Let me start out by being a bit harsh with you: if you don’t know who you’re trying to reach with your marketing, there’s absolutely no point in you even trying. Don’t waste your time.
Knowing exactly who your audience is — the type of people that buy your products or services — is the secret to successful marketing. You need to know who they are, what they like, where they spend time online, what they ate for breakfast (I jest on that last one. Sorta.)…the better you know your demographic, the better your marketing results will be.
Big Results, Little Output
But Susan, you whine, we don’t have the budget to invest in market research. What are we to do?
Here’s the thing: sure, giant corporations spend a lot of money on market research, but you don’t have to if it’s not in the budget. There are plenty of affordable methods for better understanding your audience that will get you great results.
Put Your Ear to the (Social) Ground
One of the most effective customer research tools is social listening. By paying attention to what people are saying on social media, you can learn a lot about the people you’re trying to reach. Here are a few examples of what you might learn:
- Someone tweets something negative about a competitor (sales opportunity)
- Industry hashtags show you what people want to know (blog fodder)
- People are talking about your brand (opportunity to connect)
Simply by sitting back and listening to what people say on social media, you can get a better understanding of your audience. You can also figure out which social networks they are the most active on, and put all your marketing efforts on those.
Send a Survey
You already have a great research database: existing customers. If you want to know how they’ll react to a new product, concept or marketing campaign, ask them. Use a survey tool like Survey Monkey to ask a few questions and get insight that will guide your plans from there.
A few tips:
- Don’t bombard them with questions. Keep it as short as possible.
- Offer compensation: discount on purchase, free gift card.
- Send to the maximum people possible to get accurate results.
Look to Yelp
Online customer reviews can be chock full of insight into who your customers are. If your business has a profile on a review site, keep an eye on it. You may see trends in customer sentiment that can help you improve operations. Some examples:
- All Groupon customers left negative reviews. Might not be the best marketing tool.
- Several reviewers said they wished you had [XX]. Get [XX]!
- Detailed reviews provide opportunity to connect with influencers, who can help market.
Nothing beats old fashioned communication for getting to know your customers. Pick a few and schedule a time to sit down over coffee (even if it’s virtual coffee on Skype!) and pick their brains. Let them know you’re trying to understand your market, and their answers will help you improve your company.
- Why they chose your brand
- What you could do to improve it
- What they like best about your company
You don’t need expensive focus groups to get to know your audience. With a little effort and analysis, your customers (as well as your Twitter stream) can provide all the detail you need to improve your marketing.