Every step you take; every move you make as a brand has to be checked, re-checked and calibrated to appeal to your target audience. The whole point of marketing is appealing to customers. That’s why your brand has to live inside your ideal customer’s head in order to best serve their needs, which in return serves your bottom line.
How should your brand look and behave?
What are the features that will make your products irresistible?
What’s the price range that straddles the line between accessible to your target audience and being profitable to you?
What’s the language you need to use?
What’s the content best suited for your audience?
What’s a great idea for a campaign or promotion?
All these decisions hinge on knowing exactly who your customer is.
As we’ve said, the customer is front and centre at a brand’s success. The sun around which a brand orbits, if you will. If you’re not reaching your audience, you’re not going to enjoy much longevity. Digital marketing relies on being seen in order to have effect, so a brand that’s a stranger to its own target audience won’t have much of an impact. Having deep, intimate knowledge of one’s ideal customer solves quite a few problems:
· You’re not confused as to where you should post your content or when, because you know where your audience hangs out online.
· You’re not promoting the wrong kind of product or feature.
· You’re not miscommunicating your intentions and brand identity.
It all leads back to your sales numbers. The stronger your bond to your audience, the better you’re able to sell and attract new customers.
Right, onto the practicalities! It’s one thing to know it’s important and quite another to actually do it. So where do we begin?
The Internet brims with potential to source data points. We’ve selected only six out of many other ways to get your head start.
Don’t know enough about your customers? Easy. Ask them directly. Surveys are tried and tested from before the Internet became a force to be reckoned with, and now it’s easier than ever to get a lot of information from people all over the world (country, region, city). The challenge here, of course, is knowing what questions to ask, which is its own beast altogether.
You can’t have much of a relationship with or understanding of your audience without actually having an online presence. Post frequently enough, while hopping on the right conversations and hashtags, and you’ll receive the most valuable data – customer interactions.
What do they comment and reply to your post? What do they type, when they retweet or re-share what you’ve published? What gets likes and hearts, and what is met by resounding silence? That’s a hands-on approach, which hones your voice through trial and error.
What does your audience want?
The Internet can be thought of the modern equivalent of the Coliseum. People want to be excited, titillated and thrilled by what they see online. The attention economy is highly competitive, so if you want the right eyes on you long enough to make an impact, you ought to know what triggers the right reaction.
Look at the data. See what parts of your site get the most action from visitors. What are pages that generate a high bounce rate? What posts are getting their rightful love? What are your customers posting about in their accounts? Look long enough and you’ll see bigger answers come from these individuals.
Then do some deep dive research through the use of RSS feed readers. They’re adept at gathering and organizing reading. Inoreader is not just a productivity tool, but also recommends content and makes it easy to capture articles and sources online easily.
We’re moving on from the research into your customers’ wants, needs and content they’d consider valuable to actually delivering content that speaks directly to them. A chief reason as to why most content strategies fail to launch in any meaningful way is the poor targeting in content.
Brand messaging, in order to generate any meaningful engagement online, has to generate content that resonates thoroughly. This can be done on a customer level through useful content (there’s a whole philosophy around creating value for the customer through content) or content that taps into larger cultural narratives (how brands use memes and Internet humor to cultivate an audience or are social activists.) – ben and jerry, wendy’s, meme link.
When we talk about a target audience, we think about a single ideal customer, which embodies all the qualities, thoughts and needs that would make it effortless to sell to them. That’s at the core of buyer personas.
At the start, you begin your digital marketing effort with an idea about who they are. Once you’ve been active for some time, you should build on it. Notice how individuals talk, what language they use, what’s their sense of humor, if they have any, reactions to the world around them, and what’s in their social interactions to you.
Competitors are often overlooked, when conducting audience research, when they present brands a healthy blueprint as to what your shared audience wants and needs. No matter how different your brand positions itself there’s always an overlap in consumers, so competitors allow you to see how the target audience reacts to certain marketing strategies and approaches towards socializing.
Draw important parallels between crucial metrics – what’s their messaging, how do they talk to their audience (brand voice), brand identity, choice in marketing strategies. Analyzing competitor performance generates insights into the psyche of your shared audience. What works for them can just as easily for you.
One caveat, your competitors might not be all that good. The lesson, then, becomes what not to do.