"What if instead of trying to be amazing, you just focused on being useful? What if you decided to inform, rather than promote?"
These words of Jay Baer, a world-famous marketing specialist, nail out target audience research's nature to the core:
It's a must for every business: Big or small, you need to know a consumer inside out to connect with them in revelatory ways. Otherwise, all the time and money you spend on product development, content production, and marketing campaigns will go to waste.
But let's be honest:
For business and marketing success, your target audience research needs to go far beyond demographics and other quantitative factors. Instead, please do your best to focus on your customers' psychology and behavior to understand their motivations.
Think like an expert and consider advanced methods of audience research.
The best news is that audience research today is easier than ever. With so many tips, tools, and instruments available on the market, you have everything to separate your business from the competitors'.
These top five expert tips on researching your target audience will help with that
01 – Create Psychological Profiles
Knowing the sex, age, and location of your target audience is great. But you know what?
Your marketing endeavors will fail if you focus on demographics and other "in-default" features of your ideal customer.
What you need are advanced research methods to identify your target audience's problems and be able to provide solutions. More than that, diving deeper into the psychology of your audience will help to find the right angles to pitch those solutions.
After all, you don't want customers to consider your brand anything but a greedy sales machine, do you?
For that, you need to know their emotions, fears, needs, pains, experiences, and cultural backgrounds. This information will allow you to shape and influence their decision-making process.
That's what a standard buyer persona template looks like:
As you see, we have motivations and frustrations here, as well as character traits influencing that person's ambitions and decisions. It's a psychological profile you need to craft if you want to research your target audience through the length and breadth.
Where to take information for a psychological profile?
How will you know your ideal customer's beliefs, hopes, fears, desires, motivations, cognitive biases, pains, and aspirations?
The solution is simple: qualitative research.
As you know, most marketers focus on quantitative research, gathering, measuring, comparing, and analyzing the data taken from surveys, customer contact information, and sales reports.
Qualitative research is more about observation and inquiry, allowing you to understand human behavior.
You'll know the audience's psychographics and be able to model out the typical customer journey they go through: their pain points and behavior at every stage, the information they might seek out, needs and questions they might have, etc.
Not only will you understand your brand's place in their ecosystem, but you'll also know the surrounding considerations they hold.
Knowing why customers behave or react in a certain way, you'll be able to plan marketing campaigns accordingly.
These days there are many tools and instruments available to help you with qualitative research. Shop-alongs, forums, free chatbots, videoing a prospect, interviews, SMS marketing, and focus groups are just a few.
All of them serve to discover the customer intent and behavior of your target audience.
Let's take videoing as a way of example:
Doing so when a prospect goes through the process, you can capture many things typical analytics won't show: facial movements, eye-tracking, reactions to your brand, and so on. What are they noticing or ignoring? What are their struggles?
Or focus groups…
You select a group of people with core characteristics, show them your product, and gauge their reaction to how you brand it. Is it the same as what you expected? What are they noticing? Maybe it's worth rethinking?
In plain English, quantitative research is about numbers. Qualitative research is about why you get these numbers.
With accurate psychological profiles of your customer personas, you can get a feel for who your target audience is, how they think, and what motivates them. Their intent, lifestyle, fear, objections – everything matters for efficient marketing.
02 – Get the Most Out of Social Listening
Imagine you own or do marketing campaigns for a fast-food brand. One morning you come there for a coffee and overhear two clients in line:
"They have yummy cheesecakes here, especially those with blueberries," one says.
"Hm, I haven't tried them yet," the other one replies. "But I bought their muffins twice, and both times they were too dry…"
And you wonder:
Do all the clients feel the same about those downtrodden muffins? Are they so bad indeed?
You start asking other customers, gathering opinions about this brand. You listen to what they think and feel about that food. And based on those facts, you decide whether some changes are necessary to make for people to become more loyal.
(And for gaining in sales for muffins, of course.)
The above happy-ending story is an example of another tried-and-true method to do audience research and give them what they love:
Social listening is about monitoring and analyzing the conversations people have on your brand at places they usually hang out – social media, themed forums, target communities, etc.
But please don't mix up social listening with social monitoring.
While social monitoring is about tracking and responding to the mentions and messages about your brand or any of its product/service, social listening refers to analyzing the conversations happening around your industry as a whole.
It's a crucial component of audience research because it helps you gather the insights and use them to make better marketing decisions.
With social listening, you'll understand what content strategy to choose for better communication with the audience, how to outpace competitors, and what strategies to consider for more efficient social media marketing campaigns.
What you can do for better social listening:
Read through comments and discussions in forums.
Check your target groups on Facebook, Reddit, Quora, LinkedIn, etc.
Use social listening tools to monitor the target audience and analyze what makes them act: what they share, what content engages them, what influencers they trust, what types of headlines or images grab their attention, and so on.
But that's not all:
Remember to monitor your competitors' mentions as well. Consider listening to their happy and, what's even more critical, unhappy customers to understand the audience's needs and how to adapt to them.
One extra tip:
When monitoring, consider adding smileys to your search. That's what it looks like in Twitter, for example:
By doing so, you can identify some fears, worries, or pain points of the audience and adjust your communication accordingly.
Social listening will help find your audience's most common issues (and solve them), figure out the public perception of your brand, analyze how your marketing campaign resonates with target consumers, and understand how people feel about you and your competitors.
Long story short, social listening is not about the number of hashtags and brand mentions but the mood behind those metrics.
Marketers know this "mood" as a social media sentiment and use it to get the audience insight – reactions to a product launch, a new feature, changes in services, original content asset, etc.
Understanding your prospects' reactions, you'll plan strategically for future campaigns and choose the correct tone of voice to refrain from any insensitive messaging.
Thanks to social listening, you'll also analyze the sentiments that go far beyond material things. You'll get insights on your audience's emotions and thought process, notice their fears and hopes and discover what they want to change about their lives.
All this can be converted into a corresponding brand positioning, content ideas, and marketing communications.
03 – Consider Surveys, But Make Sure to Place Them Right
We think you'll agree with us when we say that surveys are among the most popular and large-scale audience research methods for marketers.
Indeed, even a simple online test allows you to understand users better and pinpoint what factors impact their response to your brand. And that is why marketers actively use online tools like Crello to design eye-grabbing surveys that engage the audience.
It's because the design of your survey for the audience research speaks volumes. You need to craft it so that it would encourage accurate and measurable responses.
A survey design also depends on the question types you're going to ask. Multiple-choice questions, matrix rating, drop-downs, and open questions require specific templates to get maximum insights from the audience.
For the advanced audience research, you'll want to focus on behavioral questions rather than demographic ones. Such surveys will require text fields and images for responses.
You might also need to design it in a mobile-friendly format so that your audience could respond on all devices.
More advanced surveys can employ skip logic, which alters questions based on previous answers. For this, you'll need tools that analyze results instantly and allow you to act on insights right away.
For a survey to be efficient, it should have a clear goal (what information you want to get), targets (whom you will survey: regular customers, social media followers, website visitors, etc.), and an outreach channel.
Also, you'll need a tool to conduct a survey. Here go the most popular ones, but, sure thing, you are free to choose any others available: Survey Monkey, Google Forms, Survey Anyplace, Typeform, and SurveyGizmo.
Where to place surveys?
Your website. Set up surveying forms in the most critical touchpoints, like a "Thank you for ordering for us" page, or place them as a pop up after a user leaves a comment or communicates with your support team.
Emails. Invite the audience to participate in your survey, or build in a survey form in email bodies.
Social media. Choose the channels with your most loyal and active communities to generate enough responses.
Or, you can go directly to your target audience's representatives and interview them about their desires, challenges, what they would like to change, which competitor products they use, and so on.
This tactic works with established brands, able to entice the audience to participate in an interview.
What you need to do is identify three or four customers who fit the definition of your buyer persona and ask a few questions to them. It's easier said than done, huh?
How to know you choose the right people for interviewing and surveying?
When joining your website or subscribing to your newsletters, people already share the basic demographics with you. You know their locations, approximate income levels, gender as well as general interests and shopping habits. Feel free to select from these targeting options.
Make sure you choose someone who's interested in your brand or who has already bought from you. When crafting your interview questions, focus on finding out their struggles, interests, pain points, influences, and touchpoints with your brand.
To motivate the audience to participate in surveys or interviews, offer them some free service in exchange. It can be a free trial, an e-book, a discount; you name it!
Surveys and questionnaires are also excellent instruments for customer segmentation:
Dividing the target audience into smaller groups (by demographics, lifestyle, product usage, brand affinity, etc.), you can choose the most appropriate communicating style for each, influencing their motivations and decision-making accordingly.
04 – Look at What They Hate
Customers' negative feedback can help you research and understand the target audience better.
And that's why:
Most marketers don't want to admit that, but they build a buyer persona on what they want their audience to be (subconsciously, of course) instead of who these people actually are.
Examining and analyzing negative customer reviews will help to disillusion and prevent you from assuming who your audience is and what they care about. You'll know it for sure.
Why are the things people hate more important to know than the stuff they love?
Only one in ten happy customers will leave a positive review, while customers with a negative experience are twice or three times more likely to tell about it online.
Bad reviews impact your brand's reputation and can mislead your potential consumers: 68% say they trust opinions online, and 85% of consumers value online reviews as much as in-person recommendations.
Based on those bad reviews, you'll research your target audience's pain points, motivations, and objections. Given that people are more likely to share what they hate about brands or industries, this info can give you tons of insights for well-formed brand positioning and marketing communication.
Where do you find the information about what your prospects hate?
Social media monitoring: Check your brand mentions, read comments people leave about your business and products, and consider reviews they share on your official social media pages.
Customer support emails, messengers, and live chats: Read and analyze the communication to find out fears, pain points, cognitive biases, and objections of your targets.
Your competitors' customer reviews: See where they fail, learn from their mistakes, and analyze what their buyer persona wants.
As long as you are in the same niche, chances are that your target audiences have much in common. So, please pay attention to what they are saying about the existing products or services in your market.
For that, you can research relevant reviews on Amazon. Consider those with 2 or 3 stars; 5-star and 1-star reviews may be too biased to give real insights.
Consider those parts of comments where people share what they don't like about a product. This info will allow you to reveal potential gaps in the market and consider them for further research.
Also, you can check Quora.
What makes this resource useful for the target audience research is that it covers tons of questions people share on their problems and struggles. So you can learn the frustrations of your prospects in a short time.
For example, a paleo diet promoter might search "paleo diet struggles:"
Or, you might search for "SEO struggles" if you research the target audience of some SEO tool:
Here go some issues you might want to search for:
What does your target audience misunderstand about your products or service?
What do they dislike about your industry?
What do your consumers want to learn about your niche?
What frustrates them most?
What problems do they have with your brand?
Once you gather this data, you'll be able to organize your brand communication accordingly.
Plus, you'll get tons of content ideas to address your customer's struggles and help them. It will serve well for building your brand's loyalty and trust.
05 – Use Customer Journey Mapping
For a complete understanding of your target audience, you should try to see the process of interacting with your brand from their perspective.
Follow your buyer's journey yourself.
The strategy all marketers know as customer journey mapping will help you do that.
A customer journey map refers to a visualization of your target persona's experience. It illustrates all the touch points a buyer comes into contact with your brand, both online and offline.
These maps can take many forms: diagrams, illustrations, charts, infographics, etc.
They allow you to look at your brand and business processes from a customer's perspective to understand their struggles and gaps to close in your brand communication.
Other benefits of customer journey mapping:
Understanding the differences in your customer segments and persona groups as they move through the buying funnel
Benchmarking your prospects' expectations against what they actually get
Proper optimization of the customer onboarding process
A customer journey map will give you insights into your target audience's wants from any parts of your product or service. You'll see how they find your brand, what problems they come to solve, and how they engage with your marketing messages.
It's your chance to get into your consumer's heads and understand how they feel about your product.
You need to follow the journey of individual customers inside different segments and then put together a map of the broader customer journey.
It stands to reason that two customer journeys rarely look the same. And yet, you can spot patterns and draw assumptions on how different buyers engage, get involved, what types of messages influence them most, pain points they have, etc.
Customer journey maps also can help you build empathy for your target audience. They'll assist you in understanding their feelings, needs, and desires.
For journey mapping, use all the data and information available from across your business. Collaborate with a customer support team, customer relations managers, salespeople, and all other brand representatives to structure it.
To design a star customer journey map, you will need the following information:
A buyer persona, with their goals and pain points
A list of buyer touchpoints (Two reports from Google Analytics will help here: a behavior flow report and a goal flow report. Or, you can put yourself in a customer's shoes and walk through all the steps of their journey.)
Online tools like Venngage, Crello, and many others to design a map that will meet your marketing needs.
For successful target audience research, do your best to go beyond demographics and standard quantitative approaches.
Now you know some extra methods, and they will help you understand your ideal customers a lot better than some of your competitors do.
And sure, there are even more advanced techniques on Nichehacks Academy to help you get the most out of that knowledge and get engaged with your target audience for more efficient results.
So go ahead and translate the above tips into action. Direct your brand message and marketing resources to people who do need your product and are more likely to purchase from you.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Who is the target audience?
A target audience is a term describing a group of people you've identified as the best consumers of your particular marketing message. When trying to find the ideal target audience for your brand, think of the individuals who already monitor and follow it on social media. Do research to create their psychological profile and understand your customers' needs inside out.
What are the five types of audiences?
The five core types of audiences are neutral, hostile, uninformed, expert, and business. Based on the predominant type of your target audience, you'll be able to develop your marketing strategy and think of the most appropriate marketing channels and messages to target customers.
How to identify your target audience?
Marketers have developed many tactics for that. You can start with your existing customers and build a buyer persona based on their shared characteristics. One of the best ways to identify target audiences is customer surveys. Also, you can check customer feedback, research competitors, and leverage Google Analytics insights.
How to narrow your target audience?
For more actionable marketing strategies that generate revenue, you need to narrow down the target audience by different segments. Customer segmentation allows you to create separate, more specific personas for each segment, understand their motivations, and craft more convertible marketing messages.
How to target customers?
To connect with customers effectively, use social monitoring and listening. Target them with ads and affiliate marketing. Communicate with your customers on social media, and use other channels (emails, phone calls, etc.) to target them. Use content marketing (engaging newsletters, blog posts, reviews). Connect with influencers in your niche: They'll help you target a wider audience and attract new consumers to your brand.