I’m old enough to remember the saying “The customer is always right” and experienced enough to know if they’re not, your audience research has done you wrong.
- Audience research is meant to help identify the best-fit audience.
- Positioning is designed to connect you with them.
- Marketing is designed to part the sea of who’s not a great fit and clear the path for those that are with your business.
There are so many places where you can learn about target audiences, how to connect with them, how to identify them, and how to turn them into customers. All give you tactics for how without really getting into why.
Let’s take a step back so that we can be clear about our intentions as entrepreneurs and business owners with goals beyond keeping the lights on.
Let me be clear that at no point am I saying any of this is easy. It’s work and we don’t get to skip the work. Eventually, it catches up with all of us at some point in our business journey. It’s how we make adjustments that keep things flowing in the right direction.
Importance of Identifying Your Target Audience
Before we can truly get into the importance of the target audience I’d like to share my definition of it for context. Your target audience is what some come around to paying attention to when they run out of friends and friends of friends to buy from them.
Ouch, right! I’m just making sure I’ve still got your attention…
It may sound harsh to some and ridiculous to others but it is a good starting point. Let’s go with a target audience is the audience that best fits your business in a variety of ways. The more factors that align with your positioning the better the fit for your business.
Here are a few as a frame of reference:
- They can benefit from your product/service
- They have a perceived value for a solution and what they’re willing to pay for it
- They prioritize the need to solve the problem instead of sticking with the status quo
- Your business aligns with that perceived value and expectations in a way that benefits both parties.
With that in mind, let’s look at the importance of identifying your target audience.
Your target audience, savings, and charm are the three most common ways small business owners and entrepreneurs are using to keep businesses afloat. Guess which one has more sustainability?
Audience research is a business’s initial investment in the lifetime value of its ideal customer. What does that mean? It is the difference between meeting someone who grows on you over time versus meeting someone and feeling like you’ve known them forever.
Your guard drops and you feel comfortable in ways that only make sense to the people with that kind of connection. How many wedding toasts, start with I’ve known such and such since… and from the day we met we just clicked, and now here we are I’m giving a toast.
Audience research is important because it’s the opportunity to understand customers on a deeper level that allows you to connect in a way that when others present alternatives they look past the temptation.
The reward for doing the research is that you can steer your audience through the customer journey with fewer obstacles.
When given the option of the business that grew on someone versus the business they knew from the moment they met you and now here they are, which one would you invest time and money into? As small business owners, we have to ask these questions because they have real-world ramifications.
Define Your Ideal Customer
One of the things I’ve learned over the years professionally and personally is that the people who truly know you don’t need to say they know you.
As consumers, we’re smarter and well-versed in being sold something. The shock and awe of personalization in an email has passed. Laws have been passed and the cat is out of the bag on how people put the right ads in front of you at convenient times. Now we’ve evolved to audiences giving permission to promote your business to them.
You genuinely need to understand your audience to effectively connect with them. Start by clearly defining your ideal customer and understanding who they are and what they value. This allows you to tailor your marketing efforts and positioning to resonate with their specific needs.
Key steps in defining your ideal customer:
- Analyze Demographics
Begin by examining the demographics of your existing customer base and target market. Consider factors such as age, gender, location, occupation, income level, and education level. This information helps you create a basic profile and better understand the characteristics of your ideal customer.
- Dive into Psychographics
Psychographics delve deeper into understanding your ideal customer’s interests, hobbies, values, goals, and challenges. What motivates them? What are their aspirations? By gaining insights into their psychographic attributes, you can connect with them on a more personal and emotional level.
- Uncover Behavior Patterns
Behavior patterns provide valuable insights into how your ideal customers make purchasing decisions and interact with your brand. Consider their buying behavior, preferred communication channels, online platforms they frequent, information sources they trust, and influencers they follow. This understanding helps you tailor your marketing strategies to meet them where they are most receptive.
- Identify Purchase Motivations
Dive into the reasons behind your ideal customer’s purchasing decisions. What drives them to choose a particular product or service? What benefits are they seeking? By identifying their purchase motivations, you can position your offerings as the best solution to their needs, increasing the likelihood of conversion.
- Address Objections and Concerns
No customer journey is without objections or concerns. Identify potential barriers or objections that your ideal customers might have when considering your product or service. By preemptively addressing these concerns in your messaging and marketing materials, you can alleviate doubts and build trust.
- Review Preferred Messaging and Content
Consider how your ideal customers prefer to receive information and messages. Do they engage more with articles, videos, social media posts, or other content formats? Understanding their preferences allows you to tailor your messaging and content strategy accordingly, ensuring maximum engagement.
By going through these steps and developing a clear picture of your ideal customer, you will be equipped with valuable insights that inform your marketing strategies, positioning, and messaging. This understanding will enable you to connect with your target audience in a meaningful way, driving stronger engagement and building long-lasting customer relationships.
Here is an example of what the customer persona would like for a B2B Service Provider:
Meet “Strategic Sam” – A Typical B2B Service Provider
Sam is a 40-year-old man living in a major city. He is well-educated with a Master’s degree in Business Administration. He is the CEO of a mid-sized B2B service provider company and falls in the higher income bracket, earning over $150,000 annually.
Sam values long-term business relationships and strategic growth. His goal is to become a thought leader in his industry, providing top-quality services that distinguish his company from competitors. His challenge lies in acquiring new clients and managing their expectations effectively.
- Behavior Patterns
Strategic Sam is tech-savvy and conducts most of his business online. He trusts information from industry-specific online forums, blogs, and LinkedIn, where he also actively networks with other industry professionals. He is a decision-maker in his company and prefers communication through email and professional networking platforms.
- Purchase Motivations
What motivates Sam to make a purchase is the potential for long-term business growth and the opportunity to improve client relationships. He seeks solutions that come with proven success records and prefers services that provide a high return on investment.
- Objections and Concerns
Sam might be concerned about the cost-effectiveness of a new service or product. He also fears solutions that promise quick results but fail to deliver long-term growth. Providing case studies, testimonials, and clear pricing models can address these objections, building trust and demonstrating value.
- Preferred Messaging and Content
Strategic Sam represents a typical B2B service provider who is motivated by building a credible, high-performing company in his industry. By understanding Sam’s needs, preferences, and concerns, you can effectively tailor your marketing strategies to resonate with him and similar B2B service providers.
Remember, while this persona is a helpful guide, it’s essential to regularly revisit and update it based on new learnings and changing market conditions. This ensures your messaging remains relevant and effective, strengthening your connection with your target audience.
Understand the Customer Journey
Each stage of the customer journey, from awareness to advocacy, requires a unique approach. A customer who has just become aware of your product or service has different needs from a customer who is considering a purchase or has already purchased. Therefore, it is essential to understand what each stage entails and how you can tailor your approach to suit the needs of the customer at each phase.
You’ll see and here it in different ways, but these are the customer journey stages that I use in my business and with my clients:
|Awareness||Here, customers become aware that they have a problem or need. They start searching for more information about the problem and potential solutions.|
|Consideration||After gathering information, customers evaluate different options available in the market. Based on this evaluation, they make the purchase decision.|
|Conversion||Customers make the actual purchase at this stage. After using the product/service, they evaluate their experience and decide if it met their expectations.|
|Retention||If customers had a positive experience, they consider re-purchasing and becoming repeat customers.|
|Advocacy||Over time, if they continue to have positive experiences, they may become brand advocates, promoting the brand to their network.|
For more detailed information on the Customer Journey, read my article: The Power of the Customer Journey.
Conduct Market Research
To gain a deeper understanding of your target audience and refine your approach, conducting thorough market research is essential. By exploring industry trends, analyzing competitors, and identifying market segments, you can gather valuable data and insights that inform your marketing strategies.
Market Research is the work that’s done to get a lay of the land and understand your place in it. The lay of the land is the industry trends, competitors, and market segments. A common mistake is to stop the research at the audience and not do your due diligence on the industry you’re trying to compete and win in. This has been the undoing of many small businesses in different stages of their business journey. It’s not limited to early-stage businesses.
There are businesses that take an industry by storm and do really well with their fresh and refreshing changes. The industry term for these businesses is disruptive innovators. They disrupted a settled market with new innovations. Part of my job during my corporate days was to help the companies on top stay on top. The way we accomplished this was by making sure they didn’t rest on their laurels and stayed up-to-date with trends, innovations, and available market segments, which is all done with market research.
Key aspects of conducting market research include:
- Understanding Industry Trends
Stay up to date with the latest trends in your industry. By monitoring industry publications, attending conferences, and engaging in relevant online communities, you can gain insights into emerging market shifts, consumer behavior patterns, and evolving customer preferences. Understanding industry trends helps you stay ahead of the curve and adapt your strategies accordingly.
- Analyzing Competitors
Study your competitors to identify their strengths, weaknesses, and market positioning. Analyze their messaging, marketing tactics, and target audience engagement. This analysis helps you identify opportunities for differentiation and understand the competitive landscape. By uncovering what sets you apart from your competitors, you can better position your brand and communicate your unique value to your target audience.
- Identifying Market Segments
Segmentation allows you to divide your target market into distinct groups based on shared characteristics, preferences, or needs. Identify market segments within your target audience and create customer segments that align with your offerings. This enables you to tailor your marketing efforts to specific segments, addressing their unique pain points and motivations. By honing in on these segments, you can deliver more relevant and targeted messaging that resonates with your ideal customers.
- Using Surveys, Interviews, and Analytics Tools
Utilize surveys, interviews, and analytics tools to gather quantitative and qualitative data about your target audience. Surveys and interviews provide direct feedback from your existing customers or potential prospects, helping you understand their preferences, challenges, and expectations. Analytics tools allow you to track website traffic, user behavior, and engagement metrics, providing valuable insights into how your target audience interacts with your brand online.
By combining data from surveys, interviews, and analytics tools, you can develop a comprehensive understanding of your target audience’s preferences, needs, and pain points. This data-driven approach helps you make informed marketing decisions and optimize your strategies for maximum impact.
- Analyzing and Applying Your Findings
After collecting market research data, the next crucial step is to analyze this information and apply it to your business strategy and customer journey. Remember, data without analysis is just numbers and cannot provide actionable insights.
Market research provides an abundance of data, but it’s what you do with this data that can truly differentiate your business from the competition. Prioritize identifying the needs of the audience, the solutions that are currently available, the price points, and the competitors in the market…
Even with limited resources, businesses can leverage tools such as Excel spreadsheets or Google worksheets for data analysis. These platforms allow you to structure and study the information gathered systematically.
Next, apply these findings to tweak your positioning in the market. For instance, if your research reveals that customers value sustainability, emphasize this aspect in your branding and communication strategies.
Data from market research plays a pivotal role in designing your customer journey. It helps you understand your customers’ needs at each stage and how you can meet them effectively.
Remember, analyzing market research data is a continuous task. Regularly update and refresh your data to keep your insights relevant.
That said, businesses often encounter challenges while analyzing market research data. The volume of information can be overwhelming, and without the right tools or expertise, it can be challenging to extract meaningful insights.
To address this, ensure that you and or your team is equipped with the necessary skills to analyze the data, or consider investing in specialized software or external expertise to assist you.
Market research is an ongoingl process. You should continually monitor industry trends, regularly analyze competitors, and stay connected with your target audience through surveys and interviews. This practice helps keep your understanding of the market current, enabling you to adapt your strategies promptly and effectively.
Craft a Compelling Value Proposition
A compelling value proposition is crucial in connecting with your target audience. It communicates the unique value your brand or business offers, differentiates you from competitors, and captures the attention of your ideal customers.
Another way of saying this is getting your story and messaging set in a way that provides the context needed for your best-fit customers to find you, and recognize the value that you bring.
Once again do you want to be the business that grew on a person or the business they knew from the moment they met you it’s a fit?
It’s essential to remember that the value proposition may need to be adjusted according to the various stages of the customer journey, as the messaging required will vary depending on the customers’ awareness and interest level.
Let’s explore the key aspects of crafting a compelling value proposition:
- Importance of Articulating a Compelling Value Proposition
A value proposition is the foundation of your brand messaging. It concisely communicates the specific value and benefits your products or services provide to your target audience. During the awareness stage, you can adjust your value proposition by educating the audience about the issue they are facing and explaining why your business chose to address that particular problem.
- Addressing Problems and Fulfilling Desires
A strong value proposition should address the problems, pain points, or desires of your target audience. During the consideration stage, focus on the key differentiators between your business and the other options. Explain why your business is the best fit and how your solutions stand apart from the others.
- Differentiation and Capturing Attention
In a crowded marketplace, differentiation is key. Your value proposition should highlight what sets you apart from competitors and why your target audience should pay attention to your brand. For the conversion stage, your value proposition can focus on the ease of use and the continued value that the customers experience post-purchase. This approach can help address last-minute hesitancy and foster an emotional connection with the customers.
- Consistency Across Messaging and Post-purchase Validation
Ensure consistency in your value proposition across all marketing channels and touchpoints. During the retention stage, it is essential to validate your value proposition claims. Businesses that deliver on their promises retain more customers and those that continue to add value turn customers into brand champions.
Case Study: Amazon
Amazon serves as an excellent example of a business that has successfully tailored its value proposition for different stages of the customer journey. Amazon leverages its extensive product range in the consideration stage and simplifies the buying process in the conversion stage with one-click purchases and various payment options. For the retention stage, it offers fast shipping and delivery options, ensuring customer satisfaction and building brand champions during the advocacy stage.
Crafting a compelling value proposition requires deep knowledge of your target audience and an understanding of their needs and motivations. Take the time to research and analyze your customers to uncover their pain points, desires, and preferences. Use this understanding to shape a value proposition that resonates with them and speaks directly to their unique needs.
Choose the Right Communication Channels
Bychoosing the right communication channels, you can reach your audience on their preferred platforms, maximize engagement, and deliver your messaging where it matters most.
If you know the customer you want the most is on LinkedIn it would make a lot more sense to put your focus on meeting and engaging with the client there. But just because that is where you’ll eventually have the conversation doesn’t mean that’s the only place they should be able to find you.
You’ll also want to be well represented on the other channels that they make visit as well. Where a lot of businesses miss the mark is using the same messaging and tactics for all platforms. Each platform has success with specific methods. You’ll want to stick with your positioning but think through how to alter your delivery based on the channel.
Key considerations when selecting communication channels:
- Reach Your Audience on Preferred Platforms
Understanding the communication channels that your target audience prefers is essential. Conduct research, analyze customer data, and monitor industry trends to identify the platforms they frequent. By meeting your audience where they are already active, you increase the likelihood of capturing their attention and engaging them effectively.
- Importance of Identifying Frequented Channels
Identifying the communication channels your target audience frequents helps you allocate your resources and efforts strategically. Whether it’s social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or industry-specific forums and communities, understanding where your audience spends their time allows you to focus your marketing activities on those channels. This targeted approach enables you to tailor your messaging, content, and advertising to effectively connect with your audience.
- Explore Digital and Offline Channels
Consider a mix of digital and offline channels to reach your target audience comprehensively. Digital channels such as social media, email marketing, content marketing, and search engine optimization (SEO) offer broad reach, interactivity, and the ability to track metrics. Offline channels such as events, print media, direct mail, and outdoor advertising can be effective in reaching specific segments or local audiences. By combining the strengths of various channels, you can create a cohesive and integrated marketing strategy that resonates with your target audience across multiple touchpoints.
- Tailor Messaging and Content for Each Channel
When using different communication channels, it’s crucial to tailor your messaging and content to suit each platform’s characteristics and audience expectations. The tone, format, and style of your content may vary depending on the platform and audience preferences. Ensure consistency in your brand voice and messaging while optimizing your content for specific channels to maximize engagement and impact.
A common mistake businesses make with their multi-channel communication efforts is they aren’t consistent with the messaging. This is why positioning is so important as an input throughout the business journey. When you’ve locked in your positioning the strategy and tactic may change but the core points that serve the business in connecting with the target audience does not.
The key differentiators are who, what, where, when, and why the audience should care about the business offering. If a business is using a different logo and brand identifiers it can confuse them and question your consistency and commitment. A flaky business doesn’t instill confidence in investing in its solution. There has to be a level of confidence and comfort building up throughout the customer journey.
Remember, every business and target audience is unique, so it’s essential to continually monitor and evaluate the performance of your chosen communication channels. Regularly analyze data, metrics, and feedback to refine your approach and adapt to evolving audience preferences.
Next, we will explore the importance of personalizing your approach to connect with your target audience effectively.
Personalize Your Approach
In today’s marketing landscape, personalization is paramount. It involves tailoring your communication and marketing campaigns to the specific needs and preferences of your target audience. This approach boosts engagement, fosters stronger connections, and is crucial to driving conversions and fostering long-term loyalty.
Personalization goes beyond the name in an email or on an envelope instead of being addressed to the resident. And yet even personalized emails have that cold ick factor when the only thing personalized is the greeting. Insert name emails get inserted into my junk mail folder.
The winning strategies don’t limit their efforts to surface things as common as a cold they show they’ve done their due diligence. Beyond looking at what was left in a cart and following up. They make a genuine effort that gets rewarded with brand champions.
Key considerations when personalizing your approach:
- Significance of Personalization
Personalization involves more than addressing customers by name. It means delivering relevant and bespoke experiences to stand out amid generic marketing messages. By demonstrating that you understand your audience’s unique needs and preferences, you build trust and a sense of connection, increasing the likelihood of conversions and long-term loyalty.
- Benefits of Tailoring Communication and Marketing Campaigns
Tailoring your communication and marketing campaigns to individual customers or specific audience segments offers significant benefits. It allows you to deliver relevant content, increase conversion rates, and build customer loyalty. Using insights gathered throughout the customer journey, you can refine your messaging and meet audience expectations effectively.
- Budget-Friendly Tools for Personalization
Even with a limited budget, you can use tools such as Google Sheets or Excel to organize customer information. You might also consider inexpensive CRM tools to manage contact data. Surveys, website analytics, and customer case studies can provide valuable insights into your customer journey, enabling you to refine your marketing strategies.
- Outsourcing Personalization
If time is a constraint, consider outsourcing personalization tasks. Third-party platforms or businesses can help deliver the personalized experiences that customers expect today. Remember, by falling short on personalization, you risk disappointing customers and losing them to competitors.
- Examples of Effective Personalization
Consider a dollar store, which effectively tailors its value proposition by focusing on location accessibility and inventory. Likewise, small, local businesses often leverage their unique knowledge of the area and the community to offer a more personalized customer experience.
- Gradual Enhancement of Personalization
As your budget, expertise, or time availability increases, you can gradually improve personalization. Start by implementing the insights you’ve gathered in phases, focusing first on those that help meet your goals and remove obstacles from the customer journey. With each happy customer, you gain more opportunities to refine your communication and improve your personalization efforts.
Remember, personalization is an ongoing process. Regularly collect and analyze data, monitor customer feedback, and adapt your strategies to changing customer needs. This ensures your personalization efforts remain relevant and effective in delivering value to your target audience.
Measure and Refine Your Strategy
The importance of measuring the effectiveness of your audience targeting efforts cannot be understated. Various metrics can be tracked throughout the customer journey to assess your strategy’s impact and success. The process of identifying and connecting with your target audience is an ongoing, iterative process that requires constant tuning and refinement.
Google Analytics 4 (GA4) offers a wide range of metrics that businesses of any stage can utilize. In the awareness phase, tracking user/new user metrics can provide insights into how your content is driving users and particularly new users to your website. The ‘Event Count’ metric can be very useful, showing the number of times a user triggers a certain event. This is important throughout the customer journey, especially during the pre-sale stages, as it can provide insights into which pages and events are resonating with your target audience.
During the consideration stage, your ‘Engagement Rate’ becomes a crucial metric. This tracks how your audience interacts with your content, providing key insights into whether your positioning, brand, and marketing strategy are effective or need refinement. In the conversion stage, ‘Conversion’ and ‘Average Engagement’ metrics can reveal what’s making your visitors stay longer and what’s making them leave.
In the retention phase, ‘Event Count’ remains important, offering opportunities for upselling and personalizing the experience. Finally, in the advocacy stage, the ‘Lifetime Value’ metric can give insights into the long-term performance of your customers, particularly useful if you have an affiliate program or track referrals.
A/B testing is also crucial in refining strategies for audience targeting. For instance, creating two landing pages with different layouts can provide valuable insights into how segmented audiences react and navigate through the page. It’s crucial to test such changes to the user experience before fully rolling them out to avoid upsetting loyal customers.
It’s also worth noting that a target audience evolves over time due to various factors, including advancements in technology and changing societal trends. As such, businesses need to continually reassess and redefine their target audiences. Tools such as Google Analytics (GA4) can help track these changes and provide invaluable insights to inform your audience’s targeting strategies.
Indicators that you may need to reassess and redefine your target audience can include a drop in retention of existing customers, indicating a disconnect between the expected and actual experience, or customers leaving items in your cart or dropping off in negotiations just before conversion, pointing to potential issues in the final stages of the purchasing process.
By combining these insights with the actionable strategies outlined in this article, you will be empowered to identify and connect with your target audience effectively. Remember, your audience is more than just numbers or demographics, and treating them as such will pave the way for meaningful connections that propel your business forward.
Retention and Advocacy: The Long-Term Benefits of Connection
Establishing a connection with your target audience doesn’t only boost immediate engagement or conversion rates – it also plays a significant role in customer retention and advocacy. When businesses put in the work during the pre-sale customer journey stages. The rewards are it’s a lot more cost-effective to get a repeat customer than it is to start that process over again for each customer.
A major stumbling block for a lot of small business owners is a lack of preparation for what to do with the audience after the sale. When you’re struggling and tapping into your savings the focus is on getting the money in the door and less on what happens next.
Retention and advocacy are the difference between working to keep the lights on and the business owners matching and exceeding their corporate salaries. They’re what allows your side hustle to fund your next step and take your business full-time.
This is where the lifetime value of a customer comes into the picture. Lifetime value speaks to what it cost to win that customer vs. how much value they bring into your business. If it cost you $100 to win a customer also known as CPA (Cost Per Acquisition) to truly make a sustainable profit you’ll need to recover your daily business cost, investment in your business, and your salary back from that customer.
The lifetime value of a customer kicks in when you take into account repeat business, testimonials, and success stories that aid in winning more customers. You’re adding to your credibility and potentially getting referrals from the customer who decided to sing your praises. Advocacy and referrals are the lifeblood of many small business owners. Word-of-mouth sales are a lot easier on your finances than maintaining a marketing budget.
Let’s explore the relationship between audience connection, retention, and advocacy:
The Power of Customer Retention
A connection is essential to retention because it fosters a sense of loyalty and satisfaction. A satisfied customer is more likely to stick around, providing you with repeat business and a steady stream of revenue. Moreover, acquiring a new customer can cost up to five times more than retaining an existing one, making retention a cost-effective strategy for growth.
When your audience feels connected to your brand, they’re less likely to be swayed by competitors. This connection can stem from a range of factors, such as exceptional customer service, personalized experiences, or a shared sense of values. Prioritizing these connection-building strategies can have a substantial impact on customer retention rates.
Customer Advocacy: Turning Customers into Brand Advocates
Beyond retention, a strong connection can also transform customers into brand advocates. Brand advocates are customers who actively promote your brand to others, often through word-of-mouth referrals or social media. These advocates can be a powerful asset, as their genuine and enthusiastic recommendations can influence potential customers more effectively than traditional advertising.
The key to turning customers into brand advocates is to exceed their expectations consistently. This goes beyond providing an excellent product or service – it’s about the overall experience you offer. By going above and beyond to deliver exceptional service, personalized experiences, and meaningful engagement, you can foster a level of satisfaction and loyalty that inspires advocacy.
Feedback Loop: Continuous Connection
Creating a feedback loop with your audience is another effective way to promote retention and advocacy. Regularly collecting and acting on customer feedback shows your audience that you value their opinions and are continually striving to improve. This not only helps you refine your offerings and strategies, but it also strengthens the connection with your audience, reinforcing their loyalty and encouraging advocacy.
In addition to structured feedback systems like surveys, also pay attention to informal feedback channels like social media comments and customer reviews. Respond to feedback in a timely and considerate manner to show your audience that you’re genuinely interested in their thoughts and experiences.
Ultimately, connecting with your target audience is about understanding them deeply, communicating effectively, and delivering value consistently. By doing so, you can build strong relationships that lead to long-term loyalty and advocacy.
Keep in mind that building a connection is an ongoing process, and it requires a commitment to the approach. Regularly evaluate and adjust your strategies based on customer feedback and evolving trends. This commitment to continuous improvement will ensure your connection strategies remain relevant and effective, contributing to your business’s long-term success.
By prioritizing the connection with your target audience, you can enhance customer satisfaction, retention, and advocacy – creating an audience experience that drives ongoing growth and success for your business.