Prioritizing Target Audiences with the CARVER Method

Mar. 24 by Brannan Atkinson |


This is Half I of our collection on building an integrated advertising plan.

As advertising professionals, we’re rewarded for our means to get individuals to behave, whether it’s buying a product, supporting a trigger, visiting an internet site, making a donation, and so forth.

So that we’re on the similar page, let’s define audience. A audience is a gaggle of people you need to take an motion or change a conduct. Your plan will probably have a variety of goal audiences once you’re executed.

Your real worth to the organization happens when the actions you create amongst your goal audiences are tied to enterprise outcomes for the group. Sales is one action. At the similar time, you possibly can be targeted on altering public perception, which is more durable to measure however could possibly be simply as invaluable.

We’ll use these desired actions — and the diploma of change you’ll be able to trigger — far more when prioritizing audiences.

Drawback with most target audiences

Identifying goal audiences is prime to any advertising plan. Unfortunately, target audiences not often get greater than a mention in the planning course of.

I discover most advertising plans have a piece that says ”Target Audiences” and record of bullets. That’s about it.

The plan shortly strikes on to the strategies and techniques as a result of, honestly, those are extra fun. I’m raising my hand to profess my guilt in this area.

The place most plans fail is in the prioritization of these audiences. Good, sound prioritization has a number of benefits:

  • It helps you justify particular suggestions and investments.
  • It makes the plan extra defensible when you need to current it to your shopper or boss.
  • It identifies gaps and even vulnerabilities in your general advertising, which might be a chance to ask for more finances.

At this level, you’ll need to add the desired actions for every of your goal audiences so that you’ve that reference.

Years ago, I labored on a marketing campaign to allow wine gross sales in grocery shops in Tennessee. Our audience have been shoppers, legislators, different associations concerned about alcohol consumption (MADD and police departments) and editorial boards at native newspapers. Our desired action by group have been:

  • Shoppers: be a part of the grassroots group we created and get in touch with their legislators
  • Legislators: vote for the proposed legislation
  • Different associations: help the change, or no less than stay impartial
  • Editorial boards: write editorials in help

General, the objective was to reveal large shopper help for the change.

CARVER Method for Prioritizing Viewers

CARVER is a army acronym that stands for: criticality, accessibility, recognizability, vulnerability, impact and return.

When planning a army campaigns, commanders might have tons of if not hundreds of potential targets, like energy crops, bridges, army bases, and so on. At the similar time, they have limited assets — like a advertising finances. CARVER offers an goal ranking of targets that commanders can use to make remaining selections.

Your aim is to not destroy something — aside from your competition. So we’re going to explore CARVER via lens of inflicting goal audiences to behave in desirable methods.

You’ll need to rating each category for every viewers on a scale of 1 (low) to 5 (high). I’ve created this worksheet that will help you work via the process.


Criticality is about the worth of the audience to your general marketing campaign.

Listed here are few questions to ask:

  • Will hitting the target obtain a essential aim, reminiscent of increased gross sales?
  • In that case, how a lot?

Your rating must be 5 if this viewers is crucial to success and one if it’s not crucial.

Chances are you’ll be questioning why we would come with audience with a low criticality rating. Keep in mind there are six elements in the CARVER rating, and the audience might score properly in other elements.


Accessibility refers to the ease of reaching the target. It’s additionally necessary to assess should you can reach the target immediately or in the event you want assistance from another person.

  • How accessible is the target proper now?
  • Do you need other individuals or companions that will help you reach the goal?
  • Will it take multiple steps to succeed in this target? In that case, what number of steps?

Score your audience excessive on accessibility in case you can reach the viewers immediately proper now, decrease when you need assistance and even decrease in case you need assistance and there are multiple steps.


The saying goes, ”You possibly can’t handle what you possibly can’t measure.” Advertising is not any exception.

Recognizability is your capacity to know in case you are inflicting the action you want.

Once I labored for Raven Internet Advertising Instruments, we acknowledged the success of selling by trial registrations and web site visits. Those have been good measures about the success of our advertising.

For the wine campaign, we might measure individuals who joined the grassroots group, the variety of emails they despatched to legislators, the legislators’ responses to emails and the number of editorial written about the points.

What to ask your self:

  • Will you have the ability to recognize when you’re doing things to hit the goal?
  • Is what it’s a must to do clearly defined?
  • Is it measurable?

Give yourself a five for those who can measure your results and one in case you are guessing.


Reaching a audience and having that audience be receptive are two totally different challenges. For integrated advertising, vulnerability is a measure of your audiences’ receptivity to your message and the probability they may take the desired action.

Your target audiences may have varying levels of vulnerability. At Raven, the best sales have been on-line marketers already who have been already utilizing different software program packages. This appears counterintuitive. Why would they want more software? What we found was they might easily make a judgment about the worth of Raven due to their expertise as in comparison with corporations the place Raven was their first software buy.

Ask yourself:

  • How weak/receptive is the goal?
  • How a lot does the goal already find out about you?
  • Should you reach the goal, you’ve got the assets, information, personnel, content to make an impression?
  • Have they got experience with my providers?
  • Is there a buying process in place?

Score your viewers a five should you consider it is receptive to your and one if not.

Once once more, audiences that rating low on the vulnerability scale aren’t necessarily a nasty factor. You’ve gotten identified some opportunities for enchancment and maybe a method to ask for extra finances, particularly if that audience scores favorably in different classes.


Impact and criticality are associated. Criticality measures impression on enterprise end result, whereas impact appears at the influence past the advertising efforts.

For example, landing prime shoppers can enhance your organization’s brand, lead to nice testimonials and generate constructive media coverage. It may also make your competition shudder. These are ancillary benefits that aren’t a part of criticality measure.

Ask yourself:

  • How shut will this take you to the place you need go?
  • What are different outcomes of efficiently getting the goal to act?
  • Will reaching this target garner reward or increased finances?
  • Will it enhance your status inside the organization?
  • Will it’s a big win?

Score yourself a 5 in the event you see quite a lot of ancillary results and one when you don’t see any.

Return on Effort

Return on effort is the final measure of excellent purpose.

It’s straightforward to spend so much of time and money communicating with audience which are troublesome to succeed in or have low vulnerability. The payoff and the danger are equal. You’ll need to make a judgment call.

Ask your self:

  • How a lot time will it take earlier than I see outcomes?
  • Will I overextend going for this target?
  • Will I exploit a large proportion of my finances pursuing this target?
  • Will the rewards be value the effort?

Rating your audience a 5 should you consider the return on effort is high and one if its low. I feel you’ll find most of your audiences score in the center of the pack.

Your Target Audience Matrix

After going via this course of with all your audiences, you’ll have a pleasant desk with scores for every of the six categories.

The ultimate step is to sum all the rows to get the CARVER rating for each audience.

Here’s mine for the campaign to permit wine gross sales in grocery shops: Pink White and Food CARVER Report

In the subsequent submit, I’ll assessment these rating and three ways to interpret the results of this table earlier than you move into planning content and challenge.

Relation to personas

I’m a huge fan of selling personas and like to see corporations make investments the time to create them.

Personas additional phase your audience using demographics, psychographics and different traits. They are helpful once you start creating content for the goal audiences.

This collection is concentrated on constructing the general plan that may use. By all means, I encourage you to discover personas after you have the plan and your priorities developed.

Filed Beneath: Advertising

Brannan Atkinson

Brannan Atkinson, APR, is a associate with Amy Atkinson Communications. His 20-year advertising career consists of being the public info officer for the Metropolis of Richmond (Va.), president of a PR firm, and CMO of a software company. He writes about built-in advertising, knowledge and authority advertising. Connect with him on Twitter or on Google+.