Most companies have finally figured out that understanding your audience is a big hint to success. Unfortunately, finding out more about this audience isn’t always easy. Many companies have a very diverse group of readers and/or buyers. If you have a company with different locations, offer a variety of products, or write about a good array of topics, then chances are you don’t just have one audience to understand. This then begs a few important questions: How can I understand each one of my customers, and is it even worth it in the first place?
Why Understanding Your Audience Matters
Content. The biggest reason that you need to understand your customers is because of your content. If you know who your readers are and what they are looking for in a company, you can tailor your content to them to improve your CTR and reduce your bounce rate. This will not only help you make sure you’re writing relevant articles and creating relevant ads, but it will help save you time. It always makes sense to understand whom you’re writing to before you actually sit down to write.
Social Media. Aside from just tailoring your content, you can also tailor your social media efforts toward a specific group. The great thing about many social media sites such as Facebook and Google+ is the fact that you can segment your messages for different groups of people. This makes breaking down your audience crucial.
Feedback. Third, understanding your audience will help you improve your product or service. You will know exactly what questions to ask, and therefore you will be able to better receive feedback, and hopefully be able to provide more relevant services in the future (aside from just a change of content on the website). In other words, it’s not all about analyzing numbers—it’s about actually getting to know your audience and responding to their real thoughts.
So how do you make it happen? What many companies have begun doing is creating customer avatars, or personas, for different groups of customers so that they are easily separated and can be analyzed when it comes time to make content and social media decisions.
How to Categorize Your Audience and Create a Customer Avatar
When you have thousands of customers or millions of page views, it can be overwhelming to think about creating any sort of avatar for anyone. However, it’s important to remember that a customer Avatar is imaginary. Unless you are an incredibly small company (less than 30 customers), you are not going to want to create a customer avatar for each and every person. In fact I cannot stress enough: Please don’t do this.
There are a few different characteristics that you should take into account when determining who to include in each avatar, and then questions you should ask in order to help you file people into these different categories:
Buying Cycle. This is the number one thing to consider when it comes time to split up your customers and create different avatars. Where someone is in the buying cycle has quite a bit to do with the type of content that he/she would want to receive (and therefore gives you the best chance of pushing that person through the buying cycle without overwhelming him/her).
Questions to Ask: Is someone still looking to be educated? Looking for product comparisons? Looking to buy? And then aside from just a B2C company, you have those on the B2B end of things. Is someone trying to learn more about finances? Trying to organize finances? These questions will depend upon your company. You can learn more about the buying cycle here.
Location. There are often location factors that come into play for many companies. You might only have certain products or services available in certain locations. If this is the case, you don’t want to put some of your audience in a group where you discuss things that are only available in a location far away.
Questions to Ask: Do the locations of your stores have very different lifestyles? Are you only selling certain products in certain locations? Do you ever have location-specific deals?
Role in the Decision Making Process. Sometimes you’re going to get the boss, and other times you’re going to get the employee who has to talk to the boss who has to talk to the boss. What these people want to see may differ based on position.
Questions to Ask: Whom does that person need to speak with in order to make a decision? Is the decision going to be a team effort, or is one person in charge? Are you working with franchises?
How many avatars you have will completely depend upon the number of answers you receive to each of these questions. You should hopefully be specific enough to create at least five customer avatars (five stages of the buying cycle), but again this will depend upon the size of your company and the array of things your company has to offer.
How to Get Started Formatting and Organizing a Customer Avatar
So you have all of these great questions to ask, but it’s important to have a system in place for actually asking your customers these questions and then recording the answers. In general, companies will create several different, paragraph long pieces of content that describes each customer. A few examples include:
1. Creating a fake name and a narrative-like story. You don’t need to go as far as creating a name; however creating something in this detail and splitting up customers according to the buying cycle works great. See UIAccess.com for the full persona.
2. Create a persona for each specific customer. This is something that works well if you have customers fill out their own persona. Have an option where someone can update a profile, and then your work is done!
3. A creative template for web design and those with some extra time. This isn’t the kind of template most companies would use, but some find it a great project for employees to who their creative side as well as prove they understand the customer. This example persona goes on to explain Penny’s website, which you can see more of here.
The moral of the story: Personas are a great way to better understand your audience so that you can tailor content and products to that audience; thus improving your relevancy for those who are really interested. This is also a great tool for companies who train employees because it’s an easy way for the new worker to get a feel for the audience.
Have you ever spent time creating a customer avatar? Do you have a strategy that worked for you? Let us know your story and your thoughts in the comments below.
Photo Credit: minternetmarketing.com
Amanda DiSilvestro gives small business and entrepreneurs SEO advice ranging from keyword density to recovering from algorithm updates. She writes for HigherVisibility, a nationally recognized SEO firm that offers national and local SEO service to a wide range of companies across the country.