Staying true to your audience
by Carolyn Hector, Alysia Wanczyk, Stan Smolyar

How do you stay true to your audience in an ever-changing marketing landscape and world? Three marketers from different dynamic-growth brands compare notes.

5th July 2021 Read time: 56 minutes

What do marketers from an older person care brand, a tax service brand, and a retirement homes brand have in common? They’re all looking to market to who their audiences are and who they could be. This session is a must for any marketer looking for advice on how to stay true to your audience.   

What’s Possible Community sessions bring together ambitious marketers who want to ‘peer over the fence’ and compare notes with other growth-minded marketers operating in different industries. 

The question was simple: How do you stay true to your audience in an ever-changing marketing landscape and world? 

Three marketers working for some of the UK’s most innovative brands sparked the conversation, and we discovered the golden thread between them. 

Age Co: Carolyn Hector, Director of Marketing 

Businesses change over time and what was working and okay a few years ago, with a fresh pair of eyes, isn’t appropriate anymore“, said Carolyn.  

Age Co is a company dedicated to helping people make the most of later life. Age Co was looking to identify their audience within a particular age range, after which they would implement a laser-focused strategic plan. As a charity, every pound of marketing spend had to reach the right target and have the data to back it up. 

We spend a lot of time looking at who comes to us, who’s come to us most recently, and then really understanding where there are core groups that will stand out as potential segments and then validating and testing those groups going forward,” Hector explained.  

Age Co used focus groups based on the age segments they identified to validate and test their hypotheses. These groups are customer-led and are used as a sounding board to gather valuable insights into their customers. 

The only lingering question for them now is how often they will validate and reassess those core groups to ensure they are finding new products and opportunities to meet the needs of their audience.  

Armed with the new insights, the marketing team could develop the proposition and create the marketing materials that would help them stay true to their audience. 

Now that we know who our customers are, we now need to think about using the right language. We are redefining our brand activity as well. The tone of voice, how we talk to our customers, and what our communications look like. It will absolutely be a mix of high-level activity versus very targeted activity“.  

TaxScouts: Alysia Wanczyk, Brand and Product Marketing Lead

TaxScouts, is a company that helps make customers’ tax returns stress-free with the help of freelance accountants. Defining their audience isn’t difficult: it’s whoever needs to file a tax return. However, their customers still have a variety of needs that differentiate them.  

 “Maybe they are self-employed, or they earn over £100,000 per year, or they’re a landlord – there are several different needs for doing a tax return. As TaxScouts started to grow, we found that we needed more insight into these people who must do a tax return. We just needed to understand more about them” said Wanczyk.  

Wanczyk said the marketing team took a considerable step back (coinciding with the end of the tax year) to look at the big picture of who their customers were and could be. The company itself was also evolving from a startup to a dynamically growing, fully-fledged company.  

As a result, the marketing team went to work to create a lookalike audience, map it to the UK population, sort and group them into acorn segments and then strengthened their findings with YouGov data.  

Consequently, they had incredible insight into their (new and old) customer segments. They found new insight into their customers’ attitudes, beliefs and lifestyles and fundamentally understood them at a deeper level –  giving them the ability to stay true to this audience.  

Now, we are coming back together as a marketing team and figuring out what all that information means for the next tax year,” Alysia asserted. She notes that they can choose whether to focus on the broad customer segment or laser-focus in on smaller segments with all the information they have.  

We’ve got a great foundation now to revisit every year to validate and look back to. I am hoping it will be quite clear to us to start over and do another big project like this again“, Wanczyk concluded.  

Soon, Wanczyk predicts, TaxScouts will widen their net to even newer customers. In the next few years, they may begin to target the younger, self-employed, ‘hustler’ segment that could one day form part of a ‘very big chunk’ of their marketing activity.  

McCarthy Stone: Stan Smolyar, Head of Brand 

McCarthy Stone is the UK’s leading developer and manager of retirement communities.  

They face a broad potential customer base of 24 million people 50 years and older who live in the United Kingdom. They then narrow their target to those 9.5 million people who fall in the range of customers who can cross their affordability threshold.  

Furthermore, they identified six final customer segments, then decided which customers to target within those six. The segments they chose would represent 20% of the UK’s 65 years and older customers.  

We’ve decided we will focus on two groups. One is called ‘future focused planners’, another group is called ‘social realists’. The first group is more optimistic and desire hassle-free properties, and the latter group are those whose confidence has taken a knock,” Smolyar said. To engineer some confidence in their customer’s mind, Smolyar says they use a three-pronged approach:  

  1. Find the right message to send to your customer.
  2. Don’t assume you know the behaviour of your customer.
  3. Get as close as possible to your customer. Communicate with them.