Who, What, Where, When and...

By Daniel A, published on

Understanding the Audience

The internet age revolutionized marketing, doing away with the old methods and putting tech front-and-center. For companies who know how to leverage it, data and analytics are powerful tools, offering insight and clarity into how customers think, and are responsible for transforming the field of marketing into what it is today.

But, and there is a but, we shouldn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. There are some things that old fashioned, boots-on-the-ground marketing can still offer us.

Now, we love technology just as much as the next person. Data and analytics allow us to expertly craft a message or campaign that resonates with audiences, because we can know what they’re looking at and for how long, where they clicked the link that brought them to the website, when they visited, and to a lesser degree, who’s looking at the page.

But one thing that quantitative methods struggle with is answering why people are visiting. In order to answer this, it helps to look back to more traditional, people-oriented marketing methods.

Getting to Why

Unlike the other Ws, the why cannot be measured directly - it has to be inferred, requiring something other than a quantitative approach. Accordingly, many digital marketing companies will ignore it entirely, trusting that the who, what, where and when will be enough.

Those who do look for a ‘why’ try things like soliciting feedback through pop-up questionnaires and email campaigns, or A/B testing to get a better sense of their audience’s motivations. While these can provide modest information, it isn’t that reliable or broadly applicable.

At Drive, we have our own approach. We work to see their world from the audience’s perspective. We craft the message they’re looking for, and then we run our analytics.

The Discovery Process

Whenever we take on a new client, the first thing we do is conduct our discovery process. First, we research our client to give us a solid understanding of their web presence, brand, and value proposition.

Next, we research their audience – their desires and aversions, pain and pleasure points, and how they conceive of value when it comes to the product in question.

Finally, we research the competition. This helps us to zero in on our client’s niche, measure what we’re up against, and see whether the market’s needs are being met.

With this bird’s-eye view, we’re able to understand the context that our client is operating in. We’re able to see why their audience finds them appealing by understanding what motivates them. Then, we distill our client’s value proposition down to it’s core elements and build it back up in a way that will enchant them.

Getting the Messaging Right

Putting in all that time up front is a lot of work. Many marketing companies skip this step, preferring to go in guns blazing with a marketing message that “feels right”, supported by ad-spending and the latest and greatest analytics tools. When something bites, they optimize, often without regard for their client’s brand identity.

This approach is expensive and inefficient. It’s equivalent to playing a game of darts with your eyes closed while your friends tell whether you’re getting warmer or colder after every shot. It’s not good for anyone, because it leads to products like this being made.

Because we put in the time in up-front, our messaging is usually pretty spot-on from the first try. This means that we’re in a much stronger position when it comes time to start testing and optimizing. We’re not just shooting in the dark; we know why people are visiting the site, so all we’re doing is narrowing down on what they like most.


As Sheldon wrote in his article Old School Marketing Just Works, human psychology hasn’t changed much in the past couple of decades. It’s important not to lose sight of the fact that ultimately, we’re not marketing to faceless consumers or to numbers on a screen, but to people – with aversions and desires, hopes and dreams, and ideas about who they want to be. Start by understanding your audience and the rest comes easily. When you know what someone wants to hear, all you need to do is find the best way of saying it.

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