Target Audience Research, Giving your Digital Marketing Strategy a Competitive Edge
Chapter 2 of the digital marketing strategy guide
If you are a small business, the chances are you haven’t put enough time into researching your target customers other than hearing here and there what they liked and what they didn’t (how could you forget that?).
Our previous chapter on goals and messages mentioned the need to understand your key messages: your explanation of how you do what you do and why. Identifying those messages will give you enough information to start painting the first strokes of your ideal customer. For example, if you are selling vegan burgers because you think the meat industry is destroying our planet, you won’t bother trying to convert regular McDonald’s customers, even though they actually are ‘burger consumers’.
Understanding your audience gives you information that will save you ridiculous amounts of time you would otherwise spend stabbing in the dark and perhaps, although most unlikely, hitting a lucky spot.
This chapter shows you how to conduct target market research when creating a winning online strategy for a small business.
It will also put you on the right path to understanding your customers’ motivations to buy so that you can talk to them at a more personal level and thus sell more.
A word about target audience research tools
There are many keyword tools and other sophisticated sets of data you can buy…by the hundred. I find these tools often define your enquiry more than they support your research. Also, I am an advocate of informed intuition as opposed to data fundamentalism, as I mention in my article about what the best SEOs do.
I will be recommending some of the tools I personally use, although most of the research questions in this article can be answered by doing good old internet research. Having said that, make sure that your research responds to specific questions, because questions are the most important aspect of target research. Ask (and answer) the right questions and the strategy will flow by itself.
Another option to get insights straight from your target audience is to use a questionnaire. In this case make sure:
1. You get a fair number of participants so that your results are statistically significant.
2. Your questions are spot on and don’t repeat themselves. You can use Survey Monkey and Facebook ads to promote your questionnaire. Here are some tips for great interviews.
Questionnaires are powerful, but the truth is the internet allows you to see what people say and do without them knowing someone is analysing their behaviour. This removes the ‘observation bias’ and provides us with invaluable information that, if we interpret correctly, can take us very far.
This approach will take you beyond demographic data into a deeper layer of behaviour, which is essential for serious digital marketing.
1. What are the latest industry trends according to leading industry sources?
Simply google ‘your industry’ + ‘industry report’ and see what you find. For example, ‘vegan food’ + ‘industry report’ takes me to this report where I quickly find a section called Who eats plan-based foods and why?. I am already rubbing my palms in expectation…
I love this method and yet most marketers do not bother using it. This is a wonderful way to start your research because it can give you a helicopter view from which you can understand your customers’ micro-behaviours. And also you will easily find free pdfs with summaries of the latest industry reports in any country.
2. What do my contacts think about my industry?
You want to know how your industry is perceived by people within your network. As an expert in anything, knowing how non-experts see what you do is incredibly eye-opening, especially if your job title was invented during the past 10 years (like mine).
Simply go onto Facebook and LinkedIn and ask your followers how they see your industry.
If you are a veterinarian, ask ‘what are your experiences with veterinarians?’ Be honest. Sit back and enjoy the answers.
This is a template you can use:
3. What problems do people have that you can solve?
You can use Quora to find questions related to your topic or industry. Look at patterns of questions and make sure that you go deeper into what people actually mean through their questions.
For example, I thought I helped people get more traffic online, but through research I found out that I mostly help businesses bring more traffic, which brings them more revenue, so they can get more people on board, so that the business owners can spend more time doing what they want, and this will bring more smiles in the world, and this will in turn bring more love and freedom in the world…and so on.
4. What are the 2 main websites your target audience goes to?
The chances are these are Facebook and Google, but apart from those, you need to identify what are the websites your target audience would end up on if they had a question about your topic.
For example, if you are a veterinarian, your customers might go to Google and type ‘why is my dog vomiting?’
Then they will get a list of websites that answer that question (which includes Google itself). These are places that your brand’s content should gravitate towards.
I find petmd.com and peteducation.com with plenty of information about veterinary issues. Keep these websites in mind for reaching out to them later.
5. What do people worry about on those websites?
Check the comments of articles related to your topic. Find FAQ pages. This will give you a sense of what people’s main concerns are about that topic.
After reading 10 or 15 questions you will invariably identify some patterns that might help you understand.
6. What do people value in your competitors? What do they regret?
Go to your competitors’ Facebook and other review pages and find any negative reviews. What pisses people off?
Go to their website and check the testimonials? What do people value?
Expert tip: Bear in mind that most people will only leave reviews if they have a strong emotion, be this one good or bad.
You may have noticed we have not spoken about internal data, such as Google Analytics data, which tells you how your users are already interacting with your website. This will be covered in Chapter 4 about internal analysis. By then you will have a strong idea of what people want and contrast it with what they are already finding on your website. Then you will intuitively know what you need to change.
Go to Chapter 1 to learn about the importance of goals and messages.