Defining your target audience or buyer persona is a must for any online business. Every piece of content that you produce should reflect who you are as a business and who you are communicating with. Otherwise you are simply writing to a faceless audience and your content will suffer from being either too vague and generalised or completely missing the mark with who is actually reading it.
In this blog we will be focusing on defining your target audience so you can communicate with them more effectively thereby producing a favourable outcome. In other words more sales, increased trust, yada yada da. 🙂
So what is a Target Audience?
A target audience is a group of people identified as the intended recipient of any form of communication delivered by a group or individual. In other words whoever you want to communicate with. In this instance we will focusing on the target audience of online retailers.
Why is it important to online retailers?
A Target Audience is vital to online sellers so they know and understand who it is they are selling to. This knowledge enables them to communicate more effectively and offer the kind of service the audience seeks.
What can you achieve by knowing your Target Audience?
Knowing your target audience will generally translate into more sales for online sellers. Better communication between seller and buyer increases customer satisfaction and allows the seller to genuinely engage with the buyer.
You have no doubt heard that ‘Words have power’ or ‘The pen is mightier than the sword’. Right?
Well it’s true.
Words indeed have power but only to the right ears. If you were to convey the intricacies and truth of the scriptures to an atheist you will probably bore them to tears. However if you were to speak to a religious historian or an enthusiastic believer they will be all ears.
In other words, you need to know your target audience and speak their language.
In the following blog I will go through the steps with you to determine who your target audience is, so you can start your marketing campaign on the right note. Whether that may be updating your product descriptions, starting a blog, preparing an email campaign or a social campaign, you’ll know your messaging will be relevant.
Shall we begin?
How to find and define your target audience
Before you even begin, here are some general questions that should be going through your mind to determine who your target audience is:
Who is buying your product or service?
What are they buying?
When are they buying it?
Where are they buying?
How are they buying?
Why are they buying?
They will become more specific depending on your product or services but it’s safe to say that their orientation will be based on the above questions.
Now the best place to start is by analysing your current customers.
1. Your existing customers - A goldmine of information
If you are an existing online seller you may already have a notion of who your buyers are and what they are buying. But a notion is only a starting point. You need to dig deeper to find out who your existing customers really are.
Let’s start with your own list of customers.
Whenever you sell an item on your website you will gather some information.
As a minimum you will have:
- Phone number
- Time of sale
- Payment method
- Buying history
Now let’s look at each piece of information individually and see how it will help you in defining your target audience.
What’s in a name?
A person’s name will in most cases tell you their gender and will also help you determine their cultural background.
A person’s address can also help you in determine their cultural background specially if you sell internationally. But it may also be an indication of their socio economic status.
Email and Phone Number
An email is not so useful in determining your target audience but it will be helpful to gather additional information. (More on that later) The same can be said of phone numbers.
Time of Sale
Is your product seasonal? Or there may be a completely different reason why you sell more of a particular product in Winter or Summer. Your product may be subject to changing weather conditions, school holidays or cultural events such as Christmas and Easter.
Payment method may not be seemingly relevant but it could play a role in later promotions. You may find that PayPal is your buyer’s preferred method of payment. This could inform your marketing material or promotions in conjunction with PayPal. At the very least it suggests that some customers are concerned about security.
A customer’s buying history is the most valuable piece of information you can have. With it you can gauge buying patterns to give you a clear picture of what it is they are interested in. In conjunction with other information you have, it becomes even more valuable but I’ll come back to this point later on.
Regardless of how many customers you have on file, chances are that you still don’t have enough information for it to be useful in any marketing campaign.
But don’t despair there is a simple way to gather more information.
A Simple Survey
A tried and tested method to gather additional information about your customers is to ask them to take a survey. It may sound daunting and annoying for your customers but it really isn’t.
The survey doesn’t have to be long, two or three qualifying questions are enough. I would also recommend you use multiple choice with check boxes for responses. It’s quick, easy and unintrusive.
For example if you have a music store you may ask some of the following questions:
Age group – No need to be specific, an age range is less intrusive
Style of music they play – Rock, Jazz, funk etc.
Musical experience – Beginner, intermediate or advanced
If you feel like your customers don’t have the time to answer any questions, offer something in return, an incentive. A 10% discount on their next purchase should be enough of a sweetener.
Analysing your existing information
As mentioned earlier each point of information you have on your customers must be analysed in relation to others. Of course it is all relative to the kind of business you are running.
But take a hypothetical music store as an example. You might find that a large portion of 18 – 25 year olds with intermediate experience are purchasing electric guitars between $500 – $1000. Furthermore most guitars in that price range are sold in February which you quickly conclude is due to the intake of new students at the local music school.
You might be thinking, that’s it, that’s my target audience. Well partly, but you are not there yet if you want to communicate with your customers and potential customers effectively.
2. Growing your business beyond your customer base
This next section of the blog deals mostly with discovering your target audience outside your existing customer base but it is equally applicable to them. As you find out more about potential customers you will also have more insight into your existing customer base because theoretically they are part of the same niche group that you are developing.
Continuing with our guitar store example, there are other intermediate guitar players that don’t currently purchase from your store. So the aim is to find them and see what they are all about so you can communicate with them effectively through your marketing efforts.
A great place to start is forums.
Forums are where people chat about everything related to a topic. It could be anything from their love of a brand and any issues relating to that brand.
You can even partake in discussions people are having.
For example on the Les Paul forum a simple question such as the difference between a Gibson Les Paul Studio and a Les Paul Standard will have nearly a hundred responses. Just scanning through will give you an idea about how most people feel about the two, who is buying them and what they prefer to use.
Now if you are selling Gibson guitars this is vital information for any marketing you are looking to do.
One word of caution, forums can be a bit overwhelming with the amount of information they offer so I would suggest you use the search function. If you are a retailer focus on a specific item you are selling and read what people are saying and if need be engage with them to give you a clearer picture.
Outside your own list of customers, forums are a definite must of places to visit when trying to figure out who your target audience is.
Quora – the place of many questions
You have probably heard of Quora, it is a website where people post questions and others respond. It is similar to a forum but with a different slant. A forum is closer to what you might call a conversation, where a topic is raised but it may lead into different paths. Whereas Quora’s emphasis is on answering a specific question without diverting from the topic.
A way to use Quora to help you in discovering who your audience is by scanning the questions themselves. For this exercise the questions are more important than the answer.
Because it is the questions that will tell you what most people are interested or concerned about.
This will give you an indication as to why they might buy your product or any reservations they may have about your product.
To use Quora simply use the search function and type something general about your product such the brand and model of a guitar. Examine the questions, look for patterns and similar questions.
You can read the answers as well as it will give you other helpful information.
(Insert screen shot)
Read product reviews from actual buyers.
Why is this important when trying to figure out who your target audience is?
1. People ready to purchase will very likely also be reading product reviews before making a decision. And you want to know what they are reading and how they make their purchasing decisions.
2. Individuals who leave reviews may be also be potential customers and part of that target audience that you are developing. It will also give you a direct insight on how they think about the product you are selling.
One of the best places to do this is Amazon.
The kind of responses that you will find will generally be related to:
- Postage times
- The things they loved
- The thing they hated
- Why they bought the product
- Who they bought the product for
- and much more
One way to analyse the data is again to look for patterns and repetition.
For example, say you are a coffee machine seller, an insight may be that a large portion of buyers bought coffee machines because they were concerned about using too many pods on their Nespresso and wanted a more environmentally friendly option. Knowing this about your audience could mean customising your product descriptions around environmentally friendly details or having blogs expanding on these details.
Read blogs related to your industry
Blog writers intentionally write to an audience in the early stages of their buying journey by responding to pain points, providing insightful knowledge and overcoming objections.
Amongst other things they are written to generate trust and authority.
Think about why you are reading this blog. What’s your next step? What are you going to do with this new knowledge?
In the current information world that we live in people will read three to four blogs before making a purchasing decision.
What you need to know is what people are reading before they purchase your product.
If you are selling Fender guitars for example you could use ‘American Fender Telecaster’ as your keyword term and Moz will list the most popular blog topics related to that keyword. You can be more specific with your keyword if you already have a developing idea of who your target audience is. For example you might use the term ‘Telecaster Guitars under $500’.
Once you have an idea of the most popular topics, simply use that term and do a Google search to find out what people are reading.
What to do with all this information – Segmentation
Segmentation is the process of breaking down a large list of subscribers or customers into more specialised groups based on parameters of your choice.
The parameters that you choose can be age group, price points, location or any that you deem important.
Segmentation is what you do when you have enough information on hand to be able to separate them into niches and sub- niches in order to communicate with your audience more effectively and directly.
In the case of finding your target audience, it will emerge naturally as you gather information.
All this sounds like a lot of work but if you don’t have time for it you can always contact me and I’ll be happy to help.
It’s not static either and you will have to return to it to make sure you are up to date. People change, buyers change and you need to stay on top of it.
Having a clear picture of who your target audience is will give you a competitive advantage. You will know who it is you are talking to, how to communicate with them and offer them exactly what they are looking for in a way that is reassuring to them.
You will increase your customer base and increase sales by providing a product or service to an audience that wants it.
If that is what you want to do, shoot me an email.
The rest will become history.