This guest post is by Logan Marshall of the Free Life Project.
You now know a few ways to research the audience you want, but don’t have. If you already have a list, I still recommend you employ those strategies, but there’s more you can do. Much more.
In fact, the following strategies will allow you to determine exactly who your best customers are so that you can optimize your marketing to speak directly to their fears and fantasies, and push their “hot buttons,” allowing you to attract more of the same (high-value) customers.
This is incredibly important. With strategic engagement, you can virtually guarantee that your marketing will resonate with your ideal target audience.
Here are five ways to understand your customers better then they understand themselves.
1. Strategically designed surveys
Despite my systematic bashing of surveys, they can be a great way to uncover the unmet needs of your audience. But you have to do them right. Surveys can come across as annoying. And, unless you ask the right questions, your results will probably be pretty meaningless.
Here are a few guidelines to help you craft a killer survey (that people will actually complete):
- Don’t survey too often. Survey at critical times (especially during product creation) and use other, less direct methods to gain more customer insight. When you do survey, I recommend you use Survey Monkey.
- Be simple and direct. You have to remember that when people take a survey, they want to finish it as quickly as possible. Don’t you? With this in mind, it’s important that you get straight to the point. Don’t make people read. Eliminate extraneous decisions. Ask no more than five questions per survey.
- Ask only super-high-leverage questions. Most people fill their surveys with unnecessary questions that don’t give them real, valuable data. Whenever you design a survey question, ask yourself the following: will the answer to this question be immediately useful at this stage of my business? If not, get rid of it.
- Gather qualitative data. Instead of filling your survey with endless check boxes, ask people to give you short responses in their own words. By employing these “open answers,” you’ll gain valuable insight you could have never thought up yourself. This will allow you to communicate with your audience using exactly the same language they’ve used to speak to you.
If you want to master the art of survey writing, I advise you check out Ramit Sethi’s How to Write a $100,000 Survey. It’s free and will change the way you interact with your audience.
2. Automated email investigation
I’m all about automation, especially when it comes to my email list. With this in mind, I like to weave strategic questions into my autoresponder sequence.
For example, say I just finished an email all about traffic generation. Instead of just ending the content, I’ll say something like, “What can I help you with? Please hit “reply” right now and send me your two biggest problems related to traffic generation.”
If people enjoyed the content, they’ll often take the time to respond. And the answers you’ll get will rock your world. And, if you get a particularly intriguing response, you can follow up with that person and keep the conversation going. Over time, you’ll start to see trends popping up, and you’ll be able to refine and optimize your funnel to match these common problems. Pretty cool stuff.
In addition to automated questions, I also have another (unconventional) email strategy. Here’s how it works: Every time someone joins my list, I take the time to send them an email. From my personal Gmail account. In this email I thank the person for signing up, build anticipation for the value to come, and then ask one question:
“What is your biggest [your niche] problem right now?”
This one “insight gaining” question, combined with the relationship-building power of a personal email is extremely powerful. (I must give credit where credit is due. Thanks to Derek Halpern for sparking this idea)
While email and surveys can be effective, nothing compares to speaking one-on-one with your readers. This can be via email or on social media. Or, ideally, you can offer free or paid consulting services and talk with dozens of people over the phone.
However you do it, the most important thing you can do for your business is to spend time every day interacting with your customers and asking what their needs, problems, and dreams are. Even a few consulting sessions will revolutionize your understanding of what makes your audience tick.
While I don’t claim to be a webinar expert, I know that they can be extremely effective both for understanding your audience and selling your products. Webinars allow you to monitor people’s questions in real time and really put a finger on how they are responding to your content.
Here’s the webinar workflow:
- Deliver extraordinary value upfront.
- Open up to questions at the end.
- Follow up with people after the webinar (email them) and ask for their feedback.
Try it out. You’ll learn a ton.
As you know, Facebook is a great place to interact with your audience. It rocks. It’s one of the best engagement platforms on the web. I’ve found that people let down their guard on Facebook and really spill the good, juicy, valuable beans. The stuff you’re searching for. The insights that will skyrocket your success.
Plus, it’s fun to meet them!
How do you use Facebook to better understand your audience? I have two main ways:
1. Regularly ask engaging (but valuable) questions on your Facebook fan page
People love to talk about themselves and their problems. Especially on Facebook. I know I do. With this in mind, using your fan page to ask fun, strategic questions can be extremely effective. Questions like:
- “Describe your ideal life one year from now in one sentence.”
- “I can’t figure out X! What is the biggest thing you’re struggling with in your business right now?”
- If you could take a pill and instantly become a master at any online skill, what would it be?”
…you get the point. Keep your questions engaging and fun. Ask for short answers (people will be much more likely to respond). Respond to peoples comments and keep the conversation going.
2. Do weekly Facebook chats
This is a strategy I noticed Blog Tyrant using with his “Sunday Night Facebook Jams.” Here’s how it works.
Once a week, hang out on your Facebook page for a few hours and let people ask you any question they have regarding a certain topic. For example, a while back Blog Tyrant held a “Jam” about Blogging SEO. Here’s what his email said:
Hope you are all well.
Well, its time for another Sunday Night Facebook Jam! Tonight’s topic is any question you have about getting ranked on Google. It’s all about Blogging SEO!
Just head on over to the Facebook page and leave a comment. I’ll hang around for two hours. Oh, and if you share the page with your friends you’ll go into the draw to win a FREE SEO Audit by me.
See you over there. It starts now!
See how that works?
This strategy is extremely powerful and will also help you improve yourEdgeRank Score so that you show up in the news feeds of your fans more often.
Key reader research tactics
In all of this there are few key takeaways I want you to understand:
- Whatever strategy you decide to focus on, the key is to engage with your audience daily and keep your finger on their pulse so that you can fill their needs better than anyone else.
- Instead of randomly talking to everyone and anyone, focus on talking to the “critical few” in your business: subscribers and customers. Especially customers. These are the people you want to “target” and attract more of.
- Focus on employing high-leverage strategies to get the biggest results for the least effort.
- Pay attention and be interested in what your audience has to say. Not only will this increase your insights and understanding, but your authenticity will shine through, winning you more loyal fans and customers.
Oh and one more thing: if you employ even a few of these strategies on a regular basis, you’ll likely have a ton of data about your audience. My advice is that you compile it all into a common folder that you can refer to when creating content and marketing.
Putting it all together: creating your customer avatar
Okay, now is the time to create what Eben Pagan calls a “Customer Avatar.” If you’re unfamiliar with this idea, a “Customer Avatar” or “Customer Persona” is basically an imaginary person who represents the composite of your ideal customer. It’s a figure who you’ve determined to be your “average” customer based on the data you’ve gathered.
Yaro Starak explains it like this:
“The best example of an avatar that I can refer you to is that of characters you create in video games. In games you can often define appearance (include fine detail attributes like eye and hair color), strengths, weaknesses, associations, and all manner of conditions that make up your character in the game. You play the avatar in the game world and its characteristics influence what you experience in the game.”
This is exactly what we’re doing. Just for the kind of person who reads your blog or purchases the product or service you sell.
Knowing this information allows you cut through the clutter and talk directly to the right audience with messaging and a language that resonates with them with emotional impact. Watch this video for a better understanding.
As Andre Chaperon puts it:
“Creating a customer avatar allows you to “get specific” and use triggers and hot-buttons to help pull your audience towards you (towards your offer).”
Incredibly powerful stuff. Here’s how to do it:
- Get out a black sheet of paper.
- Using the knowledge you’ve gathered about the hopes, fears, and dreams of your audience, “project” yourself into their shoes and answer the following questions:
- What’s your gender?
- What’s your name?
- What’s your age?
- Marital status? Kids?
- What do you do for a living?
- What do you look like?
- What do you believe in?
- What communities do you belong to?
- What really ticks you off?
- Who do you want to be like?
Try to really “fill out” this persona so that you have a crystal-clear understanding of the person you’re talking to. Get specific. Give them a name. Really “feel” what it is like to be them.
Don’t worry about getting this perfect right away. It will be an evolving process. It won’t happen overnight. As your business grows and you learn more about your audience, your “Avatar” will change, and that’s fine. The key is to get started.
Use what you know to create a rough avatar right now, or create a plan to better understand your audience. Schedule a survey. Analyze Quantcast. Plan a Facebook chat. Offer free consulting. Whatever you decide to do, don’t wait. I see so many “Wantrepreneurs” just messing around online instead of actually doing what it takes to achieve success. Yes, it takes work, but it’s worth it. And, once you get started you’ll realize that it’s actually a ton of fun.
The bottom line
I’ve know there’s a lot of information in this and yesterday’s post. And I hope I’ve given you at least a few “Aha!” moments.
But you’re probably wondering a common question: What does all this add up to? What’s the end result of a crystal clear understanding of who my audience is and what they are looking for?
Well, simply this: by understanding your audience at a deep level you’re able to create marketing that speaks directly to them. Marketing the makes them stop dead in their tracks and give your site their full attention. Marketing that skyrockets conversions.
You’ll know exactly what you need to say to get people to subscribe to your list, feel an immediate connection to your message, open and read your emails, comment on your posts, and when the time is right, buy what you have to offer.
As Eben Pagan puts it, “You must know what you’re offering, who it’s for and what the benefit is to them, then present it to the irrational human mind. If you don’t, you might as well not even start.”
Stop writing about what you think your audience wants. Stop guessing. Stop assuming. Discover what needs are going unmet, what your audience really wants, what is “emotionally motivating” them to seek out a solution, and crush it.
Logan Marshall is on a mission to help aspiring entrepreneurs change the world with their message. If you’re one of them, check out the cinematic trailer to his upcoming blog.