When you boil it down, the entire goal of digital marketing is to find your audience out there on the web. If you can find the right group of people to connect to your brand and the products or services that you sell, the possibilities are endless. Without that audience, however, all of your efforts will be sent out to get lost in the digital wilderness, never to be seen again.
The focus of this article is the matter of locating and understanding your audience online. This is going to look somewhat different for each individual business, but there are some common threads that you can use to head down the right path and hopefully start to uncover the people who can drive your brand forward. There is a lot of ground to cover on this important topic so let’s get started!
Start with Demographics
Before you can find an online audience that is going to align with your brand, you need to first understand who these people are in the “real world”. Only when you have a clear understanding of what your target audience looks like from a demographic perspective will you have any chance of figuring out where on the internet these people can be uncovered.
So, what demographics do you want to understand about your audience? That will depend on the market that you are serving, but some of the key points are as follows:
- Age. This is probably the first thing you think about when imagining a list of demographics that you might want to collect about your audience. Knowing how old your average buyer is likely to be will be key in the quest to find these people out there in the digital landscape. A 60-year-old is likely to spend time online in very different places than a 20-year-old, so it’s critical that you know what age your buyers are likely to be. For most businesses, it’s pretty easy to estimate target age with minimal research, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble on this point.
- Gender. Another one that is pretty simple to sort out is gender. Many products and services are of equal interest to men and women, so in that case, you won’t really need to consider gender in your marketing efforts. And, if you happen to sell something that is aimed at men or women but not both, you’ll likely know it without any further research.
- Income level. This is a big one, and it is somewhat easy to overlook. Knowing roughly how much your target audience earns on an annual basis is another piece of information that will help you use the right digital marketing channels. The methods and techniques that work to find people who make more than $100,000 per year look quite a bit different from the methods that are used to reach an audience at a lower income level.
- Location. You’ll also know where your buyers are likely to live. For a business that serves a local audience, this is an easy one – but it gets a little more complicated if you sell things online and can ship across the country or around the world. Even in a digital environment, it’s important to have location demographics for your target market so you can be sure to aim your promotions at the right areas and avoid spending money on ads that aren’t going to pay off.
There are plenty of ways to gather demographic information about your audience, although this will be made easier if you already have an established customer base. If you have been in business for at least a short while and have some customers to your credit, you can reach out to those people with surveys to simply ask demographic questions (you might want to offer an incentive for their feedback). If you don’t have this advantage, consider using a market research tool that can help you zero in on the right demographics for what you want to sell.
The Social Media Goldmine
For generations, marketers must have sat back and dreamed about a place where potential customers would get together and openly share nearly everything about their lives. Such a resource would be a massive gain for the marketing world, as the information provided through that kind of sharing could be used to accurately target segments of the market that aligned with the products or services being sold. Of course, it was just a fantasy, and no such place would ever exist.
Only now it does. Social media might not be a physical location, but it is certainly a place where people get together and share openly about things they like, things they don’t like, and everything in between. If you aren’t using social media in one way or another to grow your understanding of the market and the place your brand holds within it, you are certainly missing out.
One of the best ways to collect data from social media that you can use in building an ideal audience is to employ social listening tools. These tools allow you to look for and track certain types of activity on various social platforms, such as the use of given hashtags or the mention of certain brands. This is a far more effective strategy than trying to do such listening manually, and the result should leave you with a better understanding of who you need to reach on the web.
Keyword Tools – and Critical Thinking
It’s not breaking news that you can use keyword tools to find out what an audience is interested in online and what they are trying to uncover through the search engines. If you do any kind of online marketing at all, you almost certainly use a keyword tool currently as one of the foundational pieces of your strategy.
That’s a good start, but we want to remind you to layer some critical thinking on top of the use of such a tool. When searching for keywords to target, think about the actual search intent behind the search that is being performed. What does the user really want to find? Too often, marketers will take keywords at face value and assume that every search within a given niche will serve their needs. This thinking can lead to casting a net that is too wide and you’ll end up with plenty of wasted spending as you attempt to target people who just aren’t going to be interested in what you have to offer.
Let’s walk through a quick example of search intent to make this point clear. Imagine you run a website that sells bowling shoes. If you use a keyword research tool to identify keywords in that niche, you are likely to find plenty of variety in the searches that have been recorded by Google and others. To be sure, the term “bowling shoes” will be on the list, along with plenty of variations. Consider these two variations and think about their intent –
“men’s size 10 bowling shoes”
“what do bowling shoes have on the sole”
Both of these searches have the term “bowling shoes” present, but they are very different. The first search is a perfect target for a business that sells bowling shoes – the person behind that search has offered specific information and they are clearly looking to purchase some shoes. This is the exact type of user that you would want to target as part of your ideal audience in this situation.
The story is different with the second search. Is this person interested in buying some bowling shoes? Maybe, but maybe not. They could be early in the process of looking for bowling shoes, or they might simply be trying to settle a debate with a friend about why bowling shoes slide so easily across the floor. Spending too much time and effort targeting such a keyword could be nothing more than a waste of time. In anything, you might use this kind of keyword as an opportunity to build some informational content on your site, but you don’t want to see it as a buyer intent keyword that should be pursued for a conversion.
Engage Your Customers through Surveys
There are plenty of advanced, complex methods that can be used to collect information about your target audience, but sometimes it’s best to keep things simple. If you want to know more about the people who are likely to buy your products or services, the best approach might be simply to ask the people you have already served. We mentioned this idea briefly earlier, but it deserves a little more attention here.
Even if you have only been in business for a short time, you have probably made at least a few sales. Take some time to build a survey and reach out to those past clients to get some valuable information about why they picked your brand over the competition. Did they like your prices, or were they swayed by the quality of your product and decided paying a higher price was worth it? How did they find out about your brand? Have they told anyone else about what you offer, and how was their experience overall?
While it’s easy to think of tons of questions for these people, try to keep your surveys short to make it more likely that they will be returned. The key to success with surveys is removing as much friction as possible from the process – if people have to work hard to provide the information you need, they’ll be more likely to just give up and skip the survey entirely. Of course, if you have a good way to entice past customers to finish surveys, like offering product discounts, you can expect to get more responses.
It’s important to understand that the quest to find your audience never really ends. Sure, you’ll have a much better picture of who you are trying to reach after you utilize some of the ideas on this page but remember that your audience – and the market as a whole – is forever changing and you have to pay close attention to make sure your digital marketing efforts continue to hit the mark. In other words, don’t think of finding your audience as a task that has a finish line, because this is something that should forever be a part of your marketing operations. We hope these ideas have been helpful and we wish you the best of luck moving forward!
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