University of Liverpool: Making sense of a complex audience
We worked with the University of Liverpool to increase their global recognition as a world leader in research. Carrying out in-depth audience research and analysis, we uncovered their audience's motivations to build a digital engagement strategy.
Duration: 3 months
4 minute read
How does a university engage with its research audience?
The University of Liverpool’s 2026 strategy is to be a world-leader in specific areas of research including advanced materials, infectious disease, and personalised health.
Sigma worked with the University’s marketing team to achieve a more detailed understanding of the target audience for their research activities. The results of our work together would underpin the University’s wider content and marketing strategy, enabling them to become the go-to place for established and aspiring research leaders and partners.
What we did
We carried out in-depth audience research and analysis. Our team discovered people’s struggles and successes to find and contact the target researchers. Afterwards, the University could understand the most effective content formats to use for each strand of its research audience.
We presented a set of personas and a comprehensive customer journey map with the key journeys highlighted. This gave the University team an improved understanding of their most important audience groups’ characteristics, needs, challenges and motivations - a solid foundation on which to grow their new content strategy.
Our work with Sigma has really helped us to more fully understand the needs of our research audiences, and to devise methods for communicating with them more effectively. The research was insightful and timely, and the journey mapping exercise has enabled us to visualise and tailor our marketing communications in a really powerful way.
Uncovering audience motivations
Our user research team identified the specific requirements of each audience section. These people included funders, those interested in business or research collaboration, or those seeking a general overview of the University’s research activity. We delivered a successful outcome by:
- Carrying out interviews and surveys with key internal and external audiences
- Establishing the audiences’ needs, preferences, barriers to engagement, and motivations
- Turning our insights into shareable, easy-to-understand user personas and scenarios for specific sections of the University’s research audience
- Using customer journey mapping to show motivations, barriers to engagement and likely behaviours during each audience group’s journey
Barriers to engagement showed key places in the journey where people got stuck trying to find the information they were looking for. With these insights, the University team was able to create a content strategy focused on delivering content that the University’s audience would find most helpful.
Universities, and other large organisations, often find it difficult to communicate to the outside world in a way that invites conversation, or to structure information in a way that allows lay people to find what they need. I don’t make any assumptions about what an interviewee does or doesn’t know. I can ask a whole host of questions to help me to understand their motivations and behaviours, and that's where the insights are.
Our personas pulled out key quotes from the people that we interviewed enabling the University team to gain an improved understanding of what their audiences were looking for.
If you are looking for highly specialised knowledge it's often academics that can help. Relationships and personal meetings are crucial.
Making it easier to find and contact researchers
Now, the University has a better understanding of the complexity of their research audiences and can devise methods for communicating with them more effectively. This includes tailoring marketing communications to give specific audiences the information they are looking for. In the journey map, we identified key touchpoints and likely points of interaction for each audience group. We provided recommendations that have enabled the University to optimise these key points of engagement and improve the overall experience.
Our research, insights, and recommendations are being used by the University as an important element of their new digital strategy for research offerings. They continue to use our research and recommendations to work towards their 2026 strategy of being globally recognised in their research areas, developing their reputation and that of the city of Liverpool through their international presence.