Standing Out: Target Your Audience in Three Easy Steps

Jon Hamm finally won an Emmy for playing that iconic and frustrating ad man, Don Draper.

During its run, Mad Men offered insightful, and occasionally cynical, views on the nature of marketing. Those of us who work in marketing have spent as much time giggling when they got it wrong as nodding our heads when they got it right.

Sometimes we reminded our friends that not everyone who works in marketing has a disastrous personal life. And of course I hope that none of us have ever talked down to clients in patented, wholly unprofessional Don Draper fashion. Instead, we value our relationships with our clients. In fact, relationships and connectivity are two key factors in the marketing world.

Because if I learned anything after watching Mad Men through seven seasons of lawnmower incidents and questionable fashion choices, it is that marketing is about forging a connection with people. No matter how messy things got in the office or in the home, the team recognized that building and maintaining relationships with its clients was one of the few ways to guarantee their loyalty.

As with any relationship, the best way to connect with a purchasing audience, whether your company is B2B or B2B, is to understand the people you’re trying to connect with.

In the episode “Lost Horizon,” an ad man making a presentation makes one of the biggest mistakes in marketing: denying the uniqueness of potential clients:

I’m going to describe a man to you of very specific qualities. He lives in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio. “Some call it “the Heartland.” Some call it “the Beer Belt.” He has some college. Makes a good living, but it doesn’t feel like it because he works long hours. He has a lawn mower. Wants a hammock. Bunch of power tools in the garage that he never uses. He loves sports because he used to play ’em. And he loves dogs because they don’t talk. We all know this man. Because there are millions of him.

Don Draper quite literally walks out in the middle of this speech, and I think anyone working in marketing should do the same. Never reduce your audience to a set of generic cliches disguised as “very specific qualities.”

Think about it. If your audience is generic, then your marketing will be generic. And if your marketing is generic, you won’t be able to connect with the real, diverse, unique clients that make up your consumer base.

Instead, they will see your marketing material as identical to everything they have seen before. In some ways, conforming is worse than creating directly offputting marketing content. People will remember if a marketing strategy is offputting. They will not remember a campaign that conforms.


So don’t conform.

Stand out.

Learn as much about your audience as possible. Because once you know what they know, you can grab their attention with a creative, targeted marketing campaign. Here’s how.

1: Don’t Work So Hard

The Sterling-Cooper team would often test products out with with focus groups, including children and their own workforce. The creative team would often draw inspiration from such tests, with varying and occasionally edifying results.

While focus groups and research can still be vital to the marketing process, and are certainly useful during the Research and Development phase of production, modern digital marketing services have made targeting your audience easier than ever.

Google has provided valuable tools like AdWords and Analytics for years, but their most recent announcement is one of the most exciting yet:

Marketing teams can upload their marketing lists to enhance ad targeting.

Traditionally, ad targeting has been based on user location and cookies. The problem marketers have faced in the wake of new devices is that mobile phones and tablets don’t store cookies in the same way that computers do. As a result, targeting was not as effective across different devices.

Users browsing on computers tended to receive the most relevant, targeted ads, while users browsing on their phones would see relevant ads with unreliable frequency. Because phones are a more mobile, common, and convenient way to browse the internet, the unreliable nature of cookie-based advertising was a source of frustration for marketing companies and their clients alike.

With this new service, Google is allowing marketing professionals to target their audience based on email marketing lists. Because consumers on these lists have already expressed an interest in the products, they are more likely to respond to the ads in question.

And because they are likely to log into their emails from different devices, they can now see the same ads on their mobile devices that they do on their computers.

Remember: customized ads are all about the consumer. Cookie-based ad targeting  is rooted in user experience. Every search term a user types and every link they click on is an expression of who they are and what they want.


Email-based targeting will offer even more personalized ad targeting.

Since you upload your existing marketing list, you’ll show your consumers that you don’t take their interest for granted and have no plans to ignore them. Indeed, when you learn more about them, you’ll provide them with a customized ad experience.

Use this new tool to enhance client communication. Keep them informed about any changes your company has made with regard to your products and services. Communication will revive and renew your relationship with existing clients and generation more conversions.

2: Connect with Partners to Connect with Clients

The main thing to remember about potential clients is that they already want your product on some level. Their reasons for wanting it can vary greatly, but they have, at the very least, visited your your website before, purchased related products, or otherwise displayed an interest in your company.

For this reason, buying a marketing list is one of the worst marketing strategies there is. Some marketing services will refuse to use purchased lists at all. They are illegal in Canada and increasingly frowned upon in the United States.

While those unfamiliar with the caveats of purchased lists may balk at the idea of finding their own consumers, this sort of limitation is actually a good thing. You aren’t losing anything by avoiding purchased lists. Often the users on a purchased list won’t be interested in your company at all. The unsolicited marketing content is more likely to repel than convert a neutral consumer.


Again, the main benefit of targeted marketing is that it gives consumers what they’re already looking for. But this doesn’t mean that you should outright avoid consumers who haven’t searched for your products directly. Nothing exists in a vacuum, and chances are high that a web user who searched for one product will look for a related product soon enough.

As an example, if you sell lawnmowers, you are selling to consumers who in all likelihood:

  1. Have a lawn.
  2. Have an interest in maintaining the exterior of their home.
  3. Use their lawn for recreational activities.

This is a very short, obvious list list– you could also make associations like “are homeowners” or “live in the suburbs”– but already there is potential for you to make valuable connections with related companies.

People with lawns often replant them, experimenting with different sods and grass seeds until they find one that grows in their climate and suits their needs. Contacting with a company that sells these and other lawn maintenance products (but who do not themselves sell lawnmowers) could lead to a mutually beneficial marketing partnership.

Likewise, you could establish a similar partnership with companies who provide driveway paving, painting, and gutter-cleaning services for the second item on the list. The third could focus on companies that sell outdoor games like croquet and horseshoes; or outdoor furniture like chairs and sun umbrellas.


Essentially, you and your business partners can create a working relationship that is just as as rewarding to clients as it is to you. Once you’ve made contact, you can select a variety of the marketing strategies as they suit your needs and, more importantly, your clients’ preferences.

Sharing email marketing lists is a good place to start, and it is a good way to use the new marketing tools offered by Google. But depending on your existing and potential clientele, a number of additional marketing strategies could be equally effective. You can offer discounts with proof of purchase from a partner company, participate in mutual marketing efforts, link to each other on your websites, offer coupon reciprocation, and even market your companies together to showcase their best qualities.

Depending on the particular structure of your company, you can also consider setting up similar arrangements with business partners who produce or distribute your products. Remember, marketing is about relationships. Your relationship with partner companies can be just valuable as your relationships with your most loyal clients.

3: Let Your Audience Guide Your Creative Process

Mad Men can be a source of wisdom regarding the core purpose of marketing, but we’re not living in the ’60s anymore. Social media and industry websites have given consumers the opportunity to become more involved in the marketing process by voicing their opinions and interests.

From a marketing standpoint, these platforms give you more ways than ever to learn about your target audience– their complaints, their experiences, their desires.

Certainly, you can interact with them directly, but sometimes it is more important to listen than to talk. Or, in this case, more important to read than to write.

Use the “Search” function on social media to find out what people are saying about products and ad campaigns in your industry. Since we’re talking about Mad Men, I figured I would check to see what people have to say about the lawnmower industry. Twitter offers the following insight:

My neighbor picks up trash in his yard instead of running it over w/ the lawn mower. Bet he takes sticker off apples before eating them too.

While it might seem like the above tweet is a mere ode to sloth, the opposite is true.

To this consumer, picking up trash is a chore, while mowing the lawn is fun.

And he’s not the only one who thinks so! There are whole communities of people who see lawnmowers as a source of recreation.

Certainly, most people will purchase a lawnmower because it does what its name implies. But, again, you don’t always want to focus on what “most” people would want out of your products. Instead, find a unique demographic of client and market toward them directly.

A campaign targeted toward these creative and funloving consumers might contrast the tedium of chores with the sheer glee of riding a lawnmower.

It might be a landing page that contrasts the somber, cold task of snow shoveling with the an exciting ride through a sunny field that smells like grass and adventure.

It might even emphasize the unique place the lawnmower holds in our culture by placing it in an unlikely environment.


Sometimes, consumers will recognize the positive qualities of your product before you do. Listening to them can give you creative direction in creating compelling marketing content.


Looking for more marketing help? Click here for 10 marketing tools to grow your business.

Modern marketing is not about convincing uninterested consumers to buy your products. Modern consumers have more say than ever in what products they want, what services they need, and, most significantly, what ads they want to see. And remember– this includes the option of avoiding marketing entirely with the tap of a finger.

To avoid being ignored in this manner, focus on what they want. Though we are, perhaps fortunately, not living in a Mad Men world, people have not changed that much since the advent of digital marketing. Compelling, relevant content will still hook people and make them keep reading. This is not because of who wrote the content, but because of who is reading it.


The key to creating and maintaining any relationship is communication. Once you know who your consumers are, and the diverse nature of their desires, appealing to them will be simple. All you need to do is remind them of what your services mean to them.



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