Know who you’re talking to – it's the key to everything else in marketing

The first question a skilled marketing professional always asks is “Who are the specific people you want to reach with your message?” Defining a target market has to be the first focus, because it serves as the foundation of all elements in a marketing strategy. 

Of course, the university has multiple audiences, and so do each of the units on campus. It’s always tempting to want to focus each marketing tool on everyone. Unfortunately, that something-for-everyone approach usually results in a watered-down, vague message that fails to effectively reach anyone. 

Just because you’re targeting a specific audience, however, doesn’t mean that you’re excluding people who do not fit your criteria. Rather, target marketing allows you to focus your marketing dollars and brand message on a specific audience that is most likely to engage with you, and do the thing you want them to do. (The term “engage” here could mean a number of things, such as ‘apply,’ ‘donate,’ ‘attend,’ or ‘comment’ –  whatever your ultimate goal is for your audience.)  This is a much more affordable, efficient, and effective way to reach your unit goals.

As we developed the U of I brand, the Strategic Marketing and Branding team devoted an incredible amount of time and energy on understanding and identifying the university’s key audiences. That’s also the focus of market research we’ve done and continue to do. And we’re eager to provide tools and assistance to individual units to help each of you better understand and target your audiences.

I’ll also be writing additional blog posts on the topic, including one with tips on how to start defining your target market, and why it’s important to see them as the hero and you as the guide as you shape your marketing messages.