Understanding and Motivating Your Audience

The other day, I was in my car with my two sons in the back seats (ages 4 and 6). We drove past a McDonald’s, and my oldest son chuckled and declared, “Dad, no has been going to McDonald’s lately.” The he smiled!

I asked, “What do you mean?”

He explained that kids must not have been going to McDonald’s lately because it has had to get really cool toys to trick kids into eating their food. And now it has Pokémon toys to give away in the Happy Meals, and those are some of the coolest toys out there. So since the other toys weren’t working to lure the kids in, it upped the incentive.

When he was younger, I had tried to teach him that fast-food places often offer toys to kids to get them to eat food that wasn’t very healthy or all that good. We also had the same discussion about TV advertising and that toys often weren’t as cool as they appeared on the commercials and that he really needed to think about the ways in which he and his friends used their time to play. I know, very anti-American and anti mass consumption. But anyone with kids knows that if kids watch at least five commercials on TV, they generally want five new things for their birthday that’s at least nine months away.

Now, I don’t whether my 6 year old’s assessment that people haven’t been going to McDonald’s is right. In light of the economy, one could make the case that McDonald’s would benefit, because people are looking for lower-cost offerings.

Over the years, McDonald’s has shown it knows what motivates its audience — and even more important, its different audiences. A toy always comes with the Happy Meal. It could be a toy related to a current movie or something like Pokémon. It’s always changing the toy and does a great job of getting people excited about it (TV, radio, in store, etc). It clearly encourages kids to say, “Let’s go to McDonald’s! I have to have X right now!”

McDonald’s also targets other audiences with things such as the Monopoly game. It knows and understands its audience, and I imagine depending on how sales are doing, it can adjust its offerings. This goes beyond incentives to what it offers on the menu.

How does this apply to the Web, your Web strategy, and Web analytics? Simply put: do you really understand your audience, what motivates them as a group and, more important, what motivates your different segments? What will get them excited about your brand, about your products? It’s important to look at that for a single visit to your site (that might be the only chance you get) as well as over time.

It’s not a matter of tricking people as my 6 year old stated, unless you’re misleading them. You can’t trick people, because they’re going to do what they want to do. But you do need to offer incentives to people based on what matters to them.

Ask yourself, do you really understand what matters to your audience? Have you asked them when they come to your site? Have you asked the groups that do convert why they converted and what mattered to them? Have you posed the same question to those who didn’t convert? Have you analyzed the type of information and content that people looked at while on your site when they converted and when they didn’t? These are all things that can help you understand drivers and motivators.

This information can be used in a number of ways. What value is it to your audience to get free shipping compared to being upgraded to priority mail? Do you know the difference? Or are people more interested in the no-questions-asked exchange policy or the automatic one-year warranty?

The key: Understand your audience, test your different options, and see what resonates. There’s no medium easier to target, test, and quickly readjust than the Web. There are tons of different ways to test this:

  • Display advertising (banners, etc.)
  • Paid search listings
  • Landing pages (from any type of campaigns)
  • Calls to action on your site
  • Promos
  • Blog postings

It shouldn’t matter if the economy is trending down or up or if your sales are doing the same. Better understand what incentives your customers want to engage with you, then target that key message (while understanding the impact, of course) to those different audiences. This will effectively lead to happy customers and more success for you and your company online.

Maybe my 6 year old was right about McDonald’s pulling out all the stops to market to kids. Maybe he wasn’t. What’s key is McDonald’s knows its different audiences and does what it can to speak to and motivate them. We should all look for ways to do the same things with our customers and prospects online and off-.

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