Where did you last experience exceptional customer service? If your local bakery, grocer or trusted hairdresser come to mind, that’s no coincidence. It’s because they know you and act accordingly. The lesson for any digital customer experience? The better you know your client, the better the experience you can offer them.
Why do you need to identify your audience?
Long gone are the times when you could simply throw out your marketing net and see how many “fish” you catch. Personalized messages and a customized approach are definitively the way to go in the digital era. But before you can do that, you need to know your audience.
The benefits to knowing your target audience:
- Build stronger connections with customers by understanding their preferences and needs.
- Segmenting the market allows you to personalize the customer experience.
- Optimize your marketing budget by using the right channels, targeting more accurately, and generating higher conversion rates.
What information do I need?
First, ask yourself what kind of customer information would be potentially useful to you. When marketing your burger restaurant, it would be useful to know who the vegetarians are. Again, you can only ask customers type of information if they consent to it. If you’re building software for companies, it’s important to know if you’re successfully targeting decision makers. Create a list of data points that are essential to improving and personalizing your customer experience.
For almost any business, there are a few basic data domains that are always valuable:
Age and gender are the most basic segments, but any information on what ‘population group’ your customer is in is helpful. Another typical demographic segment is family structure. You wouldn’t target a young, single university student with a diaper ad, for instance.
If your target audience consists of people from different cultural backgrounds, ethnographic information is invaluable. Culture and nationality lead to very different behaviors, preferences and attitudes. If you’re a brewer, for example, you’ll want to know whether someone is a non-drinker or not.
The income and occupations of your audience can also determine if they are the right population for you to target. Knowing their income range will give you some idea of how much money your audience typically spends on similar products or services.
Build buyer personas to target your audience
Unless you’re the secret service, you probably don’t have an extensive individual file on every person in your target audience. Information sensitivity is important, so it’s definitely not recommended to collect any information that is irrelevant to your business.
Luckily, you don’t need to hire a private investigator to get to know your audience. Even a minimal amount of relevant data can help you create usable buyer personas. With a fixed number of ‘typical customers’, you can divide your audience into similar groups: people within the same age group and gender that share the same preferences.
Once you’ve defined your personas, you can even perform qualitative research to enrich them with typical preferences. For instance, their favorite online channels and devices, the most common barriers or potential issues that prevent them from engaging with a brand, etc. You can apply this information to your segments without having to actually ask every single customer.
The journey is just as important
Your buyer personas are not static; they continuously evolve and change. Consider where your customer is on their journey and adapt your approach accordingly. If you receive a complaint about your web shop, you should be very aware that you’re dealing with an unhappy customer. If they were to see an ad of your company at that very moment, it might achieve the very opposite effect of what you intend.
Some pitfalls and alternatives
Keep in mind that buyer personas are not always accurate, since you can’t collect data about a customer’s behavior offline. Build personas to create prototypes of your customers and segment your marketing efforts accordingly, but don’t forget to keep an eye on the real world.
Your buyer persona for John, a 50-year-old husband and father, indicates activity on Facebook and LinkedIn. But if your personalized ads lead to almost no conversion, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to keep pushing that message via these channels.
Don’t rely too much on the assumptions you made when you defined your buyer personas. Building personas to segment your audience can help personalize and optimize your marketing, and in the end, they will vastly improve the customer experience. But be aware that these personas are not set in stone and stay aware of other – maybe unknown – factors that might be at play. A little common sense goes a long way.
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