Marketing is about providing true value to your customers, and so understanding your target audience should be the first step of developing your marketing strategy.
So let's focus on different elements of the different ways you can create an in-depth analysis.
Why do you need to do an audience analysis?
The simple answer?
To grow your business. Because your business growth depends on people buying your product/ service, and they will do it if it resonates with them in all ways. If you are providing the solution they need, if your values match with them, if your story engages them.
And to know if it does or will, you need to understand them! In as much detail as possible.
And then, you need to provide content that is helpful and interesting for them, need to build a relationship with them.
This is how it works:
What are the important elements of an audience analysis?
The core elements are:
Age, Gender, Nationality/ Ethnicity, Family setup, Household income
Interests, daily life, family and social lives, social media engagement, etc. E.g. What does a regular day in this person’s life look like? What does this person do on the weekend? What kind of stores or hangout places do they go to? What are the kind of interests she/ he may have? What responsibilities may she/ he have?
GOALS & PRIORITIES
Immediate and long-term desires, what would make them happy, etc.
NEEDS, HABITS, PSYCHOGRAPHICS
Personality, work and life environment, how they want to be seen, etc.
CHALLENGES & BLOCKING POINTS
A brand is a promise of value: it either meets a need or creates a desire.
So identify first if your audience has a pain point (challenges or unmet need). In other words, is there anything that they’re not very satisfied about in their lives, a problem they perceive, that your brand can offer to solve?
What are the steps they take to meet their needs currently? Generally there are 3 basic steps that lead to the final one of purchase:
So how do they get awareness about a solution to their problems? What is their research process, normally? What factors do they consider before purchasing?
You can put together all this information and more, in one page, to create a persona of your ideal buyer.
For the same product or service, you can even have more than one persona.
21 ways to do the actual analysis
Generally there are 2 broad ways for doing a thorough audience analysis:
Research agencies who find the audience, conduct focus groups with the marketing team's help, and compile the data.
Popular websites like:
- Social sharing information. E.g.: Buzzsumo
- Questions that people are asking. E.g.: AnswerThePublic
If you are a small business owner with no marketing experience, online tools may be a bit difficult to navigate, and offline research may be too expensive.
So you might want to focus on the informal research first, and if you don't have all the info, then you can look at taking some formal steps. Here are some simple DIY ways for you to conduct a detailed target audience analysis.
1. Existing customers
If you have had any sales so far in your business at all, the best source of information is your existing customers. These are the questions you could ask:
• Why did they choose you?
• What in your message or story appealed to them?
• What was their problem exactly, and how was it solved by coming to you?
2. Competitor customers
If you can have access to them, that would be very helpful. See obviously they had a problem, like your existing customers. But they chose to go with your competition instead. So the obvious question is:
Why them, and not you?
But you can follow it up with more questions:
• If you fixed that reason (for e.g. price), would they choose you then?
• What is their perception of you vs. your competitor?
• Do they have any negative experience or perception of you?
3. Your sales team, if you have one
The sales team have easy access to a key thing which may not be easily available otherwise: real customer stories. By talking directly to the customers, learning about their needs and handling their objections, they may have extremely helpful insights.
This is what you can ask them:
• In their opinion/ experience, what is the biggest reason that customers buy the product or service you sell?
• What is the biggest reason for them not buying it at all?
• What is the biggest reason that people go to competition?
• What do customers expect to get when they buy the product or service?
• What are the biggest comparisons that customers draw with your competition?
• Any specific examples or stories that stand out in their minds? Can they describe it?
4. Your customer service team, if you have one
So one of the most crucial parts of creating your brand is designing the customer experience, making your customer service and support team a crucial part of your business. T
• What is the biggest challenge in user experience?
• Is there anything that confuses the customers?
• Are the problems that they call customer service for easily resolved?
• Have there been cases when your customer support couldn't solve the problem and the customer switched?
• What is the difference between what the customers expect from your service or brand, and what they get?
5. Your operational team, who works directly with your customers
Make the team on the ground your best friend. They are the organizers, the ones that ensue that your brand fulfills its brand promise by delivering what it's supposed to, and they are also key trouble shooters. These are some questions you can ask them:
• What are the most important quality criteria for customers?
• What are the biggest challenges of making sure the product or service delivers what it's supposed to?
• What could be the repercussions of products/ services failing to meet the necessary standards that customers expect?
6. Other team members who interacts with customers
There may be other people in your team or company who works directly with your prospects or customers. Those who answer calls (maybe even a receptionist), tech support, claims department, legal department. As a small business you may not have these big teams, so just keep an open mind and see who you have in your company who interacts with customers.
You can ask them how their experiences have been, challenges they faced.
If they are not sure how to answer, it is always usually helpful to ask them to narrate any specific experience or story that stands out. Then you can dig deep into the details to get the insights that they probably have but are not
7. If you are in a service industry, then people who deliver the service
Think receptionists in hotels, trainers in course providers, doctors in hospitals. They are the ones actually delivering the service, and thus your brand ambassadors, to an extent. They know upfront the customer needs, and are directly responsible for solving it on the spot.
Unlike customer support teams who help you navigate a software or can give you a refund, or sales teams who just sell to you but are not responsible for problem-solving once the customer buys a service, the service providers actually have to fix your problems. So they would know answers to questions like:
• What do the customers need most?
• What kind of situations are the hardest for them to bear?
• What kind of factors and reasoning do customers take into account when considering the pros and cons of a solution?
• What benefits of a solution are they most grateful for? Why?
• What situations can make them feel they are not getting their money's worth?
8. Partner organizations
You could have many different kinds of partners. You could have those with the same target audience as you. For example, if you are focusing on millennials as your TA, anyone else designing their products/ services for millennials, but not exactly with the same offer as you, could be your partner.
But it's not just them. Your suppliers, vendors, financiers, endorsers, are all your partners. Based on their experience and expertise, you could have open discussions about your TA, and you could find insights there that you never thought about.
9. Customer influencers (personal)
There may be one purchaser, but lots of people in the environment of the buyer who influence the decision, and in the cases of someone like a spouse, a decision is even made jointly in many cases.
If it's a electronic device for the house, it could be needed and bought by someone who needs it more, but the other people in the house may have a say in the device being bought and the price being paid.
If on the other hand it's a product used by women only, the biggest influencers could be the women in her family or her girlfriends (who may then also fall in the same target group)
So to understand your audience, you could also try to find out what is important for her influencers and what these people are likely to recommend to your TA.
10. Customer influencers (distant)
There are an increasing number of leaders and influencers in every field, who have huge followings of like-minded people.
Try to analyze the messages from these influencers. What do they advocate? What are their core messages, about values, life policies, interests? Even if its a pop star that your TA is crazy about, try to analyze why. What is it that these influencers say that resonate with your audience, and why?
Remember that these people have gained these influencers because they understand your TA, and your TA is drawn to them because of similar grounds they share.
Can you also capture the same essence of connecting to them?
11. Prospects who didn't convert
Unfortunately not everyone who engages with your brand ends up being a customer. There are those who don't choose to buy any product/ service, and there are some who go to the competition instead.
In case of mass consumer goods you may not always be able to track what they bought and why, but in some cases, especially for services, you may be able to get some information, if a prospect you have been trying to close buys something else instead.
You can just ask some basic questions if you get the opportunity:
• What solution did they want, and why did they think they couldn't find by signing up with you?
• Is it your product/ service that didn't suit them, or your brand - personality/ values/ tone of voice, etc?
• If they signed up for the competition instead, what really convinced them?
12. Customers who gave negative reviews
Just like not everyone will buy your product, not everyone will also be satisfied with its performance, simply because they may have had different expectations from it. And that's what you can ask them to find out:
• How did they expect a solution to their problem, and why didn't they find it?
• What do they exactly say in the reviews? What was missing? What could have been better?
13. Official databases and research
Whichever target audience you have in mind, you could find a ton of information on them from already compiled sources. For example, Govt. studies, research conducted by big consulting firms like McKinsey, etc.
To find such studies, you can put in keywords like:
"Your target audience" + "survey".
For instance, in the example below, I put in: small business owners + survey
And you can see loads of information about research conducted on small business owners.
You can even look for more detailed studies, by using the keyword "scholarly articles"
For instance, to find out research on B2B marketing, I entered on Google: "B2B marketing" + "scholarly articles"
14. Communities, both online and offline
Are there any support groups/ networks for your target audience?
Formal/ informal associations?
Any magazines they may be reading for solutions?
Online forums where they are asking questions?
Some common online ones non-specific to a category are Quora and Reddit.
But also try to find communities specific to your customer/ prospect. To find it, you can just put "target audience" + "online community"
E.g. "small business" + "online community"
Think about any events that are particularly attractive for your target customer.
• How do these events try to attract parents to join/ sign up for them - what benefits do they promise, of attendance?
• What is their core message/ appeal?
• What is the atmosphere/ personality life, of these events? What is the highlight, and why do you think that is so?
• Look at the reviews after the event. See what people said about what they liked and didn't.
Try to go to these events if possible and network with them, and instead of selling directly, ask them about their stories and challenges, and what action they are taking now. Learn as you network.
16. Popular websites for your audience
These may not be direct websites related to your product or service, but indirect ones, regarding the general lifestyle.
For example, let's say you want to sell affordable hair care solutions for families. Knowing that in most low-income households it's the women who does the shopping for the entire family, you might want to read some lifestyle magazines for these women, which help guide them with their lifestyle. Then see:
• What topics do they most provide info on?
• What are the lead magnets on their website? If people are willing to provide their email addresses for this content, they might consider it extremely useful
• On the blogs of these websites, what kind of comments are the most common? What do people think and share?
17. Audience insights from your Facebook page
Irrespective of what business you have, it is always good to have a Facebook page, for analytics purposes. And share your website content there. Also share this page with your friends, and ask them to like it. You can also promote the page with a small ad spend.
Even if the page gets a minimum number of views and followers, you can either get insights from your Facebook ad page, or even check out the profiles of the people who follow your page. Depending on the content they post and engage with, you can know the following:
• Their interests and values
• Their priorities and questions
• Their personalities and the brands they identify with
We've already covered how you can look for popular content online. But to know the exact connection between your current brand and your audience, the best way would be to use Google Analytics and Google Search Console.
Besides an overview of your visitors' demographics and locations, you will also know which keywords and content are working for you, and which pages your customer are spending most time on.
This might give you a good idea of their topics of interest and questions they need solutions to.
19. Marketing agencies
If you have been running campaigns even without having built a complete understanding of your target audience, don't worry. While it is not the best way to approach your brand and marketing plan, it is quite common.
So if you have been using these agencies, and been running some campaigns, just ask them to provide you with a report of any data and insights they have been able to gather through the campaign results.
20. Marketing software
You may also have set up some marketing software, maybe just an email software. Depending on who has signed up for the software, has opened or clicked an email, visited your website, downloaded an ebook, etc., you may be able to put together an idea of:
• What kind of emails are opened and clicked most?
• What kind of lead magnets are most popular?
21. Your own experience and gut
If you have been working with your product/ service for some time or happen to know a lot of people in your TA, you will inevitably have formed your own intuitive understanding about your audience.
So in the end, also remember to listen to your own experience, expertise, and instincts, about the audience you are targeting.