As a professional service business, you are the new content creators. Often times, small to mid-sized firms will assume marketing activities in-house. The old method of throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks isn’t just ineffective, it can be expensive! Instead, start from the place the professionals do: conducting audience research. The clearer you are about your target audience, the more effective your content and overall marketing can be.
Before communication specialists such as content writers or public relations specialists can start working on professional campaign strategy, they know they need to know who that strategy is aimed towards. The audience of any marketing campaign will also be the future customers of the services that are being sold, and that marketing campaign needs to target the right people in order for it to be successful.
To better understand your target audience, you will need to conduct audience research. It can take on many shapes and sizes, depending on what you are seeking. To help you with this task, I’ll present you with some easy-to-use methods that work either independently or together, each complementing the other for a more comprehensive picture overall.
Here’s the type of research you can do to better understand your target audience.
Primary Audience Research
The first step in your audience analysis is to gather as much information about your target audience as possible. Whatever previous notions or ideas you may have about them should be put aside and focus your attention solely on what you will discover here. There are several types of Primary Research that you can use. These are interviews, surveys, observations, and analysis. And most importantly, your primary research should include a close look at your current book of business. You don’t have to look much further than your very best clients to better understand the ideal clientele you want to continue to attract to your business.
Qualitative Audience Research
Qualitative research aims at revealing a target audience’s habits and range of behavior by focusing on their feelings and opinions. This is where you get to know what motivates your audience and what they really care about. When you are conducting this type of research, you try and figure out the mindset of your audience and see which areas of your campaign or service need improving and which are performing brilliantly. Interviews and focus groups are examples of qualitative research. You should do this with existing clients and contacts, as well as groups of non-clients who would be ideally suited for your services. If you participate in a non-profit, you may be able to assemble a group of donors or tap into your local Chamber of Commerce. Get creative and go where your ideal clients are.
Quantitative Audience Research
Unlike the method above, which looks at feelings and opinions, quantitative research focuses on hard data, statistics, and facts. The information is usually gathered by making use of structured research instruments such as social media analytics tools, surveys, questionnaires, or various experiments. The results of this research are based on large sample sizes of the target audience to offer the most accurate picture possible. For example, Google Analytics offers hardline facts about the people who visit your website and what they do when they get there. If you want to know if your message is connecting with the right audience, see what type of traffic your website is generating. This is quantifiable research you should collect at the beginning and then monitor month-over-month, year-over-year to ensure your business and message are connecting with the audience you want.
Secondary Audience Research
During this phase, you will be reviewing data found in independent studies such as public or commercial sources, as well as educational institutions. If you have data gathered about other of your services during previous marketing campaigns, you can use that here as well, to further develop your understanding of your current target audience.
The internet can provide you with relevant data, but it is not the only place that you can get it. In fact, the information you find here is usually generic, and while it can get you to a point, you should also rely on other, more direct and hands-on approaches.
The previously mentioned qualitative and quantitative research methods can help. Interviews, surveys, and focus groups will all add to your understanding of their unique perspectives and are information that’s critical to the success of your future marketing campaigns.
As I’ve said in the beginning, each of these research methods works perfectly well on their own and can generate insightful results that help you in understanding your target audience. But for a truly comprehensive picture, all of them applied in unison is the way to go.