Refine Your Marketing by Engaging Reference Groups.

July 23, 2016

A large part of being a marketer is trying to understand people. Even the most well-planned marketing campaign can be improved by further examination of consumer behavior. Engaging reference groups is one method of refining a marketing strategy by better understanding your audience.

Reference groups describe your audience

We humans are complex creatures made up of goals, opinions, fears, preferences, and so much more. Reference groups are a way of efficiently understanding certain types of people. By associating segments of your audience with certain reference groups, you can gain an instant understanding of how to shape your marketing strategy around them.

Put simply, a reference group is a collection of people that someone uses to form his/her opinions. There are three types of reference groups: Dissociative groups, membership groups, and aspiration groups. People deliberately distance themselves from their dissociative groups (i.e. groups with whom they disagree), belong to their membership groups (e.g. family, religion, social circles), and attempt to move toward their aspiration groups (e.g. prestigious groups, wealthy communities).

The value of knowing your audience’s reference groups is that you can begin to understand the story they are creating for themselves and work to become part of that story.

Refining your marketing

If you understand your audience, you understand how to sell to your audience. Reference groups give you a solid idea of what makes your customers respond. If you know who your customers are and who they want to be, you stand a much better chance of converting more of your audience into loyal customers.

Reference groups also give you an idea of where your potential customers are paying the most attention. Wherever that is, you should definitely be marketing there. You might also consider hiring someone from your audience’s membership groups or aspiration groups to represent your brand. It’s all about delivering the right message in the right way at the right time. Reference groups help you narrow down the seemingly endless possibilities.

Be sure to take the opportunity to test your marketing strategies with your audience’s reference groups. There are many ways to fail at marketing, and reference group testing is a great way to soften the blow when you get it wrong.

Reference groups are useful for all types of businesses, so there’s no reason not to give them some consideration. If you have a marketing strategy, you can always make it better. Refining your message by engaging with reference groups might be the extra polish your marketing campaign needs in order to take off.


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