With the great diversity of marketing styles and strategies out there, it’s easy to lose sight of some of the fundamentals inherent to every strategy. Realistically, only a handful of principles are necessary for success in literally every marketing strategy out there. One of the most important is this: You have to know your audience, inside and out.
If you don’t know your audience, you won’t even know what strategies or media to choose, let alone what messages to give them or how to treat them once they become full-fledged customers.
So let’s take a look at some of the actionable, practical ways you can better understand your audience.
Do your research in advance
First, do your market research, and make sure the demographics you’ve selected are the right ones for your brand and product. A number of modern tools are available to help you here, some of which are free — like American FactFinder, which uses United States census information to help you find out key pieces of information about specific demographics.
Don’t just look at the one demographic you’ve assumed from the beginning; branch out to learn about related niches, and gauge interest in your product from other areas. Walk away with enough information to make at least a handful of conclusive statements about your target audience.
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Look at your competitors
In some ways, this is an alternative form of market research. Here, you’ll be looking at your competitors (at least the ones who share the same target audience as you). Evaluate their brand, their brand voice, the types of marketing strategies they use and the messaging they bring out in their advertising.
What techniques are they using? Why did they use this specific phrasing, rather than some other phrasing? This image rather than that one? There’s a chance your competitors don’t know what they’re doing, either, but even then, you can start picking out what doesn’t work, or what seems wrong — and why.
Create a customer persona
The customer persona is a tried-and-true tactic used by businesses everywhere to better conceptualize their target demographics. Here, you’ll work to create an outline of your ideal “target customer.”
In most cases, this takes the form of a fictional character, whom you shape with bits of information like education level, family life, career and income, and maybe even details like a name and personality traits. This helps you conceptualize and “talk to” your average target customer, and it serves as an ideal tool to get your other team members up to speed.
Get to know your clients personally
This is a big step, but you can only start taking it once you have some actual customers (sorry, startups). When working with your clients one-on-one, take some extra time to get to know them on a personal level.
How do they talk that’s different from other demographics? What are they usually concerned about when they talk to you? What appeals to them, or scares them, or excites them?
You can’t always apply these insights to a general audience, but as you get to know more clients individually, you’ll start to see overlap here, and then you can start making useful generalizations.
Monitor reader comments and engagements
Comments and engagements are particularly important if you’re running a content marketing or social media strategy (as you should be). Your goal here is to pay close attention to how many people are responding to your work, how they’re responding, and how often they’re responding.
Generally, the more “engagements” you receive (things like comments, likes and shares), the better your campaign is faring. You can use this information to discover what content topics your audience values or what types of messages don’t appeal to them. Gauge these metrics over time to establish patterns and learn more about your audience.
Witness external social habits
Of course, you can also employ the tactic of social listening to see what other topics and engagements your audience members are participating in.
The idea here is to “plug in” to the social conversations and engagements your target audience has with other brands and other people, giving you the opportunity to uncover new trending topics, new angles for your messaging or new approaches you may not have otherwise considered.
Finally, we have the most straightforward way to learn more about your audience: asking them questions. It doesn’t take much to create and launch a survey, especially with a modern tool like SurveyMonkey.
Anything you want to know about your target audience, you can put in a question format and submit to your social followers and email subscribers. From there, you can quantify the results (or read them manually) and walk away with all the insights you ever wanted. The only caveat is that you may have to incentivize participation with a prize or reward.
All of these strategies will help you better understand your target demographics, but remember, this is still only one side of the equation. Once you know the habits, lifestyles, behaviors and preferences of your key demographics, you’ll still need to mold and improve your strategy accordingly.
All your insights need to have some measurable influence — otherwise, they’ll stay confined to the realm of the conceptual. You need a bottom-line impact.
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