There is a surplus of information in the marketplace, and it’s only increasing.  With the proliferation of mobile devices coupled with internet penetration and social media adoption, there is no shortage of brands interrupting consumers with content overload.

This doesn’t even include the conversations that consumers have with their friends through text, email, Snapchat, WhatsApp, and every other social network.

Consumers can only ingest a finite amount of information at a given time. It’s the same psychology behind Twitter’s 140 character limit or why Facebook users have an average of 145 friends.  Most humans cannot manage their lives effectively with so much going in the world.  The variance between all of the content vying for consumer attention and what they can actually comprehend is extremely high.  It’s no wonder why businesses are struggling to reach their customers online.

Because of this content surplus and attention deficit, most consumers have tunnel vision, so they only consume the content that is relevant to them at a very specific moment in time.  Think about the last time you were in the market for buying a car.  Do you recall the office conversations, radio ads, billboards, and status updates talking about interest rates, leasing options or hearing the “Nationwide is on your side” tune as you researched new car insurance?  And then once you drove off the lot, all the advertisements and conversations went away.  It didn’t really go away though.  It just wasn’t relevant anymore.

Lastly, consumer purchase behavior is dynamic and very difficult to track.  The old school way of thinking about the purchase funnel has been turned completely upside down.  We can thank the Internet and social media for that.  The purchase path is not linear; it’s sporadic.  Consumers may do research online, ask a friend, be influenced by a commercial or billboard, click through to a site from a banner ad, then not purchase the product until six months later in a retail store.

It’s not easy reaching your customers online.  But there is hope.  And that hope starts with understanding your audience.

The way to break through the clutter of content proliferation and tell a better story than your competitors is to really understand your audience.  I am not talking about building personas or saying that your audience is “everyone who works in IT.”  It’s so much more than that.  It’s about ensuring you dig deep to understand the conversations and characteristics that make your audience unique.  This will ensure that you take out the guesswork and can be as calculated as humanly possible when telling your story.

Audience intelligence is an approach that starts and ends with the customers that matter to your business.  If you work in B2B security, your audience is obviously in the IT space.  Building an audience involves using a very specific set of criteria: self-identified IT professionals who work in security, maybe the CIO or CTO, people who follow companies in the IT Security space, share IT-related content, or people who use certain trigger words when having discussions online.  Technology platforms like ‘People Pattern’ and Netbase’s ‘Audience 3D’ product can help build, mine and provide insights into specific audiences.

Can you imagine if you had intelligence that could answer some of the following questions?

  • What types of media is your audience sharing and from what websites?
  • What kind of language and vernacular are they using when talking about IT security?
  • What other keywords do they use in context with IT security?
  • What hashtags do they use the most?
  • What are interests and characteristics make them unique from everyone else?
  • What channels are they spending most of their time on?
  • What times are they posting online?

This intelligence is critical.  If done right, you can take these learnings and apply it to a content program that matches or addresses what your audience is also talking about.  Allowing you to tell stories that resonate with your audience and are brand relevant.

Whether it’s an IT manager, CIO, a physician, millennials interested in film who live in NYC, mobile developers, or affluent consumers, you can’t just launch a marketing campaign and expect results without listening and learning first. This is how you can break through the clutter and reach your audience with content and ideas that matter – to them, not you.  This is how you tell data-driven stories.