Importantly if you have tested and if it’s working for you, keep using it.

I have no quarrel with that, however I want you to make sure you don’t discount or dismiss other opportunities…….. because I never read that magazine,  I don’t listen to that radio station, I never get home in time to watch TV . You’re right! You don’t!  But you are not selling to you. You are selling to the hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands who are interested in your product, or service. They don’t really care what you would watch. 

What you want to do is put your message in front of them on the platforms and the times that resonate for them. If you have a chance to see it, that’s great. You will see the commercial before it goes to air. We can give you scheduling as to when it will be on air if you want to take the time to record it and watch it later. We can give you a list of the websites that we’ll be appearing on if you want to personally go in and look at it, that’s excellent. But don’t dismiss other media options just because they are not familiar to you. They are familiar to your audience. 

Your media professional should be able to put in front of you empirical data showing you this is why you need to utilize radio in addition to magazine.  Why online platforms are going to be a powerful assist to the magazine and out of home campaign.  There is immense power in buying a second or third or more media and not just more of one.

Using multiple forms of media allows you to specifically gear your efforts towards target and sub-target markets to reap the highest rewards. Outliers in target market populations may connect with ads in a way you haven’t predicted yet. Only through hitting your audience on all fronts can you gain the invaluable data that allows you to focus future campaigns. 

Whatever it is, firstly it should be measurable, empirical to justify it. Secondly and importantly it has to be reaching your preferred target group. As I mentioned at the outset, the chances are pretty good you are not your products’ target group. Don’t just rely on your gut or instinct or your own taste in media for where to place the ad. When you’re developing who your audience is, please take the time to be as specific as possible. You don’t want to get so finite that you end up with a universe of twelve people and I’ve seen that happen.

However, don’t pick the wrong place or the wrong target group or both and then wonder gee, why is this such a lackluster response?  Nobody is buying my new space-age shovel, my post hole diggers, my whatever. They need to know that you’re providing a solution. The solution it provides has to be what they need, and has to be in the media that they are going to respond to and act on.

To illustrate, one client in particular was a real sports fan. Just like yours truly. Pick a sport and I’m there. They put the ad on the sports radio station because that’s what they listen to. But their primary audience was for younger females who had little, if any interest in most of these sporting programs.  It’s disappointing because it was such a powerful campaign if it had been properly directed to the right audience. 

Here’s what I want you to do

To fix Mistake Number Three, do the proper research find out who is really buying your product or service. Maybe that’s through a survey, a store intercept survey, an online survey, a mail out, something that genuinely tells you who is buying your product or identifies who your candidates are. You can get as specific as possible by gender and age, by income and lifestyle, and a host of other demographic details that will help you zero in on them. 

As much as you’re able, please do not rely on the universe of one sampling. Well my mom Liked that.  Oh perfect. You should always love Mom. But Mom’s not necessarily buying the new car ramps or the trampoline for the kids. That’s not to say they’re not influencers, but understand who is going to be making those decisions and if it is Mom that’s great. 

If it’s Dad or a Dad and Mom or if it’s the boss or if it’s the treasurer, or your financial officer in the company you really, truly need to know who you’re going after to make your ads work harder, be more impactful and importantly cost you less,  yes cost you less.

You will get a better return on investment and give you more to spend for future marketing if you take the time to identify who it is you want to go after. What message you want to put in front of them and which media best reaches them. Believe me, after three decades, I can tell you it is well worth the research to know  your audience.  

Okay, so what you’re looking for are some characteristics which consistently define your audience. Then you can create your desired message using the right radio station or website, outdoor media, or newspapers that efficiently and effectively reaches them.

As I mentioned in Article # 1, take the time to test the ad, or multiple ads on a small scale to see what works.  Spend small to see what’s working before you open up the wallet big-time. 

You’ll have a lot of coding in place and a lot of planning to do. However it will pay dividends when you hit the sweet spot of the ad, or the ad in the right media or media mix that brings in the customers. By the way, many of your media sales reps should be able to give you detailed profiles from all of their resources to give you a clear handle on who you’re after.

Let them do some leg-work. Tell them who you want to reach. In many cases it’s a very specific age and income bracket that you’re after. You want to see how well their media, whatever radio station, magazine,  newspaper, it happens to be, you want to see how well their media gets in front of those audience members and eyeballs on a regular basis, so can you track how well they’re performing.

Respectfully I don’t mean just ‘Likes’ . That’s a certain KPI which seems to be quite a hot button and that’s great. But that’s not that’s not really a true measurement of how well the product is doing. You want a measurable return on investment.  You want to be able to say that we spent $1,000 for this ad and it brought in $2,000 dollars worth of new business. Perfect.

If all you’re getting is 500 likes or 35 shares etc., that’s nice. However that’s not what your marketing is about. It should be bringing you back at least a dollar for every dollar you put out there.  You want your target group to be buying. Not just liking.When you are testing your ads, take the time to do it on a small scale. Refine your message and your audience. Here’s the best analogy that I will leave you with,  you don’t need to eat a whole bowl of soup to find out if it’s salty usually one or two spoonfuls will tell you.

Here’s a little bonus to help you along in your planning, my Media Briefing Template is available for FREE. Send an e-mail to with a subject line FREE Media Briefing Template, and I’ll send you a copy.

About the Author: Dennis Kelly is an advertising expert with 30 years of wisdom to share for Office Today readers and is the author of two books “Nine Secrets To Improve Your Advertising” and “57 Media Spikes”. CLICK HERE to learn more. Office Today Readers receive a FREE 30 Minute consultation with Dennis to discuss what your next media moves should be. Send an e-mail with OFFICE TODAY CONSULTATION in subject line and the best times to chat. Email