Business management

Know your customer: six steps to understanding your target audience

Familiarising yourself with your customer is a key step towards effective marketing. Here’s how to target your audience without blowing your marketing budget.

1. Don’t be afraid to ask

Conducting market research openly and asking the right questions can help you find out crucial information about your clients. If you’re looking to expand a small audience or get to know existing customers better, a survey can be a useful tool.

“Surveys are a great way to understand what people are looking for and what features and benefits matter to them,” says business coach and marketing strategist Marta Ceccato. “Good things to cover are respondents’ pains, interests and values. Ask about where to find them as well so you know where to focus your efforts – which social media platforms they use, for example.”

Surveys can be distributed in various ways, depending on where you think your existing audience and prospects will be. Social media is an obvious one, but you could also hand out or email surveys to new customers. If you’re struggling to get responses, consider incentivising with discounts or freebies.

2. Encourage and embrace reviews

Asking for and receiving honest feedback from customers – both positive and negative – will help you understand your audience better. If you’re just starting out and are yet to make enough sales, start reading reviews for businesses similar to yours.

“Look at what people have to say about products and services similar to your own on third-party marketplaces, app stores and dedicated review platforms,” suggests Ceccato. “This kind of honest content will help you determine what your target audience wants more of and what they value.”

3. Pay close attention to language

The more you listen to consumers in your industry, the better you’ll understand them and the easier it will be to engage them with your marketing campaigns. It’s not just what they say, however, it’s how they say it.

“Figuring out the exact language [customers] use to describe how they feel is key,” says Lucia Knight, who runs career consultancy business Midlife Unstuck. “I did this in a few ways: I started by reading comments and reviews on Amazon from readers of books in my field. I then began encouraging comments on my own blog and asking my email subscribers questions directly.”

Knight says she also monitored relevant consumer groups on social media to see how users spoke about their problems with other products and services. This way, she was able to meet them on the same level with her own marketing efforts.

Look at what people have to say about products and services similar to your own on third-party marketplaces, app stores and dedicated review platforms.

Marta Ceccato
Business coach and marketing strategist

4. Don’t be afraid of data

Data: the word alone is enough to scare some business owners. But once you get into it, you’ll see it can paint an accurate picture of your target market.

“One of the best ways to learn about your existing audience is through Google Analytics,” says Marc Swann, search director at marketing agency Glass Digital. “As well as giving you insight into the demographics of your site visitors, it allows you to see which types of people are converting and – perhaps more importantly – which ones aren’t.”

Google Analytics’ user location data can be particularly useful here. “It will highlight instances where regionalising or even translating your on-site content and marketing communications could pay dividends,” says Swann. “Age, gender and interests will also help you build a picture of your average site visitor, so you can tailor your approach accordingly.”

5. Drill down into the details

For London voiceover agency Voquent, the detail in audience data is key. “Try to get right down to specific job titles and sort by priority,” says production manager Al Black. “For example: we typically work for project managers at translation companies, or account managers at creative agencies.

“With that knowledge, you can target people with certain job titles with your advertising campaigns on Facebook or outreach on LinkedIn. Ideally, you want a channel aimed exclusively at each job title which includes ads, emails and website content so you can speak to people directly and personally. Each job title has its own specific needs, and it’s important to give them relevant information.”

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