It’s all too tempting to produce content we enjoy creating and neglect the needs of our ideal customers (i.e. target audience). From the automotive industry to leisure and tourism, there’s a need for all brands and businesses to break free from their comfort zone in a bid to better appeal to their key consumers.
It goes without saying then that the first step is to understand more about your audience. Getting to know them better – be it through demographics they have in common or by monitoring their wider online footprint – is key to designing a digital strategy that appeals to them.
Here are just five ways you can get better acquainted with your audience.
1. Conduct competitor research
One of the best ways to discover more about your ideal customers is to learn from key competitors. Businesses closely linked within the same field are likely to have a very similar target audience. So spend time getting to know your most successful competitor’s content in a bid to understand why it works so well.
Digital mediums, marketing messages and the tone of voice brands choose can all be analysed. It’s not all about pinpointing what your competitors are doing right either, as stumbling across content that’s failing to engage its audience can be a beneficial learning curve in itself.
2. Dive into demographics
These days it’s possible to track key demographics of every visitor that lands on your website. Web analytics tools like Google Analytics enable site owners to track site-wide activity and access key data such as visitor location, age, gender and more.
Website analytics are important because they tell you who visits your website, how they got there, what they did once they landed there and where they went afterward. This type of data is essential if you want to grow your business and become a smarter marketer.
3. Create buyer personas
While insight into audience demographics can be incredibly useful, it’s important to remember that behind every data set is a group of humans. We’re talking about real people who choose to actively engage with your content. This is easy to forget when you look at your audience from solely a quantitative view.
To balance your perspective, create a detailed persona of your ideal customer. Hubspot offers a free persona template that makes it easy to ask the right questions and build a an accurate buyer persona.
Once you review demographic data, keep an eye out for trends or patterns that will tell you about the type of person that naturally lands on your site. From there it’s possible to tailor your content in a way that directly appeals to visitors.
Even with buyer personas in place, let this information guide marketing decisions, not dictate them. MOZ co-founder Rand Fishkin is quick to point out that hyper-specifically targeting one demographic has its dangers. Ensure your content holds value for your secondary audience too.
4. Track online behavior
Competitor insight will only get you so far. The next step is to understand more about your audience’s online journey on the web. Which social media platforms they use, where they like to hang out online and the types of content they’re most likely to engage with are all valuable pieces of information that can help you refine your content marketing strategy.
Identify key influencers within your industry. Fashion and lifestyle brands can benefit from this tactic in a particularly big way. When you monitor the online behavior of leading influencers it can teach you a lot about the kind of content your ideal customers are most interested in.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask
When all else fails, the best way to get to know your audience is to directly engage with them. Many businesses are wary of alienating consumers with long-winded customer feedback surveys, but we’ve seen increasingly creative ways to gain feedback through thoughtful and engaging methods.
Keep things as short as possible. Only ask questions genuine and relevant questions. Give people the option to decline sharing feedback. Whether you send a request to your email list or launch an overlay on site, short, sharp multiple-choice questions are key if you want to make the process quick and painless. A simple thank you never goes amiss, either.
If you want to get to know your audience better it’s like any relationship, it takes time and work. That’s not to undermine its importance, however. The better you know your ideal customers, the easier it is to implement a successful marketing strategy and connect directly.
This article has been edited.
Chad Harwood-Jones is managing director of Ad-Rank Media, a content marketing agency based in the UK, specializing in natural search, SEO and digital PR. Connect with @AdRankMedia on Twitter. For more information on how Ad-Rank can put you back in touch with the people that matter, contact the team today.