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Mastering your Audience: Where to Start?

Mastery mas·​tery | \ ˈma-st(ə-)rē : the possession or display of great skill or technique (credit: Merriam-Webster)

What is top of mind when you think of mastery?
I think of individuals as Michelangelo or Leonardo da Vinci, and cultures as Toyota, who commit to kaizen which is a strong mechanism that leads to continuous improvement that can lead to mastery.

I also think of Merkle’s 2020 Marketing Imperatives, “Hyper-Personalization and the Connected Customer Experiencethat details how CMOs can influence and strengthen their customer relationships through laser focus on delivering relevant, personalized customer experiences across media channels and devices, but also spanning the entire spectrum of a customer’s relationship with a brand - from marketing to sales to service and beyond.

Today, I’m talking about Audience Mastery, which is one of the underpinnings for delivering relevant and engaging experiences for your customers. Audience Mastery can best be described as the ability to identify your audience, understand their needs and beliefs toward your brand, and the ability to consistently deliver (and measure) the right experience at the right moment. This can seem highly complex and sometimes overwhelming when looking across, and into, your organization and how your organization engages prospects and customers today, right? Brand, Social, Search, Programmatic Media, Marketing, Web/eCommerce, Call Center, brick-and-mortar may each be operating on their own and sometimes without a wholistic view of customers.


Let’s unpack some of the essentials to cultivating Audience Mastery.  *Remember mastery takes time, self-discipline, continuous improvement and laser focus on the craft - every.single.day.


  • Achieve organizational alignment & build a business case for change
  • Extending reach across channels, define new engagement types, and manage messaging
  • Connect acquisition, service & retention, build loyalty & messaging, manage inbound and design experiences

Essential #1: Identify Your Audience

Your company likely has robust and relevant data waiting to be unleashed and connected. Your data may be distributed across several lakes and look up tables which are filled with specific, and sometimes duplicate data, that might have been required to capture at the time you were propping up an application (whether it be an ERP, Call Center, CRM, Website, etc.). It’s also likely you are trying to define what constitutes an identity so that you can apply a formula that factors for several different identifiers (or “signals”). For example, “Scooter Doe” in your billing system may appear as “Scoot” or “Mr. Doe” in your CRM solution. Further, “Mr. Doe’s” contact information may be different across solutions. 

But, where do you start? How do you tie all this together to create a universal record that you’re able to deliver on the promise of people-based marketing (PBM)?

Where to Start

We know it’s tough - our heritage in delivering data-driven PBM can help simplify activation and orchestration so that it doesn’t seem so overwhelming. 

One ingredient to success is to start small, harvest bits of data, and enrich over time. One way to start small is to prioritize one or two customer-focused experiences (use cases) and let those use cases guide your team to help identify the building blocks that will become required as you scale. These building blocks will help you and your team to define things like:

  1. What is the desired experience?
  2. How is identity defined and what are the golden keys used to stitch together?
  3. What critical data must you have to fulfill the experience?
  4. Which systems are you harvesting that data from and how current are the data in those systems?  What is the refresh rate?
  5. Which systems/applications require that data to fulfill the use case?
  6. How will you measure success?

Data is our business. As you scale your PBM program, you will find differing points of view on the master (or golden keys) used for stitching and that is acceptable. For your ERP and for invoicing purposes, you would consider the data in that solution to be a source of record for billing purposes; however you may also find that there are individual emails you could harvest for other types of communications (so long as there is consent). 

Here is a sneak peek of a few future “essentials” we’re going to dive deeper into in this Audience Mastery Blog series: 

  • Essential #2: Learn Your Audience.  Tips for how to rapidly learn about what matters most to your customers.
  • Essential #3: Engage/Nurture Your Audience.  Learn how we approach engagement from different perspectives.
  • Essential #4: Grow Your Audience.  Practical strategies for how to shape unknowns to knowns and acquire more knowns.