Whether you want to use the term “target audience” or “target market,” every operation is after the exact same thing – a loyal following that boosts online exposure. Every industry will be striving for this objective because a casual visitor is welcomed, but a regular visitor will be the lifeblood of your business.
To go a step further, you are really wanting to foster an environment that breeds active regular visitors. These are consumers who will share your articles, preach about your brand on social media and entice others to get involved. This is where the real goldmine lies when it comes to the topic of target audience research and analysis.
So where do you find these people? Do they even exist in your niche or in your geographic location? Perhaps there is a gap in the market where you have identified an opportunity that others haven’t yet, such as a dedicated NBA following in Vietnam or pet enthusiasts in rural Victoria.
There are two schools of thought out there and both of them can be applicable given your circumstances:
- Just create the content first and let the audience come to you
- Undertake some research to understand audience habits, then cater your site to build momentum, exposure and revenue
The reality is that there are success and failure stories in both camps. The ideal scenario is to combine the two practices and make the alterations as you go.
From search engine optimisation techniques to online and offline marketing strategies, your operation will not and cannot perfect the craft on day one. Mistakes will be made, but the important point is to get your brand visible and be flexible enough to pounce on opportunities when they arise.
In that spirit, let us explore how you can source not just a target audience, but a target audience that is right for you.
Audit Your Current Situation
For starters, we need to take a look under the hood and see just how smoothly or otherwise your target audience is performing. Whether it be from a sheer numbers standpoint or actually delving into their individual and collective behaviours, it is important to bare out every detail no matter how small they might appear.
You don’t have to be failing in this department to undertake some analysis, but more times than not those enterprises that are searching for answers will have been asking some pretty honest questions.
Take note of the following web analytic tools to give you immediate feedback on this subject:
- Google Analytics
- Adobe Analytics
- Crazy Egg
These software application tools will issue a vast array of feedback, but the most crucial of which will be the metrics that carry the most weight:
- Click-through rate (CTR)
- Time spent on the webpage
- Activity on the webpage
- Locations of backlinks
- Types of backlinks
- Referral rate
- Brand recognition and awareness
This is data that you will want to have as you start to create an image of what your target audience is starting to shape like. The more of the community that gravitates to a certain subcategory or finds you from one social media hub over another, you will begin to develop an intimate understanding of their habits.
Ask The Important Questions
Like an investigative journalist hot on the tails of a breaking story, it is imperative that you identify all the factors at play for your enterprise. The market will be a diverse landscape of casuals, loyal followers and a string of individuals who will fit someone between the two categories.
You should open yourself up to any and all questions that arise during your internal research:
- Do you have a satisfactory target audience?
- What is the objective you want to reach for a target audience?
- What tabs, headings and media does your target audience gravitate towards?
- From what location do they arrive at your site from?
- Is social media a major factor in facilitating traffic towards your domain?
- In what format does your audience prefer viewing, listening or receiving your content?
- How tough and dense is the competition in your niche?
- Have you identified strengths and weaknesses from the competition to garner a larger target audience?
- What can you provide your audience that they cannot access with a competitor?
Going through these questions helps to strengthen your own resolve to tackle the challenges that you will face and lay the groundwork for growth and development. This concise and clear definition will eliminate distractions and outline a list of priorities that should be stacked in the correct order.
Engage Your Audience and Reach Out
The programs that are available to audit your system of operation might be able to answer the majority of those questions above, but they won’t be capable of solving them all. How do you then fill the gaps in between what you can glean from software applications and the knowledge you obtain from personal experience?
The answer lies in those very subjects you are dissecting and examining.
There is no shame reaching out and asking direct from the source. The reality is that a healthy portion of your consumer base will be more than willing to provide feedback on your content and services – just be prepared to receive anything that comes your way.
A site like Survey Monkey will give your enterprise the capacity to ask current and potential customers what they are looking for within your niche.
Pose any and all questions that come to mind:
- What are you as the user searching for exactly?
- Is there a subject out there that is not catering to your content requirements?
- Through what channels do you mostly use and can you access our domain from that location?
- Are we performing adequately on social media?
- Would you like to see us provide something different?
An alternative approach would be to assemble a focus group or conduct one-on-one interviews with key stakeholders to understand their thoughts and concerns.
Before going down that route though, utilise the free tools like surveys that can be seen within Facebook and Twitter. These outlets allow you to shift between different sects within your target audience, giving you the power to cater certain content to one demographic and offering something else to another.
For Twitter advertisements, there is a “Tools” tab you can source on your account. Through this section, hit the part that reads “Create new list audience” and specify where you want to drop those contacts from. They can derive from Twitter accounts to email addresses, phone numbers or mobile advertising IDs.
Likewise for Facebook insights, there is the option to run advertising campaigns that filters one demographic over another. Should you run a real estate site, there is the capacity to provide renting content to young singles as well as a home buyers package towards retirees.
Do not feel the need to run a one-size-fits-all approach to satisfying your target market because modern software enables flexibility.
Primary research is therefore a fundamental practice in the field of audience analytics and it is key that you perform this task regularly. It informs the consumer that you care about their opinion and are investing in steps to improve the user experience.
Develop a Buyer Persona
Having followed through on these prompts, you will need to design what is known as a buyer persona. This is a means of profiling your target audience after the process of finding out the behaviour and demographic of your audience.
Without falling into concerns about stereotypes, a buyer persona helps to shape shared visitor characteristics to give you a sense of what an ideal consumer looks like, where they come from and how they are likely to behave.
Take a gaze at the Xtensio user persona tool as a starting guide. Here you can curate a collective identity that includes but is not limited to:
- Family/marital status
- Income level
- Attitudes and opinions
- Lifestyle and hobby preferences
- Interests, goals and objectives
On the surface this might appear like a jaded exercise, but only after you have conducted this research can you begin to learn both the what and the why of your target market. It is not a case of painting every age, gender or ethnicity group with the same brush, but educating your organisation on inspirations and rationales behind their behaviours.
Don’t Get Complacent
As a concluding thought on this subject, it is vital that your enterprise does not slip into a state of stasis and complacency. Target audiences have a habit of shifting their own behaviours with the advent of incoming trends and the introduction of new technology into the mix.
The video game industry is a case study worth noting. 10 years ago, it would be acceptable to see the demographic cut off around the age of 30 for hardcore gamers, but as they have aged to stay loyal to these brands and products, the market has expanded as opposed to transitioning purely to the new generation.
This research will keep you up to speed inside the tent of the operation as well as communicating your desire to stay abreast of news and trends to the outside world. Target audience research is not so boring after all, is it?
This refresher course is a great means of learning from mistakes and developing a bond between content creator and consumer. Should your enterprise showcase a capacity to genuinely listen to feedback, complaints and concerns, then that is half the battle won already.
What has your experience been like investigating your target audience? Were the results what you expected and did you implement any strategy to build a larger crowd? Let us know in the comments section below.
Kieran is the Social Media Manager and SEO Expert at SEO Shark. He is an expert in Social Media, link building, PPC and of course SEO. In his time off work Kieran enjoys reading and playing rugby, as well as following all kinds of sports! You can read some more of his articles here.