The reasons I got into marketing are:
- I want to help small businesses & entrepreneurs succeed
- I want to give people access to the tools that can help them achieve their best life
In my opinion, the marketing as a job exists to listen to people. Companies shouldn’t be forcing their content onto their customers. It is better for companies to build niche audiences and then improve their content based on what their audience wants. Customers don’t buy products or services, they buy value.
The audience-building-stage of starting a business is unfortunately one that many companies don’t see as valuable. More times than not, new businesses think they already know their customers in-and-out. Without asking their customers questions that would develop a buyer persona, companies make assumptions and create content/ marketing strategies around those assumptions.
Purely assuming your customers’ buyer persona qualities will result in:
- Wasting your time, because unless your assumptions are correct, your content won’t convert
- Annoying your customers-who wants to keep receiving emails not relevant to them?
- Confusing your audience– if you aren’t clear about who your audience is and what they want you’ll end up confusing them and confused people are less likely to buy generally
In the past, I have been able to better understand customers through in-person surveys, conversations a tradeshows and other in-person events. These in-person interactions are incredibly important because they give you an opportunity to ask questions a customer likely would not take the time to type out on a digital survey. They also give you the opportunity to ask follow-up questions, and judge responses based on non-verbal communication.
As a new company, it is incredibly important for you to attend industry events. Being around your customers, or other people in your industry, will go a long way in terms of understanding specifics about your customers and how to market to them.
Unfortunately, it isn’t always possible to attend events in person. So how do you research your target audience digitally?
1. Create an Ideal Customer Template:
The very first step is to create a template for your buyer persona. This includes questions like:
- What are their goals? (both career and in life-depends on your industry & B2B or B2C)
- What is their job title?
- What products similar to yours have their used before?
- Why are they using the product their using now
- What is important to them in regards to how the product functions
- What are their pain points in regard to their product and in general?
- Where do they get their information?
- What is important to them in terms of selecting a vendor?
While these are common questions to ask of your customers, your buyer persona can include any questions relevant to your business. Marketing material centered around saving money, making money, saving time, or helping customers reach their goals, should perform well and drive conversions.
From these buyer personas, you can create content that speaks to your customers. I highly suggest keeping your buyer persona information in your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool so you can more easily scale your business as you hire more sales and marketing staff. I also suggest revisiting your buyer personas often to make sure they’re still serving their purpose.
Now that you’ve created your buyer persona template, its time to fill it out.
As previously stated, the best way to get good data from your customers is to have a conversation with them. People are unlikely to write down their goals or struggles down in your survey. It is easier to talk to people and get this information from them directly.
If this strategy is not possible (meaning no industry events or inability to video chat customers) surveys can be posted to your social media or sent out in an email campaign. While this data won’t be as high of quality as what you may get from an in-person conversation, it is better than no data at all.
In general, asking the right questions, to the right people, will greatly benefit your data, and therefore marketing strategy.
For more information, check out my post, Story Time: The Importance of Buyer Personas where I explain how I’ve used surveys in the past to create buyer personas.
Here are some more resources for Buyer Persona Surveys:
- Survey Monkey: How Surveys help you create buyer personas
- Hubspot: 20 Questions to Ask When Creating Buyer Personas
- 42 Buyer Persona Questions to Inspire Your Research
3. Use Ads to Learn about your Audience
Working mostly in B2B, I utilize both LinkedIn Ads and Google Ads, that being said this concept could be applied to any platform.
A common practice in digital advertising is A/B testing, where all characteristics of a group of ads are the same except for one variable. After around 1,000 total impressions, the ad that performed the best has the superior variable. By finding multiple superior variables, you can optimize your ads to perform better.
Possible digital ad variables to test could include:
- Landing Page
By using A/B testing to compare possible customer concerns/interests, you can better understand what portion of your audience relates to different messages. This will let you know what content/messaging you should produce more of.
A feature of Google Ads are the “Search Term” Reports. These reports show you what search queries are triggering your ads. This shows you how customers think about your product, categorize it, and lots more information. Understanding how customers think about product is key for developing strong messaging.
4. Look at what content is working well for you
If you’ve already started making content, you can compare which content gets the most attention and those are your better performing messages by using Analytics.
You can compare content by likes, shares, views, website visits, webinar sign-ups, or any metric that makes sense for your business.
Some types of content you could compare are blog posts, newsletters/email campaigns, or social media posts.
If you have absolutely no content and aren’t sure what types of content to make, I suggest writing a blog post answering a common questions customers ask about your product. Post your blog post on social media and see the kind of engagement you get.
Having content on your website is important because you want to provide value to your customers. Tell them how your product can improve their lives and why they need it.
Content is also great for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Having content that answers a search query better than other site can increase your entire website’s rank on the Search Engine Results Page. For more on how to improve your site’s ranking on the SERP click HERE.
Content can also easily be repurposed so you always have something to post on social media or to include in an email campaign.
Without content, it is difficult to acquire new customers by means other than word of mouth.
5. What are your competitors posting?
A sure fire way to tell if your messaging is grabbing the attention of your customers is to see what kinds of messages are working for successful companies in your industry.
Check out competitor’s social media pages and blog posts to see what kinds of messaging are working for their audience. Then test out these messages on your audience to see how they perform.
For more on competition analysis click HERE.
Note: It’s important that whatever messaging you use that it’s accurate. If customers feel you aren’t truthful, or you get reviews saying your product doesn’t work as advertised, your company could be blacklisted. Having customers’ trust is absolutely key and necessary in order to be successful.
BuzzSumo: See how your social media content/messaging is performing
Ahrefs: See what keywords related to your industry/product people are searching for