24th May 2017
This how-to guide is based on a presentation to Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) members and students at University of East Anglia. It aims to arm you with the skills and knowledge to paint a useful and valuable picture of who your audience is. It will look at their values, beliefs and behaviours, what they like, where they are, what they share, how they interact with brands, what they hate, when they hate it, how they use content, how they engage with your brand.
Getting to know your audience is an ongoing investigation. You’re going to research the evidence you need to work out the above, always adding new pieces of information – new insights. This is so that you can create the right content to engage them, in the right way, in the right place.
Why is knowing who your audience is important? Your product is always the same… why not talk about that? It is after all what you’re selling – surely the product should be at the centre of your messaging. How will people know whether to buy it, if they don’t know about the product?
The new Black and Decker hammer-action cordless drill: 2 settings, tungsten-tipped bits, free carry case, lightweight carbon-fibre body.
When someone buys a drill – what they’re really buying, is holes – because that’s what the audience needs – holes. Clean holes, quick holes, any size hole you want, the best value holes. So you might try:
The new Black and Decker hammer-action cordless drill: versatile hole-creation for busy professionals.
You’re not selling a cordless drill – you’re selling holes anywhere!
When creating marketing content, you should talk about the holes, not the drill. You just need to know what the ‘holes’ are for your product, and how the audience feel about the holes. This is so your content can be about the benefits of the product, not the specification of the product.
The more you tailor your message – your content – for the audience, the more likely they are to click a Google result or click a Facebook update.
So you need to find out who that audience is:
These are just some examples of great content marketing – from brands who know what their audience want and know how to reach them:
The better you understand the users of your product or service, the better you can engage new and existing customers to grow your audience and business.
How we can find out who our audience is?
This Venn diagram shows the principle that should guide all content marketing. We know what we want to say about our brand/product. We just need to know what the audience is interested in, so we can see what the bit in the middle should be – what content should we create.
If you work at B&Q, you won’t talk about your tungsten-tipped screws and rawl plugs. You might offer DIY advice or interiors inspiration.
We want to build a picture of our audience so that we can make content that will get them engaged with our brand, so that they consider us if and when the time comes to think about buying the product that we make.
How do we work out what that middle bit should be?
Why can’t you just say: “Google Analytics says the most popular page on the site is ‘get a classic car insurance quote’, let’s make lots of content about classic car insurance, then they’ll buy car insurance from us.” Because that’s not the whole picture.
Any strategy should be informed by insight, but a content strategy should be informed by audience insight, not product insight – unless that’s how people use the product and how they feel about the product.
Now, you can’t know everything about your entire potential target audience… but there are ways of getting close.
White, middle class, male, 35-55. Does this information tell you whether someone might buy a drill? Or an energy drink? Or classic car insurance? If you only look at demographics, you’ll be missing part of your potential audience, and talking to people who will never buy from you – and your messaging may not resonate with the right audience if they do see it.
A Dyson, sucks up dust whether you’re a man or a woman. When you sell a vacuum cleaner, you’re selling clean homes. So that’s what we Dyson might choose to talk about – homes, not hoovers.
So what do you need to know? What is useful? What will help you guide the content you should create?
Each of the questions below will help drive decisions about what content you create, how you present it, where you put it, and how you promote it.
This will you help make sure you’re creating content ONLY for people who may buy at some point – that you’re creating a VALUABLE audience, not just a BIG one.
So, how do you answer these questions?
Here are some examples of tools we can use to find out the answers to those questions:
Great sources of data and insight into who your audience is can be found in customer surveys, TGI data, Mosaic data, social media, Google analytics, focus groups and various other tools. All of these offer different types of data that can help you build a picture of your audience.
Example: ‘Classic car insurance’.
Below are insights from the Google Analytics of a car insurance website. The insights come from a list of the most popular content pages. From this we can see what people are already consuming on the site:
What does this tell us about our audience? What does it tell us about their needs?
This is search data about driverless cars: the ways in which people are looking for content about driverless cars – and the volumes of those searches.
Our data team spend hours researching search terms and their search volumes – how many people are searching for it and any for related topics. This can tell us how people are searching for things, how often, what’s important to them, what do they want to know, what are they interested in – and therefore, what content we would produce to answer this.
From this we can work towards understanding their needs and behaviours.
What does this tell us about this audience?
Answer the Public
Answer the Public is a website that maps the ways in which people are searching around keywords. And you get this… who, what, where, when queries.
You start with your basic term(s) – classic car insurance.
Make separate lists – cluster queries together into needs. Specific models, price points, problems, women’s car insurance, what qualifies as classic car insurance.
Broadly, what does this say about the audience?
Run the same for the term ‘classics cars’:
So what does this say about who they are?
So, you might decide that your audience is:
Look at the brand’s own social media channels to see what works and what doesn’t. Look at the posts with the most interactions vs the ones that didn’t get any. What are the patterns?
On Facebook you will also be able to see WHEN people are looking at your content. In this case: it’s 7:30pm.
What does all this tell us about the audience?
What are they engaging with on social media?
That’s your Facebook data – but what about outside of your channels? What content are people engaging with on other competitor channels? What’s doing well?
This is a screengrab from Buzzsumo. A site that tells you what people are sharing on social media about a certain topic.
By looking at what they talk about, what they engage with and how they respond, we can start to see what they care about – and why.
So, what’s being shared about classic cars?
Format: lists, funnies, pictures
What does this say about our audience?
A persona is a short description of a fictional person, using information and insight about your target audience.
Marketing professionals have been moving away from simple demographic information to personas, to help understand the emotional drives at play. This helps us understand WHO these people are, not WHAT they are; how the brand might fit into their life, and how you might create content to address their needs and fit in with their behaviours.
How do you create a persona?
You take all the information you’ve gathered – from search data to anecdotal information from client feedback – and turn it into a pen portrait of a person that exemplifies this.
For example: Google Trends says people search for ‘convertible car insurance’ more in April. People share pictures of their car online. They ‘like’ pictures of other people’s cars.
“Letitia bought her MX5 for a of summer fun having moved back to Norfolk – she loves the feeling of freedom it gives and it reminds her of going to the Mazda Drivers Club meetings in Stow Bedon with her dad.”
We start to understand how people feel about their car, or the role of cars in people’s lives, and how people feel about car insurance. From this, we learn what kind of content they might respond to, and the language, messaging and format used.
Once you’ve created this picture, we start to get a sense of what content we should create and where we should put it…
What are they looking for? What are their needs? What do they respond to?
Other useful info:
And that’s just from a few bits of data, bringing it to life with ‘Letitia’.
How many personas should you produce? Three, six, eight – as many as the data suggests are there – John the student, retiree David and single-mum Janet.
Gathering data is a skill, but the real skill comes from interpreting the data: what does the data suggest about your audience, what content do your audience want, and where do they want it?
Hopefully you will now be able to: