Digital Marketing

How to Build a Super Audience for Your Ads

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Building an audience is perhaps the most important aspect of growing a company. And yet, it’s also one of the most elusive.

Turning digital advertisements into swaths of new customers is seen as a miracle, a magic trick. The phrase “growth hacking” is spoken in reverent tones as a sport for geniuses.

The truth is that audience building will be a mystery until you pin it down by tracking and analyzing it. Instead of relying on risky tricks and luck, turn it into a science. In doing this, suddenly you’re able to predict and control long-term outcomes and do more of the things that work for your particular business.

According to stats from the Delhi School of Internet Marketing, 80% of marketers agree that data has a positive effect on advertising campaigns. At the same time, 87% pinpoint data as the most underused asset in their companies.

A data-driven testing strategy is the only way to accurately, purposefully grow ROI. It’s not so much growth hacking as growth crafting. Build your audience by setting precise goals, testing tactics, and spotting what pushes the needle. It sounds less exciting than “hacking,” but it actually enables you to be more aggressive and confident in your strategy.

Here are five ways to build audiences for your ads safely and sustainably:

1. Build Empathy with Customer Personas

If you can understand customers’ current habits, you’ll be better able to predict what will interest them next. Make these habits come to life by creating customer personas.

A great persona is a transporting narrative. It brings readers into the mind of the customer by using first-person, detail-rich descriptions. Give your customers a name, a family, and a home. Watch them go about their day and pay attention to how they choose and react to the products they see.

Pro tip: Use high-quality photos to make personas come to life even more, and three-dimensionalize the characters that comprise your audience segments.

2. Select Channels to Target Based on Those Personas

Using your descriptive customer profile as a starting point, choose channels for your ads that your customer would encounter and engage with during the course of his or her day.

Every channel requires a different strategy, so it’s important to select which channel you’re targeting before crafting your ads. Targeting a relevant channel is what fills your audience with the right kind of people—the people who are likely to become your loyal advocates.

When you consider that 96% of B2C companies choose Facebook as their main social media platform and 93% of B2B companies choose LinkedIn, you can see how critical platform choice can be for getting in front of the right people.

3. Leverage Platforms to Grow Audiences Further

SEO tools allow you to examine your audience’s search habits and connect more directly with them. Use these tools to find out what interests your audience, and then let that knowledge power your advertising.

Google Keyword Planner is a great example. Google’s massive store of data is at your fingertips—use it to discover precisely what your audience is looking for, and deliver it back to them in the form of meaningful keywords. Use Keyword Planner in conjunction with Google’s other audience-building tools (like AdWords and Google Analytics) to test and measure how keywords are performing with your chosen personas.

When you pair this knowledge with the right channels, you’ll start carving the internet into your own personal showroom.

4. Build a Lookalike Audience

A lookalike audience is a group of your existing, active customers who already love your product. This is a group you can test and examine—and use to attract more of those people who are likely to “get” you.

Begin by identifying a list of ideal customers and input this list into Facebook to create a lookalike audience. Let the platform’s algorithm do its work to illuminate the crowds of people with the characteristics you need: the people you should be talking to with your ads.

5. Create a Super Audience

Once you’ve mastered the science of creating lookalike audiences, you can level up by layering interests to create a super audience. You’ve proven that certain ideas work well for a particular group of people, so now you can hone in further by testing additional interests that might turn already hot leads into loyal advocates.

For one Ladder client, we created a persona targeting people who loved using discounts. By targeting this persona, we built a list of 1,000 emails, fed it to Facebook, and created a lookalike audience of deal lovers. We then layered the “deal-loving” interest on top of that lookalike audience to build a super audience. It earned us record-breaking acquisition numbers.

Once you’ve located an audience ripe for your ads, play with your lookalikes. Experiment with how specific the interests should be, test out a new ad on 5% or 10% of your audience, and see what happens.

Building a data-driven customer acquisition strategy is not magic—it’s better. It allows you to know exactly how and why your audience-building actions are working. Every part of your strategy, from landing pages to welcome emails, can be fine-tuned for success.