According to Media Dynamics, customers see an ad about every 2½ minutes. The question is: Do they care about yours?

Putting your audience first calls for a change in thinking. A shift in focus. Starting with how you can identify and meet their needs, to how you sell to them.

Here are some keys to reorienting your marketing to make sure it puts your audience first.

The word "Audience" on a whiteboard

1. Follow the process.

Marketing is about persuasion. It’s as much an art as a science. Audience-focused marketing establishes a disciplined process for developing audience insights — and the resulting marketing strategies, plans and tactics.

A marketing planning framework helps guide your efforts with deliberation and clarity. So you can uncover unique insights that enable you to look before you leap. While always keeping the needs, values, beliefs and preferences of your audience front and center.

Marketing is, by its very nature, intrusive. You can change what otherwise might be an unwelcome intrusion into a helpful, insightful, fun, memorable moment of connection with your audience — if you start with their needs, beliefs and point of view in mind.

Here’s a high-level overview of an effective marketing development process:

Business objective → audience insight → marketing planning → audience empathy check → marketing implementation → results analysis → optimization + iteration

2. Know what works.

An audience-centric approach increases your ability to hit KPI and margin targets. How?

It’s simple, really. The better you know your audience, the more effectively you’ll be able to reach them — with marketing that’s relevant, differentiated and creatively inspired.

Insights into the human beings who make up an audience lead to understanding of appropriate tone of voice, creative options and content strategy. Just as you’d think about the needs and preferences of your guests before inviting them to visit, it makes sense to consider the needs and preferences of your target audience before sending them commercial messages.

3. Bullet-proof your strategy.

Considering the situation from your customer’s point of view gives you an entirely different, more empathetic perspective. That can be just what you need to make sure you’re on the right track.

Is there a viewpoint you haven’t taken into account? An opportunity nobody else has recognized? Putting your audience first helps you shake things up and provoke fresh thinking.

There are simple, effective ways to check in with your audience before advancing your plan, before getting to the part where you’re spending real money. You can bullet-proof your strategy by checking in with your audience before finalizing creative direction or starting to negotiate media placements.

4. Connect with your audience.

Ultimately, our lives don’t center around marketing. An audience-focused approach reminds us that those we’re reaching out to are people first — not just customers. We must constantly ask ourselves: What’s the Audience Truth?

In the process of developing marketing plans and assets, creative empathy testing is a qualitative research technique that helps ensure messaging is likely to connect with an audience. In the context of a thoughtful plan, it’s a small investment with big dividends.

Man looking at a tablet

5. Sell it through.

Whether we’re talking about sales, customer engagement or other growth opportunities, everyone wants results. Since every single KPI in business comes from the same place – a customer – the single most productive means to drive results is to develop and maintain focus on the audience.

Understanding your audience provides critical context for how marketing strategies relate to, and support achievement of, business goals. So you can smooth the way to better results … and drive your own professional advancement.