Two of the toughest decisions you’ll experience as a seller is deciding your merchandise selection, followed by identifying your target audience. When unified, these two components unlock the path to business growth, bringing focus to your sales and marketing activity. Rather than casting the net wide, you can narrow your activities to align with a customer segment who have distinct characteristics and buying behaviors best suited to your proposition.
In this two-part series, I’m going to provide a step-by-step guide for how to approach conducting research as you define your objectives and hone-in on your ideal target audience. I’ll examine the methodologies, techniques, and tools available to help you profile your customer and guide you towards making better marketing choices.
Determining a target audience is essential to understanding who buys your products or services, their preferences, needs, and aspirations. It requires researching the characteristics your ideal consumer embodies and defining these behavioural attributes before creating a summary of who they are. In Marketing, we call this persona development.
By delving into the minds of your target market, you can gain valuable insights that inform your strategies, enhance the customer experience, and build stronger relationships. Using these different buyer personas brings clarity to your segmentation, making your marketing more intentional, and ultimately driving sales growth.
Let’s look at the first 3 sequences in this process, starting with determining your objectives:
Step 1. Defining your research objectives
Before embarking on any research endeavor, it’s crucial to set clear objectives. As marketers, our job is to create demand for products and services, and every investment we undertake should align with the broader goals of the business. By defining your research objectives upfront, you’re making sure the effort serves a purpose by contributing towards a tangible business result.
Consider the overarching marketing strategies and objectives of your business. Are you looking to launch a product, or refine your messaging? Do you want to create desirability for your product within a new demographic, or expand into new markets? Identifying specific goals allows you to tailor your research efforts accordingly and focus on the most relevant aspects of your target audience.
Furthermore, aligning research objectives with your business goals allows you to measure the impact of your efforts accurately. Whether it’s increasing brand awareness, boosting conversion rates, or improving customer satisfaction, setting clear objectives helps you track progress against your goals and derive value from the time spent on target audience research.
Your research objectives act as your guiding rudder throughout the entire process. They provide clarity, purpose, and a roadmap for the insights you seek. Take the time to define your objectives carefully, ensuring they align with your marketing goals and enable you to make informed decisions.
Step 2: Identifying your target audience
With research objectives set, it’s time to start narrowing down your target audience. By understanding the individuals who form the foundation of your business, you’ll be better equipped to develop tailored strategies that resonate with them on a deeper level.
This step requires looking at data across several dimensions:
Demographics: Start by examining the demographic characteristics of your target audience. Consider factors such as age, gender identity, income level, education, and occupation. These details provide a basic understanding of who your potential customers are and help you tailor your marketing efforts to their specific needs and preferences.
Psychographics: Moving beyond demographics, psychographic information delves into the attitudes, values, interests, and behaviors of your audience. What motivates them? What are their passions? What challenges do they face? Psychographics paint a richer picture of your target audience, allowing you to create bespoke messaging and experiences that resonate on a more emotional level.
Geographics: These consider attributes around country, city, language preferences, cultural nuance, and location-based accessibility. Is your eCommerce store able to handle multi-currency payments? Are there any product red flags that should be adjusted to the sensibilities of your consumer? Does your website offer multi-lingual capabilities? And should it, depending on your expansion strategy?
Desktop research: What existing literature can you uncover about your audience? Can you tap into the wealth of information available through tools like analytics, social media platforms, and market research reports. Exploring purchase patterns, online behaviors, and engagement metrics can uncover additional insights that help you optimize audience-specific marketing strategies.
Customer Segmentation: As you gather information about your audience, consider segmenting them into distinct groups based on shared characteristics. Customer segmentation allows you to create targeted marketing campaigns tailored to the unique needs and preferences of each segment.
Based on the nuances within each audience segment, you can start to craft specific key messages aimed to foster stronger connections and drive higher engagement.
Identifying your target audience is an ongoing process. Consumer behaviors and preferences evolve, and it’s essential to stay updated and adapt your strategies accordingly. Regularly revisit and refine your audience profiles as new insights become available to keep your marketing efforts remain relevant and effective.
Step 3: Selecting Research Methods
There are various research methods you can use to collect data and gain insight into your target audience. Customer-centric brands are known for embedding real-time feedback into their research on a continual basis, gathering first-hand information about customer experiences, consumer preferences, and product pain points.
Every research method has its own merits and limitations as a source of insight:
Surveys: Surveys are a tried-and-true method of collecting quantitative data from a large (or sometimes small) sample of respondents. They allow you to gather information on a raft of topics including product preferences, user satisfaction levels, price sensitivity, and more. Our recommendation if to design well-crafted surveys, using a mix of closed-ended and open-ended questions to capture both quantitative data and qualitative feedback.
Focus Groups: Focus groups involve bringing together a small group of individuals who represent your ideal target audience. Through facilitated discussions, you can gain deeper insights into their thoughts, perceptions, and emotions regarding your brand and its products and services. Focus groups provide qualitative data and allow for interactive discussions that can be used to uncover hidden nuances. They’re also great for message testing and conducting pre-screenings.
Online Research: Digital has transformed our ability to conduct consumer audience research through different channels. Utilizing online research tools and data collection platforms are just one channel for collecting valuable data. Social media analytics provide insights into customer sentiments, preferences, and trends. Website analytics can reveal user behavior, navigation patterns, and conversion rates.
In-depth Interviews: Conducting one-on-one interviews with selected individuals from your target audience can provide rich qualitative insights. These interviews offer an opportunity to delve deep into their thoughts, opinions, and experiences. By building rapport and asking probing questions, you can gain a profound understanding of their motivations, pain points, and desires.
When choosing the best research method for your project, consider the nature of your research objectives, the available resources you have, and the depth of insights you’re seeking. Often, a combination of multiple research tools can provide a more comprehensive understanding of your target audience.
That’s it for part one of the blog. Stay tuned for the next 3 sections, where we’ll be discussing the critical tasks of how to analyze the target audience data gathered, as well as tips for transforming these insights into actionable marketing strategies.