Understanding your audience will boost your effectiveness exponentially.
This applies to every marketer, whether you are an SEO, PPC expert, or even marketing via snail mail. (Even my son who sells gum to his classmates when the teacher isn’t looking can benefit from this lesson!)
Everything starts there.
The reason is simple. Once you know what makes your audience tick, you can design a sales funnel that’s personalized to their needs.
What’s more, understanding your audience applies to every aspect of your marketing.
In this post, I’ll be getting into how to find your target audience and do better marketing.
What Is a Target Audience?
Your target audience is a segment of people who are looking to solve a specific problem that your products or services are designed to solve. Your target audience could be defined in many different ways, including demographics, location, or interests.
The more details you have about your target audience the better you can speak to their pain points and serve them. The goal here is your insights should inform everything you produce whether it’s products, services, blog posts, or anything else.
What’s more, your goal is to have such insight into your audience that doing business with you is a no-brainer. The better you understand their needs the better you can serve them. The more you serve them the more business success your business will have.
Why You Need to Know Who Your Target Audience Is (And Who It Isn’t)
Whether you are running paid ads or SEO campaigns, you need to understand your audience intimately. This will inform every aspect of your digital content strategy.
The reason is when you are paying for ads, showing your ads to the wrong people will result in wasted clicks and pointless ad spend. As an SEO, you might spend hundreds of hours or thousands of dollars producing content that will never move your business forward.
According to The Robert Collier Letter Book, your audience:
…wants certain things. The desire for them is consciously or unconsciously the dominant idea in his mind all the time.
You want him to do a certain definite thing for you.
How can you tie this up to the thing he wants in such a way that the doing of it will bring him a step nearer his goal?
In other words, your audience is consciously or unconsciously thinking about what they want or need. How can you speak to the conversation in your reader’s mind? When you do that in the most helpful way possible, you’ll have their attention and will speak to their interest.
Why does this work? Simple. Your reader is already thinking about a problem that needs to be solved. When you step in and supply them with the right information or products, by consuming what you are offering, they become a step closer to attaining their goal.
That creates a synergy between you and them.
This means researching your audience can boost your business exponentially.
Two Approaches to Researching Your Audience
There are two ways to understand your audience and this is dependent on the stage your business is at.
The first option is to get insight into why your current audience is using your products or services. This is by far your best approach as by this approach you are leveraging an audience that already uses your product.
This approach is not always possible as not every business has a pool of loyal customers to draw from.
If that’s you, have no fear you can try to get an understanding of your audience by looking online. The internet is full of valuable insights into your customer’s wants and needs.
By far your best insights will come from people who currently use your products or services. The insights you’ll glean from them will not only help you to understand what they are looking for, but you’ll also learn whether your business is doing a great job of helping them or if it’s falling short.
This means getting insights from them is something you should do regularly.
The best information you’ll get is by actually speaking to them.
Interviewing your customers is easily the best way to understand your customers. By asking them the right questions, you can easily discover what their pain points are. What’s more, you can also gain valuable insights into the journeys they need to take to become paying customers.
The thing is…
Interviewing your customers is painfully time-consuming. This means you need to do two things to do this effectively.
- Interview the right people
- Ask the right questions
The key to interviewing the right people is to understand who your best customers are. I’m talking about your power users. The ones that have been using your product or service for years. The ones that tell their friends about you.
Okay, so you’ve picked your best customers, now what? What do you ask them?
You need to get into your customer’s heads. How does your business serve them? Also, when you speak to them, don’t just settle for superficial answers. Instead, try to understand how their lives are enhanced by you.
This means you are not looking for what features they like. You are asking how those features benefit them personally.
For example, if they tell you that they love your naturally infused skin brightening cream, ask them what that does for them personally. The answer might surprise you.
They might tell you that by increasing the radiance of their skin, they feel more confident. That means you are not merely helping to defoliate their skin. You are helping them to feel more confident about themselves. That’s the real benefit of your product.
To do this effectively, you might have to probe a bit.
What’s more, it’s a great idea to try to figure out what journey they took to find your product. Did they see an ad? Were they looking for information and stumbled across your blog posts or videos? What happened next?
Getting all of this information will help you craft sales funnels that will help your business reach more potential customers.
Now, since this is a time-consuming process, you might want to scale this process up by conducting a customer survey.
A great way to truly understand your audience is to set up a survey. This is less direct than interviewing your customers. But, you can hit a wider audience in a fraction of the time.
That said, just like the customer interviews, you should only survey your best customers. This means segmenting your audiences and emailing your best segments. (That said, you can potentially set up surveys at different stages of the sales funnel. But perhaps that’s a subject for a different blog post.)
What’s more, as I mentioned before, you want to understand more than what features your audience likes. You want to get into how those features benefit them personally. To do this, you may have to ask open-ended ‘why’ questions in your surveys.
For example, ask what products they like. Then ask why they like them and what that benefit means to them personally. The further you take this, the deeper the insights you will glean and the better you can position your promotional content.
Sales and Support Teams
Another invaluable resource is your support and sales teams. The reason they are such a valuable resource is that they deal with the end-user constantly and most likely have a clear understanding of what clients really want and need.
Include customer support. No one knows what bothers your audience better than people who regularly answer customer questions.
The great thing is, that it takes far less time than setting up a survey or client interview. Just meet with your sales team and ask away.
Once you feel you’ve taken this as far as you can or if you don’t yet have an audience that you can survey, the next step is to see what you can see online.
Research Your Audience Online
Although online research isn’t as direct as simply asking your existing audience, there are plenty of insights you can glean to get you started. The first place to start is to find questions your prospects are asking.
Luckily in the digital age, finding questions your target audience is asking is pretty easy.
Basic keyword research.
This is only the first step. After explaining keyword research, I’ll show you a powerful strategy I learned from copywriters that can potentially give you way more insights than simple keyword research tools.
But first, keyword research.
Getting to Know Your Audience Through Keyword Research
You can get far more audience insights out of keyword research than you’d think. Your keyword research shouldn’t be limited to finding search volumes and keyword difficulty scores. Instead, treat this research as the first step in understanding your audience’s pain points.
Although your keyword research can potentially give you insights into every stage of the sales funnel, here is an example of how to research top-of-the-funnel content with keyword research.
Let’s say you are selling dog training courses. What kind of top-of-the-funnel content can you create that will truly help your audience and will help them build a relationship with your business?
There is no way to answer that without some research. Let’s first find some topics that your audience is interested in.
Type ‘dog training’ into your favorite keyword research tool. I’ll be using the Similarweb Keyword Generator for this example. Now, ‘dog training’ is a generic term and will not make a good article topic. It’s too open-ended.
However, we are using the tool to see if we can find a topic that would reveal what Robert Collier (mentioned above) would call a conscious or unconscious desire.
To do that, go to the ‘questions’ page. This will show you question queries, which are keywords that Google users are typing into the search engine that are in question form.
The reason I go to the ‘questions’ page first is, that when someone types a direct question into Google, they are literally spelling out their desire to you.
They are literally saying that they have a problem and they are hoping Google will understand their query well enough to bring a satisfactory answer.
Since Google’s goal is to serve its users in the best possible way, by creating stellar content that puts your reader’s interest first, you’ll be aligning your goals with Google’s goals.
Find a Topic Worth Writing About
Now, before you start digging through all the keywords on the report (there are literally 2260 of them), you must narrow your search. Firstly, you must find terms that have a decent amount of search volume. The reason is if you don’t see a significant amount of interest in your topic, you simply might not have a substantial audience that’s interested in your topic.
In order to do that, click the filter icon. This will give you an option to filter the results based on search volume.
This way you can filter out any results that are not worth your time creating content for.
In the dropdown menu choose ‘>’ and then set a minimum search volume. I can’t give you an exact number. For our example, the search volumes are relatively low for our dog training search, so I set the minimum to 200. This means the tool will show keywords with a minimum of 20 searches a month.
Once you have chosen a search volume that you feel is worth your time, you can look at the Keyword Difficulty score to find keywords that are easy to rank for. If your site is relatively new, you should be looking for terms that are not competitive. In order to do that, click the KD icon and the report will display the lower competition keywords at the top and the higher competition terms towards the bottom.
What stands out to me as a great topic is ‘how do you stop a puppy nipping’.
All of this is pretty basic, but you need good foundations before moving to the next step…
Psychoanalyzing your audience.
Find Out What the User Needs
Once you have a keyword that you think is worth going after, it’s time to truly understand what the user needs. This means researching the topic further.
The first place to look is forums.
Use Forums to Help You Resonate With Your Audience
Using forums to understand your audience is something I learned from copywriters and I’m surprised that SEOs and digital marketers don’t talk more about this.
The reason forums are so good at helping you understand your user’s wants and desires is because actual users post questions and receive feedback from forum users. What happens next is the user will often give feedback on the answers given. This feedback is exactly what you’re looking for.
This allows you to quickly see if an answer resonates with actual users. You can also see if they have any follow-up questions. Take note of all of this.
Look for common questions that are repeated over and over by reading as many threads as you can. These are obviously hot topics. Take note of them. Take note of common answers too.
In our case, you are searching for forums that deal with your chosen keyword in one way or another.
If you can’t find a forum in your niche you should take a look at Quora. I love Quora for customer research because users get to upvote answers that they like. If the question is popular enough, you might find an answer that gets hundreds or even thousands of Upvotes.
For instance, I’ll show you how you do this.
Simply type your keyword into the Quora search bar. If you recall our keyword is ‘how to get my puppy to stop biting me’.
I then clicked the top question and scrolled down to find a question that had many answers. Once there, I looked for an answer that had many upvotes and comments. See screenshot below:
As you can see from the screenshot, this answer has 535 upvotes, 3 shares, and 28 comments. Since this answer has so much engagement, it makes sense to read the answer and then read the comments.
You can keep doing this until you feel you have a good idea of what your reader, in this case, the puppy owner, is looking for.
The next place to look is the Google SERPs.
Google SERP Analysis
Once you have a pretty good understanding of what your users are asking and what content they are looking for, it’s now time to put your SEO hat on and do some SERP analysis in Google.
Until now we have found:
- The questions they are asking
- The answers actual users are reacting to
We now want to take it back to Google. How is Google using content to satisfy its users?
The reason you should be looking at the Google SERPs is if your keyword research is showing you a decent amount of search volume, Google trying to serve that existing audience by presenting content. This means you can glean some big insights directly from Google’s machine-learning algorithms.
How is the search engine understanding your audience?
In essence, Google has to understand the content, understand the user intent, and match the right content with the user. This means Google has its own machine learning ‘understanding’ of the user intent.
So, if you type your keyword into Google at the time I’m writing this, this is what you’ll see:
There is plenty of user intent information here. If you look at the screenshot, you’ll see what kind of content your users are looking for. If you look at the People Also Ask box, you’ll see some related questions. For instance, one of the questions is ‘Is it normal for puppies to nip at you?’ Another question is ‘When should my puppy stop nipping?’
You can include these related questions in your content.
What’s more, if you look at the video box, one of the videos is dealing with ‘the biggest mistake’ people make with a puppy that bites. You can also include this in your content.
Now, hopefully, Google’s understanding will match up to what you found in Quora. However, it might not.
If it doesn’t, this is what I do.
I’ll read the top-ranking content to understand:
- All the main ideas included in the top content
- If there are any ideas that are repeated through all the posts
Now ask yourself, have they covered everything that you saw in Quora? If not, you have content that actual users have reacted to that has not made it into the top Google spots.
This is an untapped opportunity.
First, make sure your content includes all the points that the top Google content covers. Then, try to add the top points you saw in Quora, making sure that they flow. By doing this you will be adding value to your blog post beyond what Google is already presenting. This might just be the advantage that gets your content to the top of Google (all things being equal).
With that, let’s take a step back and see what we have learned.
Getting to Truly Understand Your Users
As you see there are plenty of strategies to understand your users. The question is where do you start?
In other words, do you have a solid pre-existing audience that you already serve? Or, are you just starting out?
That said, whatever stage you are in, probing your audience can only improve your business. And as I’m sure you know already, your business exists to serve someone. Your research will help you to do that better. The better you do that, the better your business will be.