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Audience Analysis Audience Segmentation Consumer Insights Content Marketing Direct-To-Consumer Podcast

Doug Stephens is an internationally recognized retail futurist. His new book, Resurrecting Retail, explores the challenges today’s big-box retailers face from online giants like Amazon and niche, direct-to-consumer brands. We discuss how retailers are responding with innovative, immersive shopping experiences that bring customers back to physical stores. Doug identifies the emerging technologies that will shape the future of shopping for the remainder of this decade and beyond.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Doug Stephens: The actual shopping experience itself is, to my mind, the most powerful and manageable, and frankly, measurable form of media that a retailer or a brand possesses. The problem is most of them don’t treat it that way. They don’t treat the experience as a media experience.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of insights at Bigeye, a full-service, audience-focused creative agency. We’re based in Orlando, Florida, serving clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. For over a year now, consumers have been adopting new shopping behaviors as a result of COVID-19. As we’ve discussed previously, grocery has seen the biggest shift from in-store shopping to online ordering with delivery or curbside pickup. But what of other product categories? The direct-to-consumer model had been making significant gains for close to a decade prior to the pandemic, driven in part by consumers discovering brands via social media, rather than traditional advertising. Retailers such as Target took note and have successfully integrated DTC brands into its mix. But other retailers are changing the entire notion of what a store is. A recent report from Nielsen IQ notes that quote “to today’s consumers ‘going shopping’ may be less about the actual act of purchasing and more about the holistic omni-powered browsing experience. As the landscape continues to evolve, the physical or online store of the future may not be a store as we know it today, but rather evolve to become more of an experience.” Our guest today predicted this evolution of retailing almost a decade ago in his book, The Retail Revival: Reimagining Business for the New Age of Consumerism. The author, Doug Stevens, is one of the world’s foremost retail industry futurists. His thinking has influenced many of the world’s best-known retailers, agencies, and brands, including Walmart, Google, Home Depot, Disney, BMW, and Coca-Cola. Prior to founding his firm, Retail Prophet, Doug spent over 20 years in the retail industry, holding senior international roles. He’s also the author of three groundbreaking books on retail innovation and a nationally syndicated retail columnist for CBC radio, as well as a featured contributor to the business of fashion. Doug’s perspectives on the business of retailing at the intersection of consumer behavior have been featured in many of the world’s leading publications and media outlets, and he speaks regularly to major brands and organizations. To talk about his work and some of the ideas in his most recent book, Resurrecting Retail: The Future of Business in a Post-Pandemic World, Doug is joining us today from his home office in Toronto, Canada. Doug, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Doug Stephens: Thank you so much, Adrian. Thanks for having me.

Adrian Tennant: So, Doug, what is Retail Prophet and what services do you provide?

Doug Stephens: So Retail Prophet is a consultancy that focuses exclusively on the future of retail and consumer behavior. And we advise brands like, BMW, Walmart, L’Oreal, LVMH, and Google, and all focused on this issue of the 5 to 10-year horizon of retail. You know, what’s changing? How are consumer behaviors manifesting in different ways? How do retailers need to plan strategies for that new environment? And certainly for an ever-changing competitive landscape, not the least of which have been many of the changes that we’ve seen in the last year or so.

Adrian Tennant: Doug, did you find retail or did retail find you? I’m curious, did you have any family members that worked in retail when you were growing up?

Doug Stephens: I did actually. My elder sister spent many years working in department stores, and she worked with Macy’s, but that in no way, shape or form influenced my decision to get into what many call, the accidental profession, retail. But it did turn out that it was one of my first, I’ll call it, real jobs uh, after getting married. I got into retail very much on the ground floor of the industry as a young person, kind of working my way up through the ranks of retail companies in both Canada and the US. Starting on the sales floor and finishing as the general manager of a relatively large US company. So that was the beginning. And then, in 2009, I founded Retail Prophet, having had the experience of working in the retail industry and experiencing firsthand how shortsighted an industry it tended to be. As you can appreciate around 2008, 2009, the whole world was sort of imploding. The economic landscape was changing, technology was rapidly changing, certainly a changing of the guard demographically in terms of consumer groups. And so it seemed to me at that point that the world needed a narrative that was looking out on this horizon with a little bit more prescience perhaps than the usual reactive nature of retail.

Adrian Tennant: Your second book, published in 2017, is entitled Reengineering Retail: The Future of Retailing in a Post-Digital World. Doug, what did you mean by post-digital?

Doug Stephens: Yeah, the term was chosen very deliberately, because it was my feeling, Adrian, that by 2017, the presence of digital or the presence of technology in a consumer experience was really no longer a novelty or a surprise. It was my belief – and I maintain that belief – that we live in a world where consumers I think are more surprised these days by the absence of technology than by its presence. You know, we’re sort of mystified when we find ourselves in a situation where we can’t benefit from the introduction or from the use of technology. Just to give you an example, I was in a big box store just this last week and I asked a pretty simple question regarding a product that I believe that they might’ve had and it was sort of reduced to guesswork on the part of the sales associate. I asked if they had a certain product and they said, “I think we do. And I think it’s over here.” And in the back of my mind, I’m thinking, “Well, are you telling me that there isn’t a piece of handheld technology or some other piece of technology that can’t tell you exactly where that product is in your store?” So again, I think as consumers, these days, we are more surprised when there’s an absence of technology to assist us then than when there is. So I believed for that reason, we were really living, not in a digital world, but in a post-digital world.

Adrian Tennant: One of the themes you introduced in Reengineering Retail and expand upon in your new book, Resurrecting Retail, is the idea of the store as media. Now, as you know, one of the fastest-growing areas of ad placement is in-store media, with retailers including Walmart, Target, and Kroger creating in-house solutions to offer ad space to CPG brands that they sell. But that’s not what you mean, correct?

Doug Stephens: That’s correct. Yeah. That’s not what I’m referring to. What I mean is that the actual shopping experience itself is, to my mind, the most powerful and manageable, and frankly measurable form of media that a retailer or a brand possesses. The problem is most of them don’t treat it that way. They don’t treat the experience as a media experience. Historically, as retailers, we’ve gone out to the open market. We’ve bought media, we’ve bought advertising in an effort to acquire customers, to gather brand recognition or brand awareness. And then if we’re successful in doing that, we move those consumers to a point of distribution or points of distribution to transact sales. The problem is stores are now the media itself and media in many ways is becoming the store. As a consumer now, I don’t look at advertising as a mere call-out to go to a store. The advertising is the store. I can buy directly from TikTok, from Facebook, from Instagram, from any piece of media that falls within my grasp. So many retailers would say, “Well, if media is becoming the store, does it not negate the necessity for stores?” And my argument is no, not at all, because it’s actually a trading of roles. Physical stores are becoming a very powerful media channel. And I’ll just explain very briefly what I mean by that. We have to sort of start from a place where we accept that the going in, the premise of effective media is that there is an audience for it. Obviously, we want to try and create media experiences, wherever there’s an audience that can enjoy that. If we go back a thousand years ago, that point of gathering an audience was the marketplace. That was really the primary channel through which consumers got information, where they communed, where they connected with friends and family, and ultimately where they conducted commerce. Over time, that was displaced somewhat by other forms of media, whether it was print media, radio, television. And today, of course, digital is the campfire that we all gather around. But the problem is digital is actually becoming prohibitive as a means of acquiring customers. From a cost standpoint, there are brands today already that are saying, “Look, we just cannot afford to acquire incremental customers using digital media. The cost is too high. And in many cases, it exceeds the lifetime value of that consumer.” But when I refer to stores being media, I’m certainly not talking about the networks that, as you mentioned, many retailers are putting in their stores to just inundate us visually and audibly with more and more advertising. I’m suggesting that the experience that I have in a Kroger is actually the most important form of media that Kroger can execute. So it’s a different philosophy entirely.

Adrian Tennant: In Resurrecting Retail, you define retail archetypes. Doug, how did you arrive at this concept?

Doug Stephens: The idea of brand archetypes is not new. Brand archetypes have been around in conversation in marketing circles for years now. But this notion of retail archetypes came out of a conversation I was having with a fellow named Ben Kaufman who’s the founder of a store called Camp in New York City, they now have multiple locations. But Ben was talking about this toy store that he started – Camp – and suggested that the issue confronting every retailer is that they need to be the answer to a consumer question, but the question can’t simply be, “Where can I buy a toy?” or “Where can I buy a new pair of shoes?” or “a new dining room set?” because the answer to that increasingly is “anywhere.” Go online and in five minutes you can have a thousand different choices of places to buy toys. His point was that brands need to become the answer to deeper questions. So in his case, he said, we are not the answer to the question, “Where can you buy a toy?” We are the answer to the question, “Where can I go with my child to spend quality time, to have really meaningful time, time well spent?” So this conversation sort of got me thinking. If that’s a question that consumers are asking, “Where can I go to spend valuable time?” then what other questions are they asking? What other questions can brands be the answer to? And so I began to really explode that thinking out and looking at it across different boundaries. So can brands be leaders in the cultural space? Can they be a lightning rod for social issues, for environmental issues? Yeah, absolutely. A brand like Patagonia doesn’t answer the question, “Where can I buy outdoor apparel?” Because again, the answer to that is anywhere. Patagonia answers a different question. That is: “Who aligns with my values? As a human being, what brand out there is resemblant of my values as a person?” And so I just started really looking at this at a more granular level, you know, and really trying to explore many of these evergreen questions that consumers are asking that brands can step up and be the answer to. Because I think that all brands today find themselves in this same place, Adrian. It’s that no matter what you sell, the internet has commodified it. The consumer has an endless well of choice in every product category. So every brand needs to be the answer to a deeper question or a more important question than “Where can I get this product?” And if you can be, if you can manifest that, not just by declaring it, but by animating it through every fiber of your brand and every consumer interaction, then you take on a completely new position in the marketplace. And the term I use in the book or the phrase I use in the book is that purpose is the new positioning. Forget about your SWOT analysis, your Boston matrices, your omnichannel sales plan. The first question that every brand today needs to answer is: “What is our purpose to consumers? What fundamental need do we satisfy by virtue of our presence?” And if you can figure that out and bring it to life, then you can sort of move on to strategy part two. But this is a fundamental question that we have to answer.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after these messages.

Dana Cassell: I’m Dana Cassell, Bigeye’s Senior Strategist. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as marketing professionals – often inspired by data points reported in consumer research studies. At Bigeye, we put audiences first. For every engagement, through our own primary research, we develop a deep understanding of our clients, prospects, and customers, analyzing their attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. We distill this data into actionable insights to inspire creative brand-building and persuasive activation campaigns with strategic, cost-efficient media placements. If you’d like to know more about how to put Bigeye’s audience-focused insights to work for your brand, please contact us – email info@bigeyeagency.com. 

Adrian Tennant: I’m Adrian Tennant, the host of IN CLEAR FOCUS, the weekly podcast from Bigeye, featuring marketing professionals sharing their advertising strategies and tactics that are working today. Whether you’re an in-house brand marketer or an agency-side partner; a DTC startup or an established enterprise, I invite you to join me for lively conversations with guests that you won’t hear anywhere else. Fresh perspectives on the business of advertising served weekly IN CLEAR FOCUS. 

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with retail futurist Doug Stephens, CEO of Retail Prophet and author of Resurrecting Retail: The Future of Business in a Post-Pandemic World. Of course, you’ve interviewed many retail professionals as part of the research process for your books and included interviews in your own podcasts. Are there one or two who stand out to you as being particularly innovative or visionary in their approach to creating the retail experiences of tomorrow?

Doug Stephens: Yeah. You know, I think there are certainly a lot of phenomenal people doing a lot of amazing things. But I really enjoy talking to people who I regard as being pioneers. You know, people that really went out on a limb intellectually, to try to kind of poke a hole in the universe as it were, as it applies to retail. So I mean, people like Rachel Shechtman, for example, who founded Story in New York City way back in 2011, hard to believe it was a decade ago. But a store that really was the ultimate media experience. It was really a store that was designed to be like an editorial experience, a community experience. A store that really did not rely on the sale of product, but really, made most of its revenue through brand endorsements and activating brand experiences. So, you know, people like Rachel that really, as I say, were tremendously innovative and taking risks at the time. I would also include in that, someone like Vibhu Norby, from a company called b8ta, that again said, “You know, maybe there’s a different way of monetizing products at retail, and maybe it’s not through the sale of the product, but rather by capturing the data of interactions between consumers and those products. And maybe there’s a means of monetizing that data through subscription with brands who are interested in getting that sort of market information and consumer information.” So it’s really folks like that that I regard as the true explorers, you know, in this industry and the people that forged a new path that I think, frankly, it’s taken a decade for many people in the industry to appreciate.

Adrian Tennant: Well, we heard recently that WeWork is rumored to be collaborating with Saks Fifth Avenue to create spaces that combine areas for working and retail. What are your thoughts?

Doug Stephens: So when the story broke, as, as you can imagine, the peanut gallery that exists in the retail industry had a lot to say about it. There were kind of boos and mostly boos and jeers coming out of the audience on this when people couldn’t fathom, like, “What’s the connection here? Why would Saks Fifth Avenue be looking to create co-working space and who on earth would want to pack their lunch every morning and head off to a department store to work?” And on the face of it, I’m the first to admit it doesn’t seem like a natural parent but I think that what you have to appreciate in order to understand this move is that HBC – Hudson’s Bay Company, the corporate entity – is not really a retailer. And I mean, let’s face it, they haven’t been a retailer for about a decade. They are a real estate holding company. That’s really, to my mind anyway, that’s what they do. And the last decade of moves, frankly, have been focused on real estate, not on retail. I would argue that HBC hasn’t really had a retail strategy, you know, for many years. So if we look at this as a strategic move by a company that believes fundamentally that most of the space that it holds as assets are really just that they are real estate assets. Then looking at trying to optimize those real estate assets makes perfect sense. You know, asking yourself “What else could be in this space? How else could this space be utilized or have value?” And so on that level, I appreciate their curiosity. I appreciate their willingness to experiment with things that do make people stand up and say, “What the hell is that all about?” You know, we need more of that, you know? And frankly, if everyone agrees with something that you’ve done and believes that’s the right thing to do, then it probably wasn’t that innovative in the first place. So whether or not they’ll succeed is beside the point. I think the two key points are first and foremost, HBC is not a retail company. They’re a real estate company. And secondly, they too are just prodding and poking at the universe, trying to understand where there might be value, where there could be a wellspring of value. So I don’t fault them for that.

Adrian Tennant: Well, staying with rumors, The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Amazon has plans to open several large physical retail locations in the US that will operate like smaller department stores. This could extend the company’s reach in its sales of clothing, household items, electronics, and other categories. So Doug, what’s your take on this latest development from Amazon?

Doug Stephens: Yeah, it’s a really interesting development. It’s one of those that when you read it, you say, “I’m not surprised.” It’s not surprising, but it’s certainly interesting and compelling. And in a weird sort of way, you know, one of the old credos in any investment community is that you try to determine where everyone is running to. And if you’re smart, then you run in the opposite direction and right now, the retail industry as a whole is running away from physical retail and running toward digital. So what does Amazon do? Amazon takes exactly the opposite approach and they run toward the physical world. Now, this isn’t Amazon’s first foray into physical retail. Of course, they bought Whole Foods several years ago. They have opened Amazon Go stores, Amazon Four-Star stores and if we’re being completely honest, their track record in physical retail isn’t that extraordinary, really. Having said that, this makes a lot of sense. There are things that are simply difficult to buy on Amazon and difficult to buy on any retailer’s website, frankly, things that require more consideration, things that require touch and feel, complex products that really require more information or confidence before a consumer’s willing to make a purchase. And of course, apparel falls into that category as well. So that makes sense. This also provides a local logistics point, a point to distribute products from, a point to collect returns from, which would only add efficiency to Amazon’s bottom line. It also gives them an opportunity to collect more data about how consumers shop in physical environments. Amazon knows full well how we behave online, but it gives them an opportunity to create yet another data point in the marketplace to begin to connect consumer behavior between the online world and the physical world. And then there’s the more sinister side. It also gives them the ability, as we know from past announcements, it gives Amazon the ability to absolutely tank the market caps of companies like Kohls, who could potentially even become acquisition targets. We know that anytime Amazon merely clears its throat and sort of fixes its gaze on a category, they have a tendency to really rock the market caps of incumbents in those categories. We’ve seen them do it in the pharmacy sector. We’ve seen them do it across various categories. So that could be potentially the play here as well. But I think the big message to the marketplace, Adrian, and my opinion is that this is a warning shot across the bow of all physical retailers. And most specifically, I’m thinking of categories that have sort of dodged the bullet up until now, categories like home improvement. If Amazon can open a quote-unquote “department store” and sell in the physical world, well, that brings them one step closer to selling lumber and concrete and building supplies and maybe doing a much better job of it than the incumbents in that category. So, I think everyone has to take this very seriously. And above all, Amazon has the luxury to spend a tremendous amount of money doing this and sticking with it and experimenting. So, yeah, not a surprise. It could have many, many strategic dimensions, but something that everyone in the retail industry should be taking note of, for sure.

Adrian Tennant: Doug, you’re the author of three books, a consultant, a podcast host, a writer, a keynote speaker. That’s a lot to juggle. What’s your process for generating consistently high-quality thought leadership content across multiple platforms?

Doug Stephens: Oh, thank you for that. I guess the first thing is, you know, cast a wide net. Retail doesn’t exist in a vacuum. No industry exists in a vacuum and retail, perhaps more than others, is affected by a number of different things. So I look to pop culture, music, politics, and art. All of these things are places of great value and categories that influence consumer behavior. So I think we can learn a lot from looking outside the retail category as well. I think the other thing is to look for a counter-narrative. Industries like companies tend to succumb to groupthink, so always look for what others might be missing. For example, in Resurrecting Retail, as the pandemic sort of took its toll on the industry, a lot of people were pointing to the idea that the pandemic was really just an acceleration of trends that were already in play. And it would be easy to jump on that narrative train and just run with it. But my feeling was that there were probably deeper undercurrent things that would have only happened as a consequence of the pandemic that might actually have a more devastating impact on the industry. So I went digging for those, you know, digging for the counter-narrative. And then finally, don’t simply document facts, because the internet does a wonderful job of that for us. Tell stories, put your facts and information into the form of a story that people can actually embrace, they can assimilate, and they can build into their practice, going forward. Stories are probably the most powerful way to help people learn. So those are some of the things anyway that I follow. And it seems to work.

Adrian Tennant: So Doug, when it comes to securing new clients for Retail Prophet, which of the content channels work best for you? Is it keynote speaking events, the books, or the podcasts?

Doug Stephens: That’s a great question. And frankly, it’s one that I’ve never really even thought about that way – I’m almost ashamed to admit that I don’t personally pay much attention to which channels are more effective or less effective or where we have an audience. You know, we have people here that do that. I tend not to be one of them. But the way I look at it is this: I think that ultimately your brand is a zeitgeist of all that you bring to all channels. It’s every piece of content that you put out. It’s every narrative that you create. And ultimately, I think that it has to be provocative. It has to be challenging. It has to give people the sense that they’ve grown by virtue of listening to you. They may not agree with everything you’re saying, but it’s expanded their thinking and presented them maybe with an alternate view. And I think if you can consistently deliver quality, regardless of channel, ultimately you will create a market, you will create a tribe, so to speak, that follows you, and powers your business. So that has always been my focus is really, regardless of channel, just always try to create something that people remember and that people appreciate.

Adrian Tennant: That’s great advice. If IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners, would like to learn more about you, Retail Prophet, your podcast, or your books, where can they find you?

Doug Stephens: The mothership is RetailProphet.com. And if you go there, you’ll find links to everything else: books, podcasts, articles, you name it. RetailProphet.com, and that’s Prophet with a “P-H.”

Adrian Tennant: Doug, thank you very much for being a guest this week on IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Doug Stephens: It was my pleasure indeed, Adrian. Thank you very much.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks to my guest this week, Doug Stevens, CEO of Retail Prophet and author of Resurrecting Retail: The Future of Business in a Post-Pandemic World. You’ll find a transcript with links to the resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at bigeyeagency.com under “Insights.” Just select “Podcast.” Now, if you enjoyed this episode, please consider following us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Audible, YouTube, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

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Audience Analysis Audience Segmentation Consumer Insights Content Marketing Persona Building Podcast

This week’s guest is a content strategist who believes traditional Buyer Personas often fail to deliver the results marketers expect. Adrienne Barnes shares her process for creating the “Best Buyer Personas” and explains how her research pointed to improvements that eliminate many subconscious biases that traditional Persona development practices introduce. Adrienne also discusses some of the practical ways in which Personas can help align the work of sales and marketing teams.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Adrienne Barnes: Who are the buyers, what is the job they’re trying to accomplish? And what is the information that we need to know internally, that’s going to help us reach these people? So a buyer persona to me is all of the information relevant to reaching your best buyer.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of insights at Bigeye, a full-service, audience-focused creative agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, serving clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. As we’ve discussed previously on this podcast, in today’s economy, many people’s purchasing behaviors have been permanently changed as new habits formed during the pandemic. That’s true for both consumers and businesses so now is an ideal time for companies and brands to review their existing buyer Personas or to think about creating entirely new ones. Our guest today believes that buyer Personas not only help organizations understand customers and prospects better, but also make it easier to tailor content, messaging, product development, and services to meet the specific needs, behaviors and concerns of different target audiences. Adrienne Barnes is a content strategist, helping SaaS and tech companies learn more about who their audiences are. Her insights become buyer Personas that inform user experience design and unique content pieces. Adrienne’s approach to customer-centric marketing is all about creating content that nurtures and serves a client’s customers best. To talk with us about crafting the best buyer Personas, Adrienne is joining us today from her home office in Dallas, Texas. Adrienne, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Adrienne Barnes: Thank you, Adrian. Thanks for having me. I’m glad to be here.

Adrian Tennant: Adrienne, you started your career in content marketing. How did you first encounter Buyer Personas?

Adrienne Barnes: I was a freelance writer writing for B2B SaaS companies and having a degree in English, in my former career I was an English teacher. The first thing you know to do or ask when you start a piece is who’s the audience? Who am I writing to? what is my tone? What kind of message am I trying to get across? And some of my clients couldn’t tell me in detail or with any kind of detail that mattered to help me formulate the piece. It was “This is the job title. Here’s some demographic information.” Or they’d hand me the slide deck with 38 slides full of information, but none that actually would really help create some content marketing. None of it was actionable. It was very challenging to say, “Okay, now I know this, here’s what we can do with it”. so there were quite a few that didn’t understand that. And then, on the other hand, I had a few who had some really great Personas, so who they really knew, and they had a different way of segmenting and they were very actionable. So seeing the stark differences between the kind of content we could create when you clearly knew your audience and their pain points and the kind of content you could create when you had very vague ideas, really led me to believe that this is something that there’s a need and there’s a better way of going about it. So that’s how I got into creating Buyer Personas

Adrian Tennant: And what’s your definition of a Buyer Persona?

Adrienne Barnes: See, and this is where I get some maybe some misunderstanding. I don’t want to say flack, but some people who are old school, standard marketers, maybe they’re teaching marketing to people. They don’t necessarily love my approach to Buyer Personas. So my approach is where really, it’s not just this demographic, topical information of here’s their job title, here’s their name. It really does go into who are the buyers, what is the job they’re trying to accomplish? And what is the information that we need to know internally, that’s going to help us reach these people? So the definition of a Buyer Persona to me is all of the information relevant to reaching your best buyer. So sometimes that’s not necessarily all of your buyers. It’s not a large segment of people we really want to identify who the best buyers are and then make sure that we’re creating the step that’s going to reach those people. 

Adrian Tennant:  Before we look at how we construct Buyer Personas, I’m curious, Adrienne, what are the origins of Personas?

Adrienne Barnes: So I actually reached out to the person who says that they coined the term, Tony Zambito. He’s mostly on LinkedIn. He said he was the one in the beginning, in the eighties I believe, who was working with software companies and was like, “We need to figure out a better way to understand who our buyers are, understand who our audience is.” So still coming up with the challenge of trying to reach buyers and users, because when you’re in B2B SaaS or software, often the person who uses your product may not be the person who purchases their product. So there’s a little complexity there. and also understanding that we need to be able to know these people outside of just marketing, but even like product development, what kind of products do we need to build in the future? What kind of features do we need to build? So he really started this process, to understand and answer those questions for software companies. And his approach was also interviewing customers. And then now we’ve got so many more advancements with social listening and digital intelligence analysis and digital, tools that, it’s beyond even just a customer interview. It’s grown and evolved from there.

Adrian Tennant: Adrienne, you work primarily with clients in the business-to-business space. What does your typical process for creating Personas look like?

Adrienne Barnes: When I’m working with clients, I always want to start with what questions and goals are already internally inside the company. So I sit down with key stakeholders and really want to get an idea, like “What questions do you have about your customers or your users? What assumptions are you making?” Oftentimes CEOs, CMOs, CTOs, they know – “We think this, we’re making these assumptions.” So I want to make sure that I know clearly what are the assumptions that are being made? What challenges do we currently have? Where are there hitches or slowdowns in the sales process, or how do people buy even? Is it through a sales process or is it a demo? Really wanting to identify the internal questions. And then that is what I then go out and create the interviews. That’s how I then say, “Okay. So we don’t know the answers to these questions. This is what we still need to learn about our buyers. This is the stuff that will help us be successful.” So they’ll have goals. What do we need to know in order to reach those goals? And then I do interviews with buyers and users – about twenty – to make sure that I have a really good understanding of, their job to be done. Those pain points, their challenges, the words that they use to describe the product. I call those relational keywords rather than SEO keywords. These are the words that your customers or buyers are using to really portray the relationship they have with your product. So what are those words? The language that they’re using. And then I also do what I call a four-pronged approach to research. So we’ve got our customer interviews. We have surveys that we then go off and survey a broader audience. I do social listening where I plug in the key terms that I learned from the interviews and from this survey. And now I’m looking up and hearing what the people are saying, not just in our tiny community, in our tiny group of our buyers, but over the internet, like on Twitter, what are people saying when they talk about these terms? And then I use digital intelligence tools like SparkToro, and Audiense to help me really identify clearly who are some smaller segments within our larger buyer segment. Where are they online? What kind of podcasts do they listen to? What kind of publications do they read? And only that four-pronged approach to research becomes how I create the Personas. And once we get all of that data – and it’s usually a six-week process – once I get all of that information, I’m able to plug it into a full slide deck that really says, this is who your buyers are. These are their relationships. These are their responsibilities, here’s their hierarchy at work or the roles that they play into. This is how they are measured or how they deem being successful at work. Sometimes that’s really important and then really one of the ways that I filter through the entire buyer persona is the job to be done. What are they trying to accomplish? And then once they’ve achieved that, what are the benefits that they, get to see or receive after having met that job to be done.

Adrian Tennant: You’ve mentioned jobs to be done. Would you just like to give us a little bit of background on that?

Adrienne Barnes: Yeah. So I was doing the research for how to create a really solid Buyer Persona, which led me into research, like reading about how to do interviews, how to research, that filtered into the design world and implementation. And, as soon as I got into design and qualitative research analysis, Jobs to be Done popped up. And it was like, “Oh, this is what I think makes a stronger segmentation.” It’s a stronger Buyer Persona outside of a job title or age or something like that. This really does get to the core of what – especially with B2B, SaaS – what is someone trying to do? What do they need your product to do for them? What’s the thing they’re hiring your product to do? So sometimes you’ll hear people say, you know, they are jobs to be done-focused and it sounds contradictory to what maybe someone else’s saying that they do when they do jobs to be done. That’s because there are five pretty solidly different approaches to jobs to be done. I like to use the Clayton Christianson model where I’m really just trying to narrow down what is the thing they’re trying to accomplish and then identify the benefits they receive once they’ve achieved that thing. And when you identify benefits, that get used in your content strategies, your marketing strategies, knowing exactly the things that you are helping people do and then why they enjoy it. What kind of like the benefits they’re receiving from it, it’s really easy to correlate a lot of marketing and product development from that information as well.

Adrian Tennant: Adrienne, you recently conducted a webinar in partnership with Audiense, an online consumer insight and segmentation tool. You started your webinar by saying that most business-to-business Personas suck. Why do you think most buyer Personas suck?

Adrienne Barnes: So that’s become my like red flag, my warning flag is just “Buyer Personas suck!” And that’s because most of them do. We did a survey with Audiense where we polled marketers and we said, “Hey, do you guys create Buyer Personas?” And I think the results were like 85 percent said yes, absolutely, we create buyer Personas, they are important.” I was like, “Great!” The next question was “Now, how often do you refer back to your Buyer Persona or how often do you use it?” And most, 77 percent, said “Never. Like we don’t even look at it once a year. We don’t look at it for new marketing campaigns. We don’t look at it when we’re creating new products!” It just wasn’t something that people were using, but yet it’s something people were doing. So that led me to believe, “Okay, this is really become check the box marketing practice.” I had my assumptions because I’ve been on teams as a consultant where the message comes down from the CEO or the CMO that says, “Hey, you know, on our yearly to-do list, that buyer persona needs to get done. Can you go execute on that?” And somebody sits in a conference room or now at their desk and cranks one out in a day. Maybe it’s based off of some formal information, but often it’s just kind of assumptions and an internal fictional story. It’s an echo chamber of internal fiction that you have created. And that actually isn’t helpful. Nobody’s going to use that. It doesn’t help anyone create anything. So rather than tiptoe around the issue and try to convince people that Buyer Personas actually were good at all of that, I’m really saying, “You know what? They do suck. But they don’t have to. So let’s talk about how to do them better.” So that way we can actually get out of the mindset of that “Mary Marketer” is a Buyer Persona and know what a Buyer Persona is a data-backed, helpful, useful document and process that’s never done, that’s continuously being added onto. So that’s really why I was like, “You know what? Yeah, I’m just going to embrace it. People think buyer Personas suck. They do, but they don’t have to. So let’s teach them how to do it better.”

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message.

Seth Segura: I’m Seth Segura, VP and Creative Director at Bigeye. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as creative professionals. At Bigeye, we always put audiences first. For every engagement, we commit to really understanding our clients’ prospects and customers. Through our own primary research, we capture valuable data about people’s attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. These insights inform our strategy and guide our creative briefs. Clients see them brought to life in inspiring, imaginative brand-building and persuasive activation campaigns. If you’d like to put Bigeye’s audience-focused creative communications to work for your brand, please contact us. Email info@bigeyeagency.com. Bigeye. Reaching the Right People, in the Right Place, at the Right Time.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Adrienne Barnes, a content strategist, and creator of the Best Buyer Personas. Contrary to most traditional practitioners, you don’t believe that in order to be effective, Personas need a name, a face, or even a biography. So why not?

Adrienne Barnes: Yeah. So I was actually working on a team last year and we were putting together Buyer Personas and the marketing director. I said, “Hey, aren’t you gonna put this Mary Marketer, give them a name and a cute gender and go find a funny picture?” And he said, “No, I find that actually induces some bias.” And I found that really interesting. So I went on a little research hunt and wanted to validate that. Is that true? If you include a name, a face, a gender, and maybe even your cute alliterative name, does that create bias in marketing and product development? And come to find out, I talked to a lot of diversity and inclusion experts because I am not a diversity inclusion expert. I don’t even want to be put in that realm because these people are very passionate and knowledgeable. So I called them up – a whole bunch of different ones – and I said, “Hey, is it possible that if we name our Persona Mary Marketer and give her a picture of a 32-year-old shining, cute, little like white girl, is that potential for bias? And the answer was a hundred percent unanimously. Absolutely. So in our minds and there are five different types and I’ll see if I can remember them all. There’s beauty bias: so if we are showing these pictures we find an Unsplash photo, chances are we find that person attractive. We chose them to represent this Persona. We’re attracted to that picture in some way, for some reason, we find that attractive. Now, if we find customers maybe in customer support or out in the wild or whatever your situation may be, that don’t meet the picture, the image you have in your mind of who your attractive Persona is, you are actually going to show bias towards that person. And it’s unconscious, that’s another type of bias. You don’t even realize you’re doing it when you’re doing it. The unconscious bias was one that they mentioned quite frequently because it’s not something that you can train yourself out of. We all have our own histories. We all have our own personal stories and our own experiences and that shapes and forms our viewpoint on life, our perspectives. And they said, you know, “Another thing that you’re not going to be able to eliminate all bias in anything you do. And sometimes bias is actually healthy. But the thing that you should do is work towards eliminating it, where it could be harmful to groups of people.” So when I say, you know, there’s no reason to have a name, a gender, or, a picture with your Buyer Persona, it’s because what you’re trying to do is you’re taking a large group of people who are very diverse and who look very different, who have very different genders, and you’re saying it’s really this one person. They all can be represented by this one person. They actually can’t. They do have things in common and that’s what we should really be trying to find. What are the actual things they have in common? What are the actual issues and pain points and solutions they’re looking for in common? But not because they look like someone or they’re all a certain age. I use an example of if your buyer persona is a CEO and if you Google “CEO persona” and look at the images, most of them are older, white men, like just hands down they are. And that may be statistically accurate, right? Like I don’t know the statistics, but it could be 78 percent of older white men are CEOs, but still as a marketer, our job is to make businesses money. We are to market to our segments of people, where’s to find our audiences. And if we are establishing a situation where we’re saying, “This is the ideal, they look like this”, then we’re automatically eliminating large portions of our audiences. We’re automatically assuming every piece of content we create, every message we send out, every product we develop, is already eliminating somebody, another segment of our audience. Whether it’s even 12 percent of our audience or even bigger, just setting off from the get-go you’ve created a foundation of bias where you’re eliminating audiences. I’ve had people tell me, “I don’t believe in that woke stuff. I think you should have gender and all that stuff.” And I’m like, “Look, I’m not making a political statement. This is not me standing in front of people trying to say like, ‘oh, this is, you know it’s 2021.’ And this is just the way things should be because of some wokeness or political statement, it’s about reaching people in the best way possible. It’s about making sure that we’re not leaving out pockets of money, pockets of potential buyers, just because we’ve deemed that this Persona to be a person so that we can remember them.” I think that’s a false notion that we’re not going to be able to create content or develop products in a way that’s beneficial if they don’t look like a person to us. And I think that’s a lot of the arguments that I hear is that, “Well, if we don’t give them these names and these pictures, we won’t remember them. We won’t think of them. And we won’t do a good job of creating, content and information or products for them.” And I think that’s not true. I think we will absolutely do a better job if we segment them in a different way, in a stronger way. We’ll actually reach them with more empathy and in a much better way than just, “Oh yeah, that’s Mary Marketer.”

Adrian Tennant: So what’s a better way of segmenting customers?

Adrienne Barnes: So that really can depend on the company themselves. We’ve segmented customers according to jobs to be done. That’s one of the very basic ways that I can do it is where I can say, “Okay, really? What are the people trying to accomplish? Let’s group those people together. If there are users and then their buyers and that’s different. Let’s group them in that way.” Other companies I’ve worked with, they said, “No, it really does do us better if we segment according to user maturity, the maturity of the user within the company is so different and creates a need so many different, their own type of marketing streams, essentially. So we need to separate them up according to their maturity.” Other ones have said, “You know what? It really is according to the size of the company they’re in. And that really equates what kind of products of ours they buy and what kind of content they need to read.” It really is all about how do you segment your people in a way that you’re going to actually be able to create things: content, products’ features, support, that is going to be most helpful to them in a way that where they can understand, “Oh, you know what, they’re really meeting my needs. They’re really here. And they really do understand.” And that really does vary from company to company. So I always say, “Inside your own company, see what kind of groupings do you notice naturally form between your buyers, your users, community members.” And that’s always a really great way to say, you know what? That’s probably the best way to segment. I think people get stuck on having to segment by job title, because LinkedIn ads or Facebook ads, but that’s only beneficial for those ad segments. It’s not actually beneficial when you’re trying to get outside of a PPC campaign and really wanting to create an empathetic company that can market and support customers in a different way.

Adrian Tennant: As we discussed earlier, your webinar was part of a series hosted by Audiense. Adrienne, can you explain how you use Audiense’s tool to build better Personas?

Adrienne Barnes: So I love Audiense. Their team has been great. I started with them at the beginning of this year as their content strategist, and I was just on their team, helping them create content strategy. And then really every time I do a Buyer Persona, I use their tool. So they have quite a few different ways you can come in and use it, either keywords, bio keywords, you can actually add in social listening audiences and then really add that into Audiense, the tool, and figure out what our specific audience is talking about. What kind of things they’re looking for. But what I love it for most is its segments and its IBM Watson information. So I will go out and find out like, what are the words are people are using either through those conversations and surveys and social listening. Then I plug that into Audiense and Audiense tells me, “Okay, here are smaller segments of your audience that you didn’t realize existed.” And usually, it’s pretty surprising or it’s “Oh yeah, I forgot – now we can clearly see that within our one larger audience, there are like four smaller segments.” So now we can figure out where do we reach them on podcasts? What kind of PR campaigns need to be done? What kind of media needs to be done? Where do they go to learn something new? Where do they read their news from all that kind of information is. As well as the demographic information, which when I say you don’t want to segment your audience based on the demographic information, that’s absolutely true, but I don’t think that it’s just not important. Like you can include it in your Personas. It’s still important to know if 85 percent of your audience is male, then let’s know that, but we don’t have to make the Buyer Personas identity male if that makes sense. So we really want to make sure that Audiense’s tool tells me all of that stuff, the smaller segments, it gives the IBM Watson data, which is like, what are their personality traits? Are they more risk-averse? Are they conservative? Are they liberal? Do they have a positive affinity or is it more a negative tone online? It’s very interesting to get in and go through that kind of data and then make some connections and be able to, then market to your audience in a way that’s more meaningful and empathetic

Adrian Tennant: What are the main differences that exist between your approach to developing Personas for business-to-consumer versus business-to-business brands?

Adrienne Barnes: So it’s almost the same. The framework itself is very solid. The thing that changes is probably the internal goals are usually very different. Sometimes scalability,  growth, is usually always a goal. And then the questions that I ask during the interviews and the way that I reach out during the surveys is what’s really different. But the framework itself, all four approaches to data research or to market research are the same. We make sure we want to listen to the audience, figure out who they are, what are the words they’re using, the challenges, their pain points. That all has remained the same even if it’s B2C or B2B. I will find B2C people sometimes are easier to get on the phone, which I think people might think as a surprise. They really are, especially if they love the product, they have a tendency to wanna get on and share. B2B – they’re at work. They tend to be busy. It’s easier to cancel an interview with somebody than it is to cancel a meeting at work. So that’s been one of the stark differences in B2B to B2C, but the process itself is exactly the same for me. 

Adrian Tennant: Now you believe that Personas make for more empathetic marketing and customer support. How does adopting your approach help sales teams?

Adrienne Barnes:  So I believe that well-researched Personas do create better empathy and because we have a tendency to know more about the customers and the user themselves, we’re not trying to stereotype a large group of people into one. And so for sales, it’s almost the exact same way you’re able to then say, “You know what? I heard you say these things, I know that this is some stuff you’re probably struggling with. Customers like you have come and said this to me, are you finding those problems? Are you struggling with those challenges?” And every good salesperson knows it’s all about uncovering the other person’s challenges, uncovering their story so that you can then swoop in and meet that need. So once you know those very clearly, that job that they’re trying to accomplish, that main challenge they need, and the benefits that most of your Personas receive from them. As a salesperson, you figure out through your conversations, you uncover that, and then you automatically have your list of benefits. “Okay, you said this, wouldn’t it be great if you had this benefit. If it was actually like this…” You’re able to put them in that future mindset of “Look at how great things could be, much easier.” And I find when you’re able to actually meet people’s real problems and not just make a lot of assumptions about what they’re likely dealing with, it’s just a much more empathetic way to reach your audience, to reach your people. And especially for sales, when they’re doing those one-on-one sales.

Adrian Tennant: You talked about this a little bit at the beginning of our conversation, but I’d like to dive a little bit deeper. Adrienne, in what kinds of ways can Better Buyer Personas help content marketers?

Adrienne Barnes: So because a lot of this derived from my need to create better content marketing, every conversation becomes an idea for content. Usually, after one conversation, I’ve got three or four blog posts. Every time a client says, “I didn’t know how to do this” that becomes “How To/How We” content, right? We need to teach our users if they’re struggling and understanding how to use the tool in this way, then that becomes content we need to teach them. That’s some educational content. If they, during the conversation, say, “This was just amazing, we loved this thing”, that’s a case study. That’s your insights, that’s being able to explore and highlight those on your home pages or in your product pages. Any kind of wins that you uncover and they have really every conversation and every question for me does become a link to a piece of content, especially when I’m doing this type of research for the content strategies, much of my research process is very similar. So when I’m doing a Buyer Persona, the questions are a little different than they are for content strategies, but it’s very similar. And then every time I ask a question, when I’m researching for content strategies, I want to know, “What kind of things are you dealing with? What kind of struggles do you have?” and that goes directly correlated to your content strategies. It’s crazy, once you start to think about it that way, how clearly the connections can be made.

Adrian Tennant: And how frequently do you think marketers and sales teams should review their Personas?

Adrienne Barnes: I think anytime you’re about to launch a new product or create a new campaign or at the very least once a year just to look at it and be like, “Okay, is this still true? You know, if you created a Persona in 2019, it didn’t fit in 2020. And now even in 2021, there’s been so many changes and just the market and just the way people are purchasing and buying and feeling, in the words they’re using, and the language, and their pain points, those are changing and those are adapting very quickly. So I would make sure that it’s at least something that you are having those conversations and if you have them frequently, or if you do what I call continuous development. If you’re actually able to have those kinds of conversations, you’ll see the shifts in the market before you see them economically, you’ll be able to tell, “Oh, we’ve heard quite a few people say this. I think something like this is happening.” Or “I think our audience is starting to ship in this way” before three months down the line, when you’re looking at your sales data or you’re looking at your blog post data and things are telling you then, you get to predict it before it happens.

Adrian Tennant: Adrienne, if IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners would like to learn more about you and Better Buyer Personas, where can they find you?

Adrienne Barnes: I’m at BestBuyerPersona.com and I am @AdrienneNakohl on Twitter. So I hang out on Twitter quite a bit. And then if you’re interested, I do Buyer Persona workshops where maybe if you have a team but y’all just need a little bit of help, a little bit of guidance, I do that. I do full Buyer Persona projects where you say, “We don’t want to do any of it, we just want you to give us all the details.” I do that as well, and I do quick consultations where you’re like, “We really just have four questions.” I do one-hour consultations as well. So there are lots of different ways for us to engage and I’m always happy to chat and answer any questions I can. This is definitely a passion project of mine. It’s what I love to do. It means a lot to me so I’m happy to help.

Adrian Tennant: Adrienne, thank you very much for being our guest this week on IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Adrienne Barnes: Thank you, Adrian. It was so nice to be here.

Adrian Tennant: Coming up next time on IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Doug Stephens: Mall owners have to realize that you’re not in the commercial real estate business anymore. You’re in the hospitality and entertainment business. And your job in that center is to create a flywheel of amazing new brands, experiences, services so it’s a totally different kind of activity.

Adrian Tennant: That’s an interview with retail futurist Doug Stephens, next week on IN CLEAR FOCUS. Thanks to my guest this week, content strategist, Adrienne Barnes.You’ll find a transcript with links to the resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at bigeyeagency.com under insights, just select podcast. And if you enjoyed this episode, please consider following us on apple podcasts, Spotify, Google podcasts, Amazon music, or audible, YouTube, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Thank you for listening. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant until next week. Goodbye.

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Learn everything you wanted to know about what makes Austin, Texas weird from the people that call it home. Download our Austin, TX research report to review all of the details.

Introduction

The capital city of Texas, Austin is the 11th-most populous city in the United States and the seat of Travis County.  Located nearly in the center of the state, Austin is about three hours south of Dallas; three hours west of Houston; and about 90 minutes north of San Antonio.

Experiencing a population growth of 34.1% between 2007 and 2017, the Austin region is one of the fastest-growing in the country  Austin has been the fastest-growing major metro in the country for nine straight years, from 2010 to 2019. The metro population jumped to an estimated 2.2 million people as of July 1, 2019, according to the United States Census Bureau. That is an increase of 2.8% from the prior year, bigger than any other metro with at least 1 million residents. That’s 169 people added every day, on average.

With a vibrant, well-educated, and youthful population of 2.2 million in the Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), the median age in Austin is 34.7 years. Of Austin’s population aged over 25, 44.8% have a Bachelor’s Degree. Leading the US in tech salary growth, it’s the number four city tech workers would consider moving to.

Austin’s laid-back, take-it-or-leave-it kind of attitude matches well with its fun and “weird” culture, celebrated on bumper stickers and T-shirts with the slogan, “Keep Austin Weird.”

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“Everyone is welcome and has a place somewhere here. And it just makes it such a unique place because you just never know who you’re gonna meet or what experience you’re going to have just ‘cause there’s so many different things.”

Jamie E, 38

Austin Neighborhoods

  • Downtown Austin is popular with younger residents with middle to upper household incomes. These Austinites love the convenience of being just blocks from shopping on Congress Avenue, live music venues on 6th Street, and even some great parks, hiking, and biking along the Colorado River. 
  • Across the Colorado River from Downtown Austin sits South Austin, where young, artsy types congregate. Barton Heights offers great family areas, while Travis Heights and Bouldin Creek attract mainly hip, liberal Austinites.
  • North and Northwest Austin include Round Rock, Cedar Park, and Leander, which attract a lot of families. The Leander is an award-winning school district, and Apple and Dell have large operations in the area. North Austin also has some great luxury apartments. These fast-growing Austin neighborhoods are popular with families.
  • West Austin has some of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the city, such as Westlake Hills and Steiner Ranch. The commute into town is a bit longer than in other areas of Austin, but residents are closer to Lake Travis and the great outdoors. Neighborhoods Oak Hill and Circle C Ranch are further south.
  • Although East Austin used to be considered the poorest part of the city, the area is now mostly a hipster neighborhood with many sleek, modern developments. 
  • Southeast Austin is home to a lot of University of Texas students, likely because of the large numbers of apartments and other rental properties in the area.

“I am in a tiny house in East Austin. With three dogs – I have two Huskies and a mix. You’d be surprised the people who to live in the tiny houses where I’m at.”

Shelly S, 42
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Doing Business in Austin

The Austin region offers businesses deep talent, education, quality healthcare, telecommunications, and a modern, international airport.  The major employers include: Amazon, AMD, Apple, Charles Schwab, Dell, General Motors, IBM, Intel, National Instruments, Samsung, Tesla, VISA, and Whole Foods.

Key Industries include:

  • Advanced Manufacturing
  • Clean Technology
  • Creative & Digital Media Technology
  • Data Management
  • Financial Services and Insurance
  • Life Sciences
  • Space Technology

The growth isn’t slowing down any time soon. The new Tesla Gigafactory, set to be located in eastern Travis County, will be one of the world’s largest and most advanced automotive plants and will bring an estimated $1 billion in capital investment to the region.

In addition to being home to tech giants, Austin has a thriving startup scene. Austin area startups attracted $2.2 billion across 263 venture deals in 2019. Startups account for a larger share of businesses in Austin than in nearly all major US metros and Austin ranks 6th for new businesses per 1,000 population.

“A couple of my friends work at Google and Facebook and they’re always saying so many people are moving in. I would say those apartment complexes are definitely to cater to people like that. Cause it’s like the new hub.”

Madison P, 28

The Cost of Living in Austin

Texas consistently ranks as one of the nation’s most favorable business climates based on its low tax burden and competitive regulatory environment. Texas features no personal or corporate income tax, and overall the state has one of the lowest state and local tax burdens in the US.

According to Austin’s Chamber of Commerce, the cost of living is 2% lower than the national average.

Austin Apartment Costs

Renters will generally find more expensive prices in Austin than most similar cities. The median two-bedroom rent of $1,450 is above the national average of $1,193. The city’s median one-bedroom rent is $1,175. While rents in Austin fell moderately over the past year (-0.6%), many cities nationwide saw slight increases (+0.2%). 

According to RENTCafé, these 5 Austin neighborhoods offer a good selection of rental apartments, unique dining, shopping, atmosphere, walkability, and a sense of community:

  • Downtown Austin (average rent $2,200/mo)
  • Central Austin ($2,100/mo)
  • Clarksville, between downtown and the MoPac Expressway ($2,100/mo)
  • Zilker, South Austin ($1,400/mo)
  • Travis Heights, South Austin ($1,400/mo)

What Austin Renters Want

No two renters are the same but many Austin renters are consistently seeking features and amenities. Here are the top things tenants report looking for in a property: 

  • Convenient Location – People want to live, work, and play in a geographically convenient circle. If your multifamily property is located near the University of Texas, show how it’s a convenient walk to campus to appeal to professors, graduate students, and staff. Similarly, if you have property near the new Apple campus, play up this proximity and go after Apple employees.
  • Pet-Friendly – The American Veterinary Association estimates that 50 percent of renters have pets and that 3 out of 10 renters without pets would have pets if their landlords allowed it. Allowing pets in your multifamily property opens up your prospective pool of renters and provides you with a competitive edge.
  • Key Appliances – Renters are on the lookout for properties that have garbage disposals, washers and dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators, and microwaves. In higher-end rentals targeted at tech industry workers, potential residents may expect smart thermostats and TVs.
  • Connectivity – Wireless connectivity is extremely important to renters. Ninety-one percent of renters say reliable cell reception is important, and 44 percent say they won’t rent without reliable cell service.
  • Outdoor Living – One of the bigger benefits of living in Austin is the ability to enjoy warm water all year round. Tenants respond positively to multifamily properties that offer outdoor living space such as balconies, patios, or decks.
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Arts, Recreation, and Entertainment

The city’s official slogan promotes Austin as “The Live Music Capital of the World”, a reference to the city’s many musicians and live music venues. It’s also home to events like Austin City Limits and SXSW Music, Film, and Interactive.

Instead of the flat terrain common to most of the state, visitors are greeted with stunning vistas, rolling hills, and wildflowers. Austin’s natural setting, in one of America’s most unique landscapes, offers plenty of opportunities to get outdoors for fitness, recreation, and relaxation.

Austin has a reputation as one of the nation’s fittest cities, since there’s plenty to do outside to stay fit and enjoy an active lifestyle in the area’s mostly temperate climate. 

Ask any Austinite about their favorite sport and you’ll hear about everything from football to roller derby to cycling to kayaking. Austin is also home to many sports teams including:

  • Austin Spurs: NBA D-League Basketball Team
  • Round Rock Express: AAA Baseball Team
  • Texas Stars: AHL Ice Hockey Team
  • Texas Longhorns: Big 12 Conference College Sports
  • Austin FC (2021): Major League Soccer
  • Austin Bold: United Soccer League
  • Circuit of the Americas: Formula 1 United States Grand Prix, INDYCAR Challenge, MotoGP
  • Austin Herd: Major League Rugby

“The music scene is one of the things that was appealing to my husband and me when we moved here. Austin is the live music capital of the world. Every single weekend there is live music from local folks and from up and coming artists from around the country. And it is every type of genre that you can think of – from rap to alternative to bluegrass country. It is really culturally diverse.”

Theresa M, 39
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Read the full research report: Austin, TX research. We interviewed Austin, Texas residents to find out why they live there what makes their city special. Stay tuned for more city research.

Categories
Audience Audience Analysis Audience Segmentation

The DINK demographic usually has more time and money to spend on themselves, so it’s worthwhile to explore the dual-income, no-kids market. 

Everybody has heard of the Gen Z, Gen X, Millennial, Baby Boomer, and Greatest Generation. However, the DINK demographic, short for Dual Income and No Kids, has now entered marketing lingo. Since any audience development agency may presume that many couples without kids have more time and disposable income than those with larger families, they’ve become a prime target for consumer marketing. 

How an audience development agency develops brand personas for the DINK demographic 

DINK refers to two-income couples who have chosen not to have children. It doesn’t necessarily mean these couples belong a specific age or income group; however, marketers may tend to mostly picture them as Millennials with decent salaries.

As for why they’re often associated with Millennials, just last year, even before the COVID crisis, Business Insider mentioned that the U.S. birthrate had declined to its lowest in three decades. A survey attributed the decline mostly to Millennials’ uncertainty about the future.

Since the Millennial generation has grown to become the majority of the workforce, they get a lot of attention from marketers anyway. Still, sometimes DINK can refer to members of other generations, even Baby Boomers who are empty nesters.

Digging deeper into the DINK generation

If some DINK couples decide they’re not ready for parenting, they appear fairly eager for other kinds of experiences. While nobody should try to put all dual-income-no-children couples in one basket, marketers can enjoy great success with this group as a target market with the right approach and product.

From the perspective of an audience insights agency, marketers should consider these general observations to succeed with the market:

1. Research target audience demographics

Some DINK couples may choose to skip parenthood because they feel uncertain or are simply unwilling to give up their freedom. However, in other cases, the idea of parenthood might not appeal to them or even be possible. Many even choose to delay parenthood but consider it a possibility in the future. That’s why an audience targeting agency should conduct research on specific target market demographics and behavior to better understand their likely audience in order to develop useful buyer personas.

2. Consider marketing innovative products, services, or businesses 

Even though a DINK couple might not feel ready to make a lifelong commitment of parenthood, they generally tend to be early adapters and interested in innovation. They may also have more time and money to learn about and experience new things.

Even if one product doesn’t appear terribly innovative, it’s good to focus upon any fresh or transformative aspects of the business. As an example, several vitamin companies have developed successful apps that help customers figure out which of their brand of supplements will benefit their customer’s health the most.

3. Promote company values

In contrast to the image of a DINK couple as very focused upon themselves, many use some of their extra time to volunteer and stay current with social issues. As a generation, most Millennials appear to care about patronizing businesses that share their values. An audience development agency should consider this trait as they develop a picture of their market and the marketing message they intend to send to them.

4. How certain markets may appeal to potential traits of a DINK audience

This list explains some of the types of markets that might appeal to a DINK audience:

  • Luxury goods: This market tends to like to share their experiences and not mind paying for value. Nice cars, high-quality, gourmet food, and similar luxury goods can reflect well on them in their own eyes and that of their social circle.
  • Things to do with spare time: Without the demands of getting kids to bed or scheduling babysitters, leisure activities may attract  couples without kids. They might take the chance to buy a boat or learn to cook their own gourmet meals.
  • Travel: Couples without children might have an easier time scheduling vacations because they won’t need to book things around school and kid’s activities. They’re also likely to travel further and not need to skimp on a budget vacation because it’s just the two of them.
  • Experiences: Again, innovative experiences will tend to attract DINK couples, and that might include anything from new entertainment and museum special events to a home automation system or solar panels. If the business must market something more ordinary, like soup mix, perhaps they could incorporate a message about eco-friendly packaging or service projects the business supports to demonstrate their corporate values.

Why market to the DINK demographic?

Forgoing parenthood and having both partners in a marriage work does not necessarily mean a couple enjoys a high income. Still, people without children may also be able to save money over their parenting peers. They may buy or rent smaller houses and apartments and don’t need to share disposable income with kids. Also, dual-income, no-children families may have more free time to enjoy some of the finer things and more energy to invest in learning about them.  Having time and money can make them an excellent target market for the right businesses.

Categories
Audience Audience Analysis Audience Segmentation Digital Targeting Services Media & Analytics

Audience targeting can help you identify who your ideal customers are and help you create relevant and resonant marketing messages.

Few things are sadder than wasted potential — and that applies to both people and products. If you build a great product or service and can’t get it in front of the right audiences, your odds of realizing its potential are slim. This is one reason why audience targeting is so critically important.

Audience targeting 101

The practice of audience targeting is straightforward: You take a large customer segment and break it down into smaller groups in order to target likely buyers within these groups.

The animating principle of audience segmentation is this: General messages sent to large undifferentiated audiences don’t resonate the same way that specific messages sent to highly targeted audiences do.

In other words, why waste your time selling your product or service to people who aren’t interested? Instead, find the people who are interested and send them messages custom-designed to appeal to their wants, needs and interests.

Audience segmentation comes in four general types:

  • Geographic: The state, city, neighborhood etc. where your audience lives.
  • Behavioral: This evaluates spending habits, brand interactions etc.
  • Demographics: Includes age, gender, marital status, income level, education level etc.
  • Psychographic: Personality, beliefs, values, interests etc.

By considering these four factors, brands can begin to develop highly tailored audience segments and deliver customized marketing messages. This allows brands to speak directly to consumers, creating specific messages for specific audiences. This creates higher-quality leads, more loyal customers, and differentiates your brand from others.

Smart strategies for audience targeting

In order to get maximum value from your audience targeting efforts, it’s important to lay the groundwork by following some tried and true segmentation strategies. Some of the most impactful strategies include the following:

  • Begin with buyer personas. The buyer persona is the foundational document for targeting purposes. These personas are descriptions of your ideal customers (some businesses may have two or three, others up to a dozen). These personas are constructed from market research, internal data, demographic data, and other sources. Once a brand has well-defined buyer personas in place, the process of targeting specific audiences becomes viable.
  • Use an identity graph. Such graphs are powerful algorithmic tools for identifying who your highest-spending customers are and where you can reach them. By analyzing mobile advertising IDs and email address data, brands can gain deep insight into what potential customers are searching for along with their purchasing behavior.
  • Use Facebook and other social platforms for custom targeting. It’s not the most complex approach, but Facebook has more information on our interests than any other organization. It’s no stretch to say Facebook knows most of its users better than they know themselves. Brands can use Facebook’s backend to set up demographic, behavioral and psychographic profiles that target the right audiences.
  • AI-assisted chatbots. With the right design and programming, a chatbot can significantly improve UX and glean critical targeting data from site or app visitors. This data can be used to determine whether visitors fall within target markets. Marketing messages can then be tailored according to this segmentation.

Locating the ideal audience insights agency

Audience targeting has long been a critical part of advertising and marketing, but today’s digital tools are making the job easier than ever before. At Bigeye we have the domain expertise and technological resources to help you find the right audience and serve them with the perfect messages.

Categories
Audience Audience Analysis Audience Segmentation Branding Consumer Insights Marketing/Business Persona Building

You may think that you already know your target marketing audience, but without persona development, you may be shooting in the dark.

It’s marketing 101: The first step to effective branding and advertising is knowing your audience. And there is no better way to fully understand your audience than a well-crafted buyer persona.

Forbes Magazine Councils Member and contributing writer Jon Simpson defines buyer personas as “semi-fictional characters that personify your ideal customer” and called them “imperative to having accurate audience insights.”

Many business leaders deem the development of buyer personas superfluous, overconfident in their natural ability to connect with existing and prospective customers. But without comprehensive and effective persona development, critical misjudgments can easily occur. And these misjudgments can make the ultimate difference between success and failure.

The benefits of persona development

It is essential for brand strategy experts and content marketers to draft and refine effective buyer personas. No matter how busy they happen to be and how anxious they are to get on to the content creation stages of marketing campaign development process, they absolutely must make time for this key preparatory measure.

Persona development gives direction and focus to all of your marketing efforts by providing a single audience template that everyone in your organization can use when developing overall marketing strategy and spearheading specific advertising efforts. As the independent content marketing resource Content Marketing Institute puts it, “Documenting your personas, even if done quickly, is key to keeping everybody focused on the same audience.”

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Persona development is particularly useful for companies with multiple stakeholders and/or team members who hold decidedly different opinions when it comes to marketing and branding strategies. By determining buyer personas that epitomize target audiences as a whole, companies can not only structure a unified marketing vision, but make all narratives involving company brand and products/services far more compelling, memorable, and ultimately effective.

From your official website and social media pages to your traditional and digital advertising efforts, all elements of your marketing outreach can (and probably will be) refined and optimized to meet the specific wants and needs of your audience as you identify them. However, by creating clearly defined buyer personas ahead of time, you can avoid the tremendous amount of time and monetary expense that go hand in hand with major redesign and redevelopment.

How to develop an effective buyer persona

Although even a rudimentary buyer persona is better than no buyer persona at all, it goes without saying that putting more forethought and care into the persona development process will inevitably yield better results. For this reason, organizations that are serious about marketing and branding success typically employ the help of a specialized persona development agency when engaging in this process.

The Content Marketing Institute breaks the development of an effective buyer persona into five practical steps. Keep in mind that each of these steps is an involved process in and of itself, requiring significant data gathering and analysis using modalities that range from general market research to customer/prospective customer interviews and surveys.

Step 1: Visualize the ideal customer.

Through extensive research, analysis, and projection, develop a single fictional customer who represents your target audience as a whole. For optimum results, go far beyond basic demographics such as gender and income level to examine the details of this customer’s professional and personal life.

Step 2: Consider that customer’s applicable wants and needs.

What are the common objectives and responsibilities of your ideal customer? What obstacles might stand in his or her way?

Step 3: Characterize that customer’s role in relation to the purchase of products and/or services.

What form does your ideal customer’s buying process take? What questions is that customer likely to ask before making a purchase?

Step 4: Consider that customer’s communication preferences.

What media channels does your ideal customer use on a regular basis? Where does he or she go to get information?

Step 5: Marry your buyer persona insights to your strategic company goals.

A great way to do this is to craft one or more engagement scenarios that take buyer personas through various prospective consumer interactions with your company.

For more information

If you want to learn more about the benefits of persona development and/or get professional assistance with the persona development process, contact a skilled and knowledgeable representative of Bigeye today. If you are looking for a persona development agency with vision, we’d love to show you what we have to offer.

Categories
Audience Audience Segmentation Branding Entertainment Messaging Strategy & Positioning Tourism Hospitality Convention

In a lot of ways, developing an effective theme park marketing strategy evokes quite the “roller coaster” of experiences. There are highs and lows and oftentimes, it even throws you for a loop!

But- it doesn’t have to always be that way, particularly when you have a good sense of what your target audience is looking for in its theme park experience. At our marketing agency in Orlando, we understand that people visit theme parks to be entertained, excited and thrilled, but also to relax and escape everyday life. One of the best ways to get people to choose your park over your competitors’ is to tap into their emotions through emotive storytelling.

This isn’t a story with an introduction, a middle and a conclusion like you might’ve been told in your third grade English class. We’re talking about transmedia storytelling, which describes the art of being able to tap into what people are thinking about, and being able to give them great content and visuals to help inspire them. And, by inspiring potential customers through images of what a great vacation could do for them, you’ll hopefully also be able to inspire them to buy plane tickets to Florida to spend a week at a local resort hotel.

In telling an emotional story, your imagery and words should reflect your commitment to this appeal. A photo of kids laughing on a double decker carousel in LEGOLAND’S Fun Town is going to grab a child’s attention and make them want to escape in the same way. A bullet-point list of facts about your park? Maybe, but think about how much more the photo might resonate with a parent who has a LEGO- obsessed child.

Disney is a master at this, and Universal has appeal through its rides inspired by famous favorite films. A perfect example of incorporating media and other immersive storytelling techniques into a marketing strategy is the soon to be newest Universal Water Park- Volcano Bay. Keep your eyes open for this marketing plan, it’s going to be one for the books (get it? Since we’re telling a story? We think we’re funny.)

Unfortunately not every theme park has learned to tap into that universal trigger that keeps people thinking about their experience there through the generations. So if you’re a theme park marketer, one of the most important things you can do is focus on the importance of story in everything that represents your brand. And if you need ideas on how to bring that story to life, contact the expert team at our Orlando ad agency to help you navigate the twists and turns of this exhilarating industry!

Categories
Audience Analysis Audience Segmentation

Horse races are in the past and drone races are taking over the tech and the advertising world – you’re gonna need an audience segmentation consultant.

Any great audience segmentation consultant will tell you it’s essential to know your market. Yet the real challenge often comes next: How do you make your brand stand out to your audience in a cluttered advertising landscape?
Given how fractured the industry has become with the emergence of social media and other digital mediums, combining those two objectives is a core challenge — one that often marks the difference between success and failure.

If you want to see a current example of brands negotiating this challenge in a lightning-fast, obstacle-filled environment, look no further than professional drone racing.

Connecting to audiences via unmanned aerial exhibitions

The Drone Racing League (DRL) is a professional league for people who race their drones on real tracks at speeds in excess of 80 miles-per-hour. The league also offers one intriguing example of brands using highly-targeted marketing in a new and unusual setting to reach their desired audience.

Why is a relatively niche organization such as the DRL notable in this context? For brands, it’s all about positioning and connection. Telecom giant Cox Communications recently partnered with the DRL to create a Cox marketing campaign that was entirely conceived and executed by the league’s internal media and marketing teams.

The goal was simple: Position Cox not as a stodgy legacy cable company, but rather an innovation-focused firm dedicated to building the infrastructure of the future for its audience. Partnering with a cutting-edge sport rooted in innovative technology positioned Cox in a way that a similar partnership with a Madison Avenue ad agency could not.

As part of the campaign, Cox sponsored one of the DRL’s top pilots — Nick “Wild Willy” Willard — and created a clever ad focusing on the drone racing star. In the ad, Willard pilots his Cox WiFi-powered drone through his mother’s house, without breaking anything valuable. This ad was used in a multi-channel campaign designed to boost awareness for Cox and the DRL.

Advertising at high speed for a skeptical audience

As you might imagine, advertising on a drone track comes with some specific challenges. Fans of drone racing tend to skew younger and are highly tech savvy. Unlike NASCAR fans (who don’t mind being barraged with ads), drone racing fans largely recoil at overt marketing. Which is why an audience segmentation consultant is necessary.

DRL CEO Nicholas Horbaczewski told Adweek that if he installs a conventional billboard at a drone race, fans would “throw up all over it.”  He added that drone racing fans find such advertising displays “offensive” and don’t wish to communicate with brands in this format.

To address this preference, the DRL integrates advertising within the course in the form of physical obstacles named for advertisers. Drone pilots must navigate course obstacles such as the “Swatch Gate.” in order to successfully complete the race.

An even more ambitious brand integration will occur later in 2019, when the DRL will partner with Lockheed Martin to stage races pitting human drone pilots against drones flown by AI. More than 250 research universities have applied to enter the contest, which will offer more than $2 million in prizes.

Looking for a marketing and advertising co-pilot?

Once you understand who your audience is — likes, dislikes, interests, habits etc. — then you can devise new and creative ways to reach them. Our team is dedicated to the proposition that it’s not just where you are, it’s who you’re reaching.

If you’d like to hear more about what a high-level audience segmentation consultant can do for your brand, don’t wait to contact us today.

Categories
Audience Audience Segmentation Marketing/Business

Don’t let your content get the best of you, work with a content marketing agency to take a load off and increase your overall performance.

There’s no doubt that content marketing is a critically important differentiator for businesses. The industry is experiencing explosive growth, and top content marketing agencies are busier than ever.
Yet many organizations remain dissatisfied with the results their strategies are generating. They watch competitors gain traction, yet can’t replicate their success.

Other agencies find initial success, but have difficulty creating a sustainable pipeline of fresh, interesting content. And that’s understandable — the ideation and execution processes aren’t easy, and most content marketing plans require a continuous stream of new material. That’s a stiff — and time sensitive — challenge.

Fortunately, jumpstarting a tired or ineffective content process doesn’t typically require a massive overhaul. In many cases, a few relatively minor tweaks can dramatically improve the reach and engagement of your content.

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at a few tactics businesses can use to significantly improve results.

1.Explore new content mediums

Content diversity is an important part of an overall content marketing agencies strategy. This doesn’t merely apply to idea generation, however; it’s also important to offer audiences a variety of different mediums through which to consume content.

Incorporating more videos, infographics, scripted animations, etc. can help break up monotony and engage audiences on a deeper level. You don’t need to be Steven Spielberg or a design wizard to get started, either. Something as simple as a “behind the scenes” video featuring members of your organization can help audiences connect with you and build a stronger bond.

2.Audit existing SEO practices

The best practices in the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) realm change at a dizzying rate. It’s imperative to stay current, however, as SEO is absolutely critical to any distribution strategy. If you develop the most interesting content in the industry — but nobody sees it — what have you really accomplished?

In order to ensure that your content is widely accessible, it’s a smart idea to audit your SEO practices on a rolling basis. While most companies can do simple keyword research and content optimization, it’s necessary to partner with a digital agency with specialized skill and expertise in order to get the most out of your SEO efforts.

3.Target niche audiences

Taking an overly broad approach is one of the single biggest mistakes businesses make when it comes to content strategy. When you try to speak to everyone, you often end up speaking to no one. Your content simply isn’t relevant enough to engage and sustain interest.

Smart content marketing agencies understand the value of niche audiences. They tend to be highly engaged and motivated, always searching for new and relevant content that falls within their niche. Find out where these audiences live online, create interesting content that’s optimized for their interest — and you’ll be amazed by the reception.

4.Take a more data-driven approach

At this point, we’re all aware of the value of data — many of today’s most valuable companies are dedicated to collecting, analyzing, and selling out information. Surprisingly, however, many small to mid-sized businesses fail to adequately leverage data in their content marketing strategies.

Evaluating key performance indicators (such as traffic, conversions, engagement rates, etc.) can help you understand the strengths and weaknesses of your approach. To maximize the value of a data-driven approach, however, you may need to expand beyond basic indicators by partnering with a top audience segmentation expert — one that specializes in data-driven audience analysis.

The takeaway

At BIGEYE, we love helping brands create exciting new content marketing strategies that drive real world results. For more information about how we can help improve your content marketing efforts, please contact us today.

Categories
Audience Audience Segmentation Marketing/Business

Marketers and advertisers have always sought new and better ways to understand and target their audience. If you can do this well, your odds of success increase exponentially.

Technological tools have revolutionized this process, giving us unprecedented insight into who our audiences are, and ultimately lead to how we can best identify and reach them.

And for restaurants, few of these techniques are more relevant than geofencing.

Build the fence, and the customers will come.

Geofencing explained

The premise behind geofencing is simple: Businesses can specifically advertise to people who are within a specific geographical area. By using certain technologies, a boundary is created, and everyone within that boundary serves as the target audience.

So how does it work? Geofencing uses well-established location-based technologies, including GPS and Bluetooth, to identify people within a certain area and communicate with them. While the technology isn’t new, it has come to play an important role in marketing and advertising because of another invention — the smartphone.

The technology is particularly useful for businesses such as restaurants. Your typical example of restaurant geofencing would feature an eating establishment creating marketing material (for instance, a limited-time coupon) and sending it to everyone within a specified geographical boundary via their mobile device. As soon as someone enters the specified virtual boundary, the coupon is transmitted via push notification.

Let’s take a look at how this works in closer detail. A restaurant proprietor wants to generate more walk-in foot traffic. Instead of relying on signage or offsite advertising, she employs restaurant geofencing to create a virtual boundary around the establishment. 

When people carrying smartphones enter the boundary, they automatically receive a coupon for a free appetizer that expires in sixty minutes. Because the recipients are already in close proximity to the restaurant (and because people are biologically programmed to respond to feelings of urgency), they are much more likely to redeem the limited time offer.

Restaurants can also choose to switch up the offers on a daily (or even hourly) basis, responding to changing conditions inside the establishment. If a restaurant has a shipment of pricey and fast-perishing bluefin tuna to sell, it’s a simple task to create a special offer and send out a new push notification within the geofence.

It’s also a great idea to be flexible and use geofencing to capitalize on changing conditions outside the restaurant. If the weather is gorgeous, send out a push notification and remind everyone about your beautiful outdoor seating area.

The benefits of restaurant geofencing 

We’ve discussed the positive effect restaurant geofencing can have on sales through location-based targeting. Yet geofencing provides a few other benefits, including the ability to collect more data.

When customers redeem geofenced coupons or offers, restaurants can track other metrics, including the amount of time spent inside the restaurant, the level of repeat business and the type of food and drinks ordered.

Restaurants can also use data gathered to create more highly targeted and personalized promotions, something that should improve the diner experience and lead to lots of repeat business. 

The takeaway

Ultimately, restaurant geofencing can be a highly useful tool that helps establishments better understand the demographics of the area and the preferences and behavior of those inside.

While that’s a recipe for success, it’s also important that you lay the proper groundwork for your geofencing campaign. That means encouraging people to download your smartphone app (geofencing works via app, after all) and setting a reasonable boundary. You can experiment with distances, but it’s generally recommended to stay within a mile or two for maximum foot traffic. 

Want to learn more about how geofencing can integrate with your brand and benefit your overall company ROI? Contact our digital marketing team today!