A: Audience | The ABC's of Marketing
I’m excited to kick off a new learning series called “The ABC’s of Marketing.” I’ll be sharing tips, resources and tools to help you improve your marketing strategy, focusing on a specific letter of the alphabet.
A is for Audience
I’d argue that your audience is the most important aspect of your marketing strategy. So, it’s only fitting that the first letter is A for audience, of course. Because face it…if you don’t have customers, you don’t have sales. And if you don’t have sales, you don’t really have a business.
Just like there are 4R’s of agriculture:
There are 4R’s of marketing:
If you don’t have sales, you don’t have a business
This goes for non-profits too. Whatever it is that you’re offering, if it’s not being consumed by someone, you’re just spinning your wheels.
It’s not that your brand or product packaging or Instagram style isn’t important. But, before you can really develop any of that stuff, you need to know who you’re trying to reach.
The World is a Noisy Place
When it comes to marketing, your competition isn’t just the farm across town that’s selling the same things you grow. It’s literally everything else out there.
Successful marketers build relationships. They break through the noise and make real connections. You can’t do that if you’re trying to reach everyone. But you can’t be too narrow either.
How to Conduct an Audience Analysis
I developed a free Audience Analysis Worksheet to help you take a critical look at who you’re trying to reach. The next section of this post will walk through the three steps that will help you develop a series of personas — which will ultimately help you be more strategic in your marketing efforts.
Part I: Identifying Your Ideal Customer
Get familiar with your product and survey existing customers.
In order to be effective, you need to truly understand what you’re selling from your customer’s perspective. Like I mentioned above, the world is a noisy place. It’s really important for you to think about how what you do fits into the greater bubble of what your audience cares about.
When you’re doing an audience analysis, you’re looking at two key aspects: demographics and psychographics.
Demographics are specific and quantifiable attributes about an individual or group of people. This would include:
Psychographics, on the other hand, are subjective pieces of information that describe your ideal customer’s interests, activities and attitudes. This category includes a customer’s:
Needs and/or Desires
Fears and/or Aspirations
While demographics are in fact important, remember the old saying, “you can’t judge a book by its cover.”
The audience analysis will help you think about what your customers like and dislike, what their problems and pain points are and what aspirations they have. If you can address these things through your marketing strategy, you will establish stronger and more successful relationships.
Part II: Mapping the Customer’s Journey
Regardless of what you do, if your audience doesn't know about you, they won't buy from you.
This is why a marketing strategy is so important. There are many opportunities to touch a potential client. In order to create engaging and high performing content, you need to think through the customer's journey.
The customer’s buying journey often starts with an event. Usually, they have some sort of problem and they start looking for a solution.
When you’re doing your audience analysis, think about all of the things that might happen before your customer starts looking for the things/services you offer. What is their problem? What pain points (or aspirations) are motivating the customer?
Example: On my farm, we sell grass-fed beef and lamb. Often, our customers are coming to us to buy meats for a special occasion. When we’re thinking about our marketing strategy for the year, we pay attention to holidays and special times of the year when people are likely to come together and celebrate with a special meal. It would be very good for us to also know things like our customer’s birthdays and anniversaries so we can preemptively reach out and be there for those special occasions too.
Once the customer realizes they have a need (or a want), they’re start looking for a solution. In your audience analysis, make a list of the places or people that your customers might go to solve the problem that they have. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. People trust their friends and family, so they might be asking for opinions. Most of us also go to google when we’re looking for something. We might also turn to social media and ask for recommendations.
Example: Using my farm as an example again, we try and make sure we’re in a lot of different places. Two of the most useful places for us to be “found,” are directory websites. The Maryland Grazers Network and Southern Maryland Meats are effective places for us to reach people who are looking for grass-fed meats. We’ve also done work to try and rank well in the search engines for local searches on grass-fed meats.
I specifically mention “local” because we’re really only trying to market our meats to customers in our direct area (location — demographic). I also specifically mention “grass-fed” because we’re also trying to target customers who are interested in that type of product (preference — psychographic). I’m not trying to change anyone’s mind — I’d rather focus on the people who are already aware of grass-fed meats and seeking them out.
It’s easy to get “investigation” and “consideration” confused. But here’s the difference in my mind. Say you are looking for a new pair of shoes. The investigation part is you deciding whether you want tennis shoes or hiking boots — it’s a much more high level process. Consideration is when you evaluate brands or decide which color you want.
In your audience analysis, you’re thinking abut how your product or service solves your customer’s problem or meets their need/desire. There is a rational aspect of this process when your customer is comparing attributes and prices of products. But there’s also an “irrational” aspect where your customer considers “what’s in it for me?”
From a marketing strategy perspective, it’s important to think about the value you provide beyond the transaction. The audience worksheet pairs really well with my Value Proposition Worksheet.
When you’re thinking about this phase also ask:
• What might prevent the customer from doing business with you?
• What alternatives might your customer be considering?
The commitment phase is your opportunity to confirm that you are the right solution for your customer’s needs/problems/desires. Without jumping too far ahead, I want you to think about who the actual decision maker is. What does the customer need to do in order to complete the transaction with you?
Example: If we think about my farm again, my husband and I know that there are usually two people involved in the decision to purchase meats. A majority of our customers are couples and/or families. This means one person usually does the shopping and the other person does the cooking. It has to be a good experience for each person. And they both have to decide that our product is the right one for them.
It costs less and takes less energy to retain a customer than it does to go out and get new ones.
To really be successful, it’s important to know that the customer’s journey doesn’t end with a single sale. You should also think about what you want your customer to do next.
Are repeat sales important to your business? If you’re selling meats at a farmers’ market every week like we are on our farm, the answer is probably yes. But, if your farm is a wedding venue, you might not be able to count on repeat business. Instead, you need to think about using your customers as amplifiers for your business. Their reviews and recommendations will be important in helping you get new customers for your business.
Part III: Classify Your Target Audience
Maximize your opportunities to connect.
There are a lot of people involved in the buying and decision making process for any given product or service. Each individual and/or group plays a specific role, but we're going to focus on the three core roles: users, influencers, and decision makers.
Seems obvious, but these are the people who actually use your product or service. These are the people with the problems and pain points you described earlier. The information in step one most likely describes these people.
Remember though, your user isn’t always your buyer.
For example, if you are a flower farmer and you sell cut flowers to floral designers, your customer (buyer/decision maker) is not your end user. The floral designer is the person you’re doing business with. They’re going to care about things like price and quality, etc. But the end user, the bride or bridal party, etc is also important.
When you do an audience analysis you want to market the right content to the right people.
The same flower farmer described above might also sell flowers at farmers’ markets. The audience analysis is asking you to think on a micro and macro level so that you can maximize your opportunities to connect.
Influencer marketing can be effective. I’m not talking about paying Kim Kardashian to rep your farm. But I am talking about casting a wide net to reach people who might not otherwise know about you.
Here are some questions to ask:
Who are the people/organizations/other brands that influence your customer’s decision?
What other types of content do your customers follow?
What habits do your customers have?
How do your customers communicate with their family and friends?
What “tribes” do they belong to?
One easy way to get this information is to ask. Believe it or not, asking your current customers questions about how they found you, why they buy from you and what would make their experience better is extremely effective. You can create a survey at virtually no cost — or you can incentivize customers to fill it out by offering a gift certificate or giveaway.
Example: One of the best influencers we’ve used in our farm marketing strategy is a local chef. Gwyn Novak from No Thyme to Cook offers cooking classes and she started a farm to table series that we participated in. Her audience is full of foodies who want to buy from local farms and try new things — perfect for us! This relationship was a win/win.
Not only were we able to market our meats to her customers through this cooking class, but we were able to introduce our customers to her business. In real life, influencer marketing can and should be mutually beneficial. That’s how you know it’s the right fit.
I touched on this earlier. The person who is making the final decision to purchase might not be the same person who's ultimately using your product.
When you do your audience analysis, make sure that you're considering the whole process so that you connect with all the right people.
In part two, I went over the customer’s journey and I asked you to think about things that might prevent a customer from doing business with you. The decision maker can be a barrier. Your marketing strategy needs to account for this.
Example: There is this conference I love called Confab. It’s a kind-of-expensive marketing conference, held annually in Minnesota. Of course content marketers want to go. I mean who doesn’t want to travel for a conference about marketing!!!??? But the decision maker usually isn’t the person going. It’s the manager, administrator or some sort of superior. If the boss doesn’t see value in the conference, it’s not going to happen.
What Confab does really well (and I’ve seen other conferences do this too) is create a one-page pitch for marketers to give to their bosses. This helps the user (the person going to the conference) convince the decision maker (the one forking over the cash) that the conference is a good value.
Now, if only I could convince my boss that we should go to Confab this year (lol).
Part IV: Developing Personas
The last part of the Audience Analysis Worksheet is a section for you to create a persona. You might want to create more than one and I have a space at the top to select the category.
This is the part where you describe your customer in terms of who, what and why.
Background (career, family, ethnicity, etc.)
Demographics (gender, age, location, etc.)
Identifiers (personality, communication preferences, etc.)
Goals (what do they want — think big picture)
Challenges (what is their primary concern/issue that motivated them to start the buying journey)
Objections (what/who might prevent them from completing the sale and what alternatives are they considering)
Solution — How does your brand help the persona achieve their goals or overcome their challenges?
Messaging — Describe how your brand/solution helps the persona
The Audience Analysis is a critical component of your marketing strategy foundation. Who you’re selling to is every bit as important as what you’re selling.
Hopefully this worksheet is helpful and I look forward to working through the rest of the alphabet with you.
B - Blogging
C - Conversions
D - Diversification