5 Creative Ways to Understand Your Audience

Ritika Puri

May 16, 2016

Content marketers are well acquainted with the phrase “know your audience.” But how do you step out from the office and really get to know the people for whom you’re writing when you’re stuck at your desk executing? It’s this tough-to-answer question that forces marketers to cut corners. When you’re already budget strapped, how can you justify spending on usability research?

However, it’s a question that’s worth answering. According to research conducted by Media Dynamics, adults now see more advertisements than ever before. On television alone, their study showed that an average of 5.4 hours of daily consumption resulted in viewing 161 ads. Only 90 of those made any impression on the viewer, meaning almost 56 percent of those “push” advertising dollars were completely wasted.

With content marketing, there’s an opportunity to instead “pull” your audience by creating informative and entertaining material your customers will enjoy and find useful. Instead of pushing your advertising on them, they’ll seek it out – and maybe even share it with their friends.

But first, you have to figure out who your audience is and where they are, sometimes while operating on a limited budget.

Fortunately, there are some tricks that can help you get around this challenge. Rather than conducting an in-depth study, try to make the most out of the audience touch points you already have. Here are some ideas to guide you.

1) Conduct 30-Minute Customer Conversations

Why It Matters: In-depth customer conversations will help shed light on new ideas and allow you to see your business from the perspectives of your target audience. You’ll be better positioned to make stronger connections with your audience as a result.

Get members of your target audience on the phone using a conference line. Record the interview, and transcribe your conversation into text so that you can analyze, synthesize and share your findings.

It’s one thing to collect written feedback from a survey, but to actually be able to ask in-depth questions on the fly? You’ll be surprised how fruitful these conversations will be for identifying themes to write about and finding topics your audiences will enjoy reading. If you’re experiencing a traffic jam with your ideas, this approach will help you get moving.

2) Read Publications They’re Reading

Why It Matters: When it comes to content, there are many moving parts for driving success. In addition to mastering your subject matter, you need to deliver your material with the right tone, voice and style. Know what your audience is reading so that your voice blends in seamlessly.

Not sure what tone and style to use? Stuck on topics that are trending in the market?

Stop trying to force new ideas. Instead, take a brain break and read some publications that your target audience is reading – even materials outside of your industry. Figure out what’s popular and try to understand why certain writing styles and subject matter perform better than others. Synthesize this information with your company strategy, and you’ll have more clarity – and creativity – in your direction.

3) Talk to Your Support Team

Why It Matters: To maintain control of your audience’s interest, you must keep content fresh. By talking to your customers, you’ll make sure that your brand is on-point and relevant.

There’s no better way to understand your target audience’s pain points than to empathize with their frustrations. Who better to provide insight than the people on your team whose job is to listen to your customers’ questions and woes?

Ask your support team to provide a lens into the market that you’re trying to reach. Aim to tackle their challenges, and you’ll have a highly relevant, useful piece.

Bonus points: You can also ask your support team to share your content when answering questions.

4) Stalk Their Social Media

Why It Matters: What the audience likes is an invaluable piece of the puzzle. Without this perspective, you’re missing out on valuable information that can help make your content more noticeable and compelling.

Get access to your customer lists. Read up on your best buyers to understand what they care about, what content or experiences inspire them to share with their network, whether they’re blogging publicly and what they value most in their lives.

With this information, you can better tailor your marketing message and content to their needs and wants. Figure out what makes these individuals tick and what traits your best customers share in common, and set out to find more like-minded individuals. This level of focus will ensure that you’re building the right audience of readers who are likely to convert into buyers.

5) Get Access to Your Company’s Social Feeds

Why It Matters: Social media can help you collect firsthand data around the content that your audiences find compelling.

Your company’s social feeds are often the most direct view into the questions and topics that are important to your market. Understanding social performance is paramount, but you should also be able to see the bigger picture beyond reports.

Ask your social media managers for additional insights, perhaps to share examples of tweets and status updates that are representative of your most compelling brand conversations.

Use this data to create long-form content, and ask your social media manager to link back to it.

You’ll end up with a feedback-driven, relevant stream of content that shows your target audience that you get it.

Final Thoughts

There are several ways to learn more about your audiences on any budget. The key is to make the most out of limited interactions and resources. Be a lurker, and use the channels that your company already has in place for customer visibility.

Ritika Puri is a marketer turned entrepreneur and writer. She is the co-founder of Storyhackers, a business storytelling consultancy. After years of creating profitable multi-million dollar growth campaigns, she is passionate about helping her fellow marketers achieve the same.

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