Who’s out there? Entrepreneurs need to know
Understanding your audience is essential for any business and particularly if you’re a publisher. Advertisers and subscribers depend on your judgment for connecting to your target community.
Joy Donnell has embraced and thrived with the challenge. The brand and content strategist, activist and entrepreneur is “driven by purpose.” She believes in owning your power by owning your voice, image, influence and intentions. She also is editor in chief of Vanichi magazine.
Her grasp of readers is her lifeblood. If you don’t analyze your audience, you’re wasting your time, spinning your wheels with no clue of what your subscribers want or what you can do to address their needs.
“Knowing your audience isn’t just about knowing demographics and spending habits,” Donnell said. “The knowledge you truly seek is more insight about their needs and desires so that you can help fulfill them.
“Looking through cumulative data helps you better understand the people you are servicing,” she said. “It helps you know if their needs are over or undersaturated with choices and if those choices are great or dissatisfying.”
Among ways to get to know your audience better, there’s social listening. This can include Google alerts, hashtag searches, taking polls and monitoring trending topics. For her part, Donnell prefers to get personal.
“I like insight through conversations,” she said. “It takes more time but it’s worth it. These conversations need to be online and offline because people can shift their responses based on settings. I think it’s a mistake to use systems that try to extract every piece of data from a person all at once. You don’t want people to feel like science experiments.
“There is much insight in quick data,” Donnell said. “People are busy, but most can answer one to three quick questions like, ‘How do you define luxury?’ or ‘How many times a day do you use Facebook?’ It’s not people’s jobs to give you data about themselves, so don’t make the process feel like a job for them. Be mindful of their time when you interact directly.”
Listen and learn
She offered helpful tools for interactive insight: online surveys, focus groups and street surveys. Listening and learning tools include reading Amazon and similar sites; product reviews and comments; listening on social media; and keyword searches.
“Very, very quick surveys are great to ask one to five questions and get gut-reaction feedback,” Donnell said. “In-person focus groups can sometimes boil down to people who have time to show up to a focus group during the day. That’s a small percentage. I prefer to take surveys to busy streets where people are shopping and socializing. Again, these have to be quick. No more than three questions. Otherwise, people start to feel imposed upon.”
She said online surveys are OK “if they’re not too intense and you survey a lot of people over time. They can be very insightful, but make them feel like fun and games.”
Creating a customer persona is also important for understanding your audience. They let you talk with your customers as one of them, not a far-removed entity in a tower. When you talk with people as they talk, you can better understand the problems they face and how you can address them.
“I prefer to call ‘customer persona’ ‘personality insight.’ I’ve found in my experience that words like ‘customer’ make us forget we’re talking about complex, multi-tiered human beings with complex needs,” Donnell said. “Personality insight helps you get a rounded view of who your people are, what they like, what frustrates them, their dreams and goals. This is powerful data you can use to be better.
“You use insight to deliver better, epic content, more epic experiences and events, more streamlined products and so on,” she said. “You can drop an idea or expand it based on personality insights.”
Insights are extremely helpful to Donnell as she carves out a share of the market in her niche.
“I often deal with luxury, and the average luxury consumer is easily bored,” she said. “They’ve traveled and seen almost everything. So, you have to intrigue them and fascinate them. Inducing intrigue doesn’t have to be flashy. It can be small, very exclusive settings. It can be remote. It simply has to delight. You can’t create for them if you don’t first understand what thrills them.”
Several key data points will tell you about your audience.
“When gathering insight about your audience you want to know age, location, lifestyle, education and emotionality,” Donnell said. “Lifestyle and emotionality are the deepest data points. They reveal how people spend money and why they spend money, where they spend it and with who.
“Lifestyle and emotionality also reveal what people talk about and where they talk about those things,” she said. “These points give insight into word-of-mouth habits, which is vital info.”
You can develop your marketing strategy by focusing on your audience’s wants and needs. That makes you more efficient and productive.
“Learning about your audience is your marketing strategy,” Donnell said. “If you’re just throwing stuff at people without understanding them, then you’re just broadcasting. Meeting their needs benefits them. Ask yourself, Do you want to broadcast or do you want to benefit?”
Hit the sale
Once you’ve got an idea of your audience and you’ve got their interest in your brand or business, how do you turn that into a sale? How does that help you bring money into the business?
“Brilliant question!” Donnell said. “This is where you start to get creative. A sale is an emotional decision, regardless of how practical the product, service or brand is. You take the knowledge to craft content and messaging that encourages the actual sale.
“There’s no way to make people buy anything, but you can encourage them,” she said. “The data helps you shape the creative approach you take to encourage the sale. For instance, if you sell paper towels that tear away easily with one hand, you might show a parent with her baby in her arms able to easily clean a spill with your product.”
That picture is no accident.
“You know to do this type of image because your data told you 85 percent of your audience are young, working parents,” Donnell said.
To discover who your audience is on social media, there are tools such as Google analytics, Keyhole, Twitter analytics, etc. Donnell singled out a different sort of analytics.
“IBM Watson is quantum computing that offers free insight to better perfect the coding,” she said. “IBM Watson Personality Insights will help you analyze your brand personality and tone on Twitter. I used myself as an example, and it analyzed 23,553 of my words in less than 10 seconds. It was fairly accurate with the exception that I actually like action movies.
“It’s important to first know if your tone and content is portraying what you want, the way you want,” Donnell said. “Your message needs to be aligned with your goals and your audience needs.”
She said these other free tools are also helpful for gathering data about social media networks: Tailwind for Pinterest and Instagram; WolframAlpha for Facebook; and Klear for Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
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