Don’t Ignore Secondary Audiences!

9th Mar 2020

Setting up a marketing campaign requires a fair bit of planning, thought and then execution. Amongst the things to consider are:

  • Who is the target audience?
  • Where are they located?
  • What is the best way to reach them?
  • How will the creative elements attract their attention?
  • What do we want them to do?
  • How does this all drive to the campaign objective (awareness, engagement, sales, etc.)

Most of the above questions can be answered fairly easily through a bit of research – understanding, for example, how your Google Analytics can tell you key metrics such as where you users are based, how they’re finding your site, where they go on your site and so forth is comparatively simple.

But there is an additional layer in understanding your audience that requires a bit more insight and thoughtfulness – whilst you may have a fairly clear idea on who your primary audience is, you should also really consider who the secondary audience might be, and why they’re just as important.

Primary vs secondary audience

Simply put, the Primary audience is the group of people you’re directly targeting with marketing – they tend to be the decision-makers, and are the first receivers of communication.

The Secondary audience is less easy to define, but effectively this group are likely to be the users of the products or services that the Primary audience purchases, and can, therefore, be more varied in their interests, and how they can be marketed to.

To give you an example, for parents or guardians of children old enough to go to school, you’ll know how schools market themselves at open days or in the local media.

For parents and guardians (the Primary target audience/decision-makers) marketing is based on language and imagery that includes success in exams, diversity of cultural activities on offer, examples of students who’ve gone on to achieve great things, inclusivity and nurturing, and a range of other devices to convince you that their school is best.

But for the potential student, the experience and language is significantly different. For this Secondary audience member, whilst there is still talk of achieving good results, taking part in many activities and becoming a responsible young citizen, the focus and language is far more likely to use words like ‘exciting’, ‘fun’, ‘make friends’ and so forth.

But if the parents and guardians ultimately make the decision (primary audience), why then go to the effort of appealing to the student?

The value of secondary audiences

The Secondary audience is all about one word: influence. Whilst the Primary audience will likely make final decisions, the Secondary audience is often someone who is able to influence the decision to some degree, and may therefore be the catalyst for success when it comes to ‘selling’ the product or service on offer.

In the above example, the school has the challenge of convincing both parties that their offering is the best choice – there is little or no point in appealing to the primary audience in this instance, only to find that the school has not convinced the person who will actually attend the school!

Covering all bases

The schools example is quite a simple one, in which subtle language changes and explanations can be used to entice both primary and secondary audiences. In other examples, though, such as retail, there are many other factors to consider – what imagery is being used? How and where is the information presented? Who is the recipient of the Primary audience’s decision? How can the seller convince the Primary buyer to make a purchase decision that ultimately really benefits the Secondary audience?

A great example is Valentine’s Day… the Primary audience is the person who is buying the flowers, but they are buying them for the Secondary audience – the person who likes flowers. How does the flower-seller appeal to the Primary buyer? Not by saying things like “Buy some beautiful flowers to enjoy at home”. The seller is far more likely to appeal to the Primary buyer by saying “Buy some beautiful flowers to take home to your Valentine!”

So while it’s a challenge to understand your audiences, it is really worth taking the time and effort to delve deeper into the full spectrum, to analyse who they are, where they are, what they like and don’t like, and how best to reach them with a comprehensive marketing strategy.

For help understanding your audiences better, and guidance on a digital marketing strategy please contact Realnet today on 01223 55 08 00 or

Realnet is an established Cambridge digital agency, we have been helping all sorts of organisations with their online presence since 1998. From website design and ecommerce to digital marketing and PPC campaigns.

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