top of page

Visualize impact with market reach maps

The Three R's outlines what an advertising campaign needs in order to make a meaningful impact: Reach, Repetition and Resonance.

A successful campaign must be seen by a certain number of people (reach), ideally more than once (repetition), and say something meaningful or interesting (resonance).

There's a lot of attention paid to resonance - saying the right thing, in the right way, at the right time.

But what about reach and repetition?

Most ad campaigns are not reaching anywhere near the amount of people in the target market to make a significant impact. You can spend weeks crafting the perfect message and visuals, but if 90% of your potential customers never see it it's a wasted opportunity.

To see how many people your campaigns are reaching, you must create a market reach map.


What is a market reach map?

A market reach map is a visual representation of how many people you are reaching with your advertising campaigns and promotions.

Although you can estimate the number of impressions your advertising generates, it's often difficult to know whether it's reaching enough people to have an impact. Creating a reach map is a great way to see how many people are being exposed to your ads, and help you determine if your budget is sufficient to make a dent in the market.

"It's amazing how [reach] is usually the main battle in most instances I've come across. The simplicity of reaching people seems to go overlooked." - @SamuelBrealey

Why should you map your market reach?

Creating a reach map helps you see how much of the market you're reaching with advertising campaigns, and gives you a stronger case for increasing your marketing budget if needed.

As a general rule of thumb, a campaign needs to reach at least 50% of your target market at least once in order to have a significant impact.

"Impact = Reach x Effectiveness. We should all remember that a less effective campaign can have more total impact if it reaches more people than a maximally effective one that reaches few." - @TheMeganJacobs

A reach map tells you at a glance whether you're reaching 10%, 25% or +50% of your market, and can be used to justify increased spend or a change in tactics if the numbers are too low.

They are great tools to use with clients, executives, and any non-marketing team member to help them understand the importance of reach in campaign effectiveness and setting realistic expectations and goals around performance.

How to make a market reach map

I use InDesign, but you can also use Microsoft Word or Powerpoint to create a market reach map. You need to use the shape tools that allow to to create a square to exact width and height dimensions.

Gather your data

First, you need to work out total population size for your market. How many people in total are potential customers?

For example, if your company sells dog food in Canada, your market size is the number of people or households that have one or more dogs in Canada. Use market research (or a quick Google search) to get the data for your category and business.

summary of marketing campaigns with budget and reach
Summarize the reach and spend of each campaign you ran

You'll also need a chart that lists all the campaigns you ran in the previous quarter or year, along with the reach/impressions for each one. These numbers are easy to get for digital marketing campaigns, but you might need to use an estimate or best guess for channels like Out-of-Home or Radio.

Map the total market

Draw a 10.5 in x 7 in square.

This square represents all the people in your market: 100% of the population you are targeting.

I use 10.5 in x 7 in because it fits nicely onto 8.5 x 11 Letter sized paper for printing, but in theory you can use any size you like.

Find the area of this square by multiplying the length by the height:

A = w*h

A = 10.5 in x 7 in

A = 75 in²

In other words, 100% of your market covers a rectangle with an area of 75 in².

Market reach map showing a total audience of 6.6 million people

Map your campaigns

Work out what percent of the total population you reached with each campaign.

For simplicity I'm going to assume that one impression equals one person.

If a campaign had 100,000 impressions and your total market population is 1,000,000 people, then the campaign reached 10% of your audience.

If you know that a campaign reached 10% of your audience, then translate that into a square.

Multiply your campaign reach (10%) by the area that represents the total population (75 in²)

75 in² x 0.10 = 7.5 in²

This is the area of the square that represents the reach of your campaign (100,000 impressions).

Take the square root of the area to turn it into width and height dimensions.

√7.5 in² = 2.7 in

Therefore, the dimensions of your campaign reach square are 2.7 in x 2.7 in.

Now draw a 2.7 in x 2.7 in square and place it on top of your 10.5 in x 7 in total population square.

You now can see what percent of your total audience saw your campaign!

Repeat the process for the other campaigns you ran until you've added everything to the map.

Here's an example of one using real data:

Market reach map with campaign reach

You can also add other data like website traffic, social followers, and newsletter subscribers.

Show your repetition

The last step is to think about repetition - how many times were most people exposed to your campaign?

Place boxes inside each other if you feel the campaigns likely overlapped audiences, or next to each other if they were targeting different segments or populations. Think of this as visualizing frequency or repetition.

In the example above, the map shows that there was significant overlap between the social influencer and digital display campaigns, but not much overlap anywhere else. This suggests that you reached roughly 50% of your target market once.

Note: Don't spend too long calculating the frequency and overlap of campaigns. Most of the time it's impossible to know for sure, so just give it your best guess and move on.

Completed reach map for the Canadian market
The final reach map

Improve your marketing strategy

You can quickly answer all sorts of strategic questions with a reach map.

  • Did the campaigns reach at least 50% of the target market?

  • Was the frequency of reach sufficient?

  • Which campaigns performed best/worst for reach?

  • Can you rely on organic traffic and followers to reach your target audience?

  • Are you spending enough money to have an impact?

  • Are you using the right tactics to have an impact?

Analyze your results

In the example above, you can see that the campaign did reach roughly 50% of the audience at least once. The social influencer campaign performed poorly for reach, and if increasing awareness is a priority they should re-allocate the spend into different tactics. Their web traffic and organic followers are less than 15%, and nowhere near enough to sustain awareness in the total market without paid advertising.

Set realistic goals

You can also use them to set realistic goals and expectations with clients.

A reach map showing campaigns with insufficient reach

If your reach map looks something like this, it's clear to see that you'll need to invest significantly more in advertising in order to make an impact. If no extra budget is available, you can focus on conserving or defending market share instead of growing it and prioritizing the best channels and tactics based on your goals.

In summary, market reach maps are a useful tool to:

  • Visualize your marketing reach

  • Analyze your campaign impact

  • Set realistic expectations with clients and executives

  • Make a strong case for increasing your marketing budget

Making marketing data more easily and intuitively understood is a good skill to have - I've used reach maps to set realistic goals with my own career, and they've been key in successfully gaining more marketing dollars when reach was insufficient to create meaningful impact.

If reach is insufficient is my only option to defend market share?

You have two options - increase your marketing spend, or pick a smaller audience.

If you're going after the whole market, then go back to the CFO and argue for more money. You should also revisit your tactical choices and make sure you're optimizing for reach.

If there isn't extra budget available, then you need to pick a smaller target. Define a smaller segment or subset of the total market where you can win in until you grow. This is where setting realistic goals is important - it's important that executives or clients know what's reasonable within the budget they have to spend.

What about the quality of impressions? What if 1,000 impressions from influencer campaigns are more valuable than 1,000 impressions from a digital display campaign?

It depends on how you can define 'valuable'. It could work if you think of it as 'quality' instead.

One way to account for quality impressions might be adjusting for fraud/bot traffic - assume X% of activity is bots and reduce impressions (and the size of your box) accordingly.

You could also make a few different versions of the maps using different assumptions. I'd caution against making these maps too complicated however - they're useful because they're simple. A gross oversimplification of reality, but that's why they're useful!


bottom of page