This post was originally published on State of Digital.
It is all about the user, it always has been and always will be, it is just that we focus on the user in slightly different ways.
With digital marketing, we usually concentrate on keyword and competitor research to determine the type of content that we develop. It becomes all too easy to get wrapped up in our digital world, and forget the needs, wants and desires of those that we are marketing to.
But digital marketing, just like offline marketing, should be putting your target audience at the heart of everything you do. During this post, I will discuss five techniques to help you further understand your audience without using keyword research, ensuring that your content is user focused.
Become an expert, taught by experts
Stakeholder meetings have become a key part of any online marketing campaign, regardless of the channel that you are working in.
The aim of the meeting is simple, you need to know everything that your internal contact and their colleagues know about the product/service. Immersing yourself within the business is a key part to not only cementing a client/agency relationship, but allowing you to market appropriately.
Some things that have worked well for us at White.net are attending product demonstrations, going on courses, and using the product/service that we are promoting. These things allow us to put ourselves in the consumer’s shoes, which means that we can provide the user with a better experience.
Stakeholder meetings could span several sessions, but by the end you should be well versed in the service/product and know at least:
- What it is
- How it works
- How it benefits the user
- Whether any changes are happening within the sector
- What pain points it addresses
- What the USP is
- Why it is better than the competition
- Any technical specifications.
These are just a few of the learnings that you should have gathered from these meetings. This is the only stage during the campaign when the people you are working for, will be working harder than you.
Become a member of the customer service team
On some occasions a series of meetings is just not enough, you need to see how people are interacting with the product and the questions that they are asking.
We often forget that shopping online is not always as useful as touching and using the product. Therefore it is essential to understand the questions that users are asking the business. This can be done easily by shadowing a member of customer services, or sifting through all questions that have been sent.
As you are listening to the customer service representative or searching through all the questions, you need to keep a look out for common themes. Once you have identified these themes, it becomes easier to create content to answer those questions and save the customer services team some time.
This can be quite time consuming and is not always necessary, but on those occasions that it is, you will find some really useful insight into what content your user is looking for.
Cheap, easy to create and not hugely intrusive, surveys are a great way to get information on what your users think of the product/service that you offer.
However in my opinion, you need to split your survey audience into two groups: existing customers and potential customers. This way you are more likely to get reliable results as the potential customers are not biased.
When surveying your existing customer base, the best way is to run an email campaign with an incentive to improve participation. By doing it this way you are able to be more specific in the questions that you are asking your customers. Although you may be providing an incentive to answer questions, don’t overdo the number that you ask, keep it to a minimum to get the best possible response.
For new customers, it is likely that you will want to target them when they are leaving the website and not whilst they are browsing it. Again, make sure you ask limited questions, and in my experience a single question for this type of survey will ensure that the user does not get annoyed.
When it comes to setting up a survey there are a lot of tools to use, but I would recommend the following:
Understand your audience through personas
Most businesses have or are in the process of creating personas for their marketing activity. If you have the ability to do so, then ensure that you read through the persona documents that the business has put together.
Although some persona documents can provide you with limited information, the majority will provide you with a few snippets that can be used to influence your marketing approach.
Some of the key pieces of information that you should include are:
- Who is your target audience (age/gender)?
- What channels do they consume content through?
- What influences a purchase?
- Do they use social media?
- Do they use multiple devices when browsing online?
Knowing this information will allow you to tailor some of the marketing content that you would create, to ensure that your target audience and user is taken into consideration. There is no point in creating something that your audience will not be interested in.
If your business does not have or are not in the process of putting together a persona document, then use YouGov Profile tool, as a quick way to understand your users. When using this tool, you may need to find a brand that is a close match if your brand is not within the database.
Although considered an old tactic within offline marketing and product development, focus groups are becoming increasingly popular within digital marketing.
The aim of the focus group is to understand how people feel about the product/service in an open and honest forum.
You will be able to ask those that use your product/service exactly what information they would like to see on the website, what questions they were asking and whether the website provided the answers. During this session you can get feedback on the product/service and discover how it compares to your competition. When you are running a focus group, ensure that you are prepared so that everything runs as smoothly as possible. You are talking directly to your customers, so you want to ensure they continue to get the best possible service.
Once the session has been completed, you should have a lot of useful notes that will filter into the strategy that you apply when marketing to your users.
And this helps how?
It is a fair question, but how many of you know this type of detail on the product/service that you are promoting? By going through as many of these steps as possible at the start of the campaign, you will gather a large amount of information about your users that keyword and competitor research will not provide you with.
Some of the information that you will have gathered will allow you to start to develop content that, alongside some keyword research, will be user focused.
If you are not confident in running these sessions yourself, then see if the business you are working for are running any internally. I promise you it will be beneficial to your relationship with the business, and to how you approach the campaign.
Are you using any of these techniques already? If not, I would love to hear the alternative ways you do go about ensuring that you are focused on the user, either in the comments below or on twitter @danielbianchini.
[Featured Image Credit: Flickr]