Why you need to get to know your audience – and five ways you can

Love your marketing or social media activity to make more impact? Find out why getting to know your audience is crucial – and five ways you can.

Think of the last time you were tasked with buying a gift for the aunt you haven’t seen since last Christmas (or maybe the year before). It was painful, wasn’t it, staggering around perfume stores and wondering if a gift card was too cold a present?

Now, think of the last time you picked out a present for your very best friend. Suddenly, there are too many options – you could walk into any store and know the type, style and colour of the gift that will make them smile.

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Apply this thinking to your marketing. If your audience is as distant and mysterious to you as your old aunt, your marketing will consistently miss the mark, no matter how well wrapped it is. Good marketers, like good friends, know what makes their audience laugh, what riles them up, what problems they’re dealing with everyday and have advice and warm wishes on tap.

Five ways you can get to know your audience

If you’re finding that your attempts at social media comedy are falling flat, or your blog posts are seeing little to no traffic, are you sure that you really know your audience? Here are five ways you can get to know them better.

1) Remember what you’re selling

Your audience is more than a sum of ages, genders and locations. They have particular desires, interests and reasons for shopping with you at all. Have you worked those things out yet?

A common school of thought in marketing is that what you are selling customers isn’t necessarily the product you have been advertising. Rather, it’s what that product can do for them, and this is the first place you can connect with your customers.

For example, mattress dealerships aren’t just selling mattresses, but rather more restful nights and better mornings.

You can connect with your audience, therefore, on issues on sleep and restfulness, writing blog posts about the best colours to paint your bedroom for a more restful sleep, and share stories about how sleeping beside your mobile phone can disrupt rest. You may even consider sharing tips on de-stressing and falling asleep faster, or pictures of cosy, dim-lit bedrooms.

Take printing company Quinnstheprinters.com as an example. They aren’t just selling leaflets and banners – they are selling a means for artists and graphic designers to make their art physical, which is why their Facebook page is full of jokes graphic designers can relate to and news for the industry.

2) Ask them

The most straightforward way to find out what your audience is thinking is to simply ask them.

Seems easy, right? But it’s not always the case.

While many customers appreciate being listened to, they typically do not have the time or desire to form a focus group for you. So, to get the best results, make it easy and appealing for your customers to help you out.

For example, you might ask them for feedback or run a poll on social media. Twitter and Instagram already have poll functionality, and Facebook’s reactions can be used in the same way, by assigning each reaction to a particular answer. Podcast Serial used a Twitter poll to get feedback on which word – fortnightly VS bi weekly – was clearer for their audience to understand their new schedule.

A more indepth way to get information from your audience is to conduct a survey. Surveys can provide a wealth of insight into your target audience, as you can structure it exactly as you need it, and promote either on social media or email straight to customers’ inboxes.

The only issue with these is that many users are reluctant to take the time to complete them, particularly if they are long or indepth. Either make your survey relatively quick and simple with multiple choice options, or entice customers with discounts or entries to win attractive prizes for completing your survey.

3) Split testing

Split testing, also known as A/B testing, is when you run two different versions of your content and see which one sees a better response, or has a better conversion rate.

Lots of platforms can do this for you. MailChimp allows users to split test email batches based on time sent, content and subject lines. This means that you can start to work out whether your audience is more likely to open mailers with long or short subject lines, with emojis or no emojis, and the times of day they are most responsive – and more.

Essentially, with every test and batch of emails, you are able to narrow down what your audience likes to receive, and so communicate with them better.

You can obviously run these tests yourself as well. From monitoring how a copy change on your landing page ranges week to week, to swapping a post’s image to check for improvement, there are plenty of different ways to test how your audience is interacting with your website.

4) Study your customers

This is where you get your stalking hat on! Commonly known as social listening, this tactic is little more than monitoring how your customers interact with other brands and campaigns. But can don’t underestimate how effective it can be.

If you are seeing a lack of comments on your social media posts, is that an issue with your content, or is it simply how your customers generally interact online? For example, you might find that they follow other brands and are just as quiet with them. In that case, tweak your content so that allows users to be anonymous or runs on low-effort likes, rather than comments.

However, you may also find that your customers are much chattier with other brands. If so, you may want to rethink your social media voice or content strategy.

Work out if they are into blog posts or videos, listicles or how-to guides, and which social network they are spending most of their time on, and you’ll have a far better idea of how to communicate with them.

5) Make mistakes

It’s important to allow yourself to make mistakes. This may seem like a counterintuitive suggestion, but there are lessons you can often only learn when you realise that the road you are on is the wrong one.

For example, for every blog post which sees little to no traffic, you are able to pinpoint different issues with your content. If your quiz content flopped, was that because of the topic or the quiz? If your longform article wasn’t a hit, was it because it was too long, or just irrelevant?

You’re going to make mistakes anyway, so you may as well use them to your advantage.

Take time to get to know your audience as individuals

Getting to know your audience isn’t about choosing one tactic, an either-or sort of exercise, but combining many in order to get the most in depth, well rounded view of your audience you can.

You need to take the time to know them as a whole, as individuals, as unique pockets within the greater group, and how you can appeal to them on different emotional levels.

Dedicate plenty of time to this part of your marketing, and you’ll save yourself the hassle long-term.

Laura McLoughlin works with Omnia, an award winning branding and digital communications agency, located in Dubai’s Media City.

Photo by Sam Manns