You Don’t Really Know Your Target Audience Until You Ask the Right Questions
If you’re buying a gift for someone and want it to be something they’ll really like, you have to know at least a little bit about that person. And if you don’t know much about them, you likely would ask questions of someone who does.
Creating messaging that resonates with your target audience is really no different; however, we often skip the step of seeking out those important details about our personas.
Why is that?
While we have access to many tools and platforms (especially social media) that provide insight into target audience groups, there is far less emphasis on learning about our customers on a deeper level. Only research allows us to go beyond tools and platforms and truly understand our audience personas.
These 6 research tactics will help you get deeper insights into your target audience and empower you with the information you need to create robust content strategies that drive effective buyer journeys.
- Tap Into Their Challenges
If you sell a product, you know all about that product. And you want to tell prospective customers all about it, too.
Your customers have real challenges they’re trying to solve, and they want to know how you can help solve their problems.
Maybe you sell software that makes a cumbersome process faster and more efficient. That may seem like a great value proposition, but your target customer wants to know how your product’s speed and efficiency can help them. They might be spending revenue on additional software they would no longer need with your solution. Or, perhaps they are having trouble hiring because of the system they currently use.
Be sure your messaging speaks directly to the problem your customer is trying to solve. Here are a few easy research tactics:
- Ask existing customers for specifics on how your product has helped them. This step can be done using a survey or having your sales team reach out.
- Include specific questions about business challenges on lead generation forms.
- Leverage conversational marketing to identify specific challenges at the time leads visit your website or landing page.
90% of B2B marketers say the leading attribute of content marketing effectiveness is audience relevance. (Statista)
- Build Detailed and Robust Customer Personas
There’s irrefutable evidence that building personas, and mapping content to those personas and where they are in the buyer journey, generates results for businesses.
Customer personas today are far more detailed than ever before. It’s not enough just to know, for example, that your audience is largely made up of female owners of investment firms in New England.
Your personas should be specific to the individual so when you put content in front of them, it speaks directly to their situation. Even something as basic as knowing a user lives in Vermont versus New Hampshire can make a huge difference along their buyer journey.
Build your personas using the following criteria, and get as detailed as you can:
- Give the persona a name and state their unmet need/business challenge.
- Identify the action you want them to take based on that unmet need/business challenge.
- Apply specific information to each persona based on the research you have conducted. This would typically include demographic and psychographic data, including personal preferences, behaviors, reactions to marketing activity, ethics, and buying mentality.
- Analyze and segment your audience data so you can identify the trends that uniquely set each persona apart from another. Resources like Chambers of Commerce, industry and trade research, and even the Bureau of Labor and Statistics can provide validating or insightful data.
55% of marketers create content that is relevant to the buyer journey and/or ideal customer profiles. (Uberflip)
- Map Keywords to Your Target Audience
The way each of us search for information online could almost be considered a fingerprint of our individuality. If two users who own different travel agencies are searching for a specialized software solution, one might search “CRM for small travel agency” while the other might search, “easy booking software for travel business”.
If you understand that your target audience has business challenges that include managing customer relationships and cumbersome booking software, you can incorporate keywords that speak to those needs to ensure users find your content–and find it useful.
- Pay Attention to Feedback and Negative Reviews
It can be so easy to view negative reviews or undesirable feedback as an irritating side-effect of being in business. But the truth is, all feedback–negative or positive–is an opportunity to learn more about your customers’ experiences.
You should always respond to customer feedback, whether through your customer service line or on social media, and use that feedback to understand more about the situation and see how you can help. If a customer has a negative experience because of something that’s simple to correct, wouldn’t it be worth knowing about? A course correction that is relatively easy for your brand to make can mean the difference between retaining that customer (and providing a customer service experience they might tell others about) and losing that customer to a competitor (and sharing the negative story with others).
Suddenly, you’ve not only lost a customer, but you’ve lost potential business from anyone they talk to about their less-than-ideal experience.
However, strictly focusing on the customer feedback itself, you can use this information can help you in several key ways:
- Learn more about the particular customer and their mindset, which can deeply inform that persona.
- Identify gaps in your messaging based on whether their issue stemmed from a misunderstanding or confusion after engaging with your brand.
- Discover trends among personas by assessing similar feedback, positive or negative feedback, or the type of persona providing the feedback. Then, you can be more strategic in how you message to those personas going forward.
- Hold an Event and/or Go Where Your Customers Are
Nothing brings customers together quite like a conference or networking event. It’s a veritable trove of opportunity to learn more about your target audience–and yet, many companies don’t prioritize hosting or attending industry events; and if they do, they often fail to execute marketing tactics that would provide more information about their audience personas.
During a pandemic, there are still opportunities to host virtual events, and even though they’re a bit different than in-person gatherings, you can provide a format that still allows you to engage with your audience and collect valuable information about them and their needs.
Whether virtual or (we hope very soon) in person, you’ll want to execute on the following:
- Engage directly with customers by asking leading questions that delve into the information you need and want – their key business challenges, their current processes, and other information critical to building a persona.
- Collect information from leads to ensure you can follow up with correspondence and a piece of content that demonstrates you understand their needs and can help solve their challenges.
- View the opportunity as a long-term benefit to your business rather than trying to secure a single sale. The more you research your target audience, the better positioned you’ll be to drive greater business in the long run.
- Be Involved in Your Support Platform
If your company leverages a support platform, it’s a great place to learn more about your customers and fuel your target audience research. Share this information with other departments–support should not be done in a silo as it can provide critical data for sales and marketing.
Paying attention to your support platform could provide information about:
- Which aspects of your solution or product matter most to your customers and why.
- Where frustrations or confusion lie when using or implementing your solution or product.
- What aspect of your solution or product provides the most value, and why.
It’s easy to use certain tools and have a social media presence and feel like you’ve adequately researched your audience. But in truth, there’s nothing more informative than speaking directly with customers to learn how they think, feel and act. Doing this type of boots-on-the-ground research will be far more effective for your business in the long run.
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