A Complete Guide To Target Audience Analysis For Content Marketers
Target audience analysis is an integral part of any marketing strategy. The only way to know what you should talk about in any marketing campaign is to know who you are talking to and what they want to know.
While you can find decent guides on specific parts of this process, we didn’t find any that describe it from start to finish.
So we decided to create one. With a focus on content marketing.
What Will This Guide Cover
The goal of this guide is to provide an easy to follow, in-depth information on everything you need to know to conduct a proper target audience analysis as a content marketer.
Some of the most important questions we will try to answer are:
- What is target audience analysis and why do you need it?
- How do you define and classify your core audience?
- What are the best ways to identify their pain points?
- Are there any resources and tools out there that can make this process more streamlined?
1. What Is Target Audience Analysis And Why Do We Need It?
Simply put, your target audience is everyone that might be interested in your product/service.
Unfortunately, marketing budgets are limited and you won’t have the luxury to cater to everyone that might be a potential customer. What is even more important, your target audience will often consist of different groups of people that don’t necessarily visit the same websites, have the same problems, use the same social network channels and so on.
A great example is one of our recent clients that offers a word processing software. After our TAA and some consulting with the client, we defined 4 target groups, also often called ‘personas’ — professional writers, editors, students, and academics. It is immediately obvious that you can’t target all of them with the same piece of content.
Target audience analysis thus brings you several benefits.
Let’s be honest here. With a drop of creativity and the right copywriter, creating good content is not that hard. However, just having good content doesn’t translate into more customers. Having the RIGHT content just might.
Knowing who your real audience is, what kind of problems they are dealing with and what can you do to help them will allow you to take a more personalized approach in your content marketing strategy.
Having the right content is the direct consequence of your target audience research. Making it great is just the execution.
2. Planning The Analysis
As a content marketer, you probably had the opportunity (or misfortune) to cover campaigns in quite a few different niches.
The scope of your research correlates with the size of the project you are working on and how familiar you are with the niche.
It’s only logical that you won’t spend the same amount of time researching your target audience for a client that needs a few editorials only as for the one that has a $10k monthly subscription.
Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t suggesting you should cut corners and skip steps during your target audience research just because you have a „smaller“ client. However, you will have to adjust how much time you can afford to allocate for each step.
I would love to give you some groundbreaking template you could use to plan out the research but the truth is you don’t need it.
After you talk with the client and get all the information you can from him, you need to sit down and define what pieces are still missing.
To complete the puzzle, make a list of to-do tasks, like:
- Google Analytics
- Keyword Research
- . . .
and just check the box when you’re finished.
This way you’ll ensure you haven’t missed a step.
3. Getting Familiar With „Your“ Product/Service
If you are a content marketer that works in-house and knows his product/service as the palm of their hand, your path ahead is already clear.
For the rest of us, there is some research to be done.
Creating and publishing content you have a shallow understanding of is a dangerous game. What’s even worse, not fully understanding what your client’s product or service does can limit you in several different ways:
- You can miss a potential target audience group if you don’t know what exactly a product/service you represent covers
- Quality of the content you produce drops down
- Lesser understanding of the product/service means the subject area you can cover with the content is more narrow
- Not being able to present all the advantages you offer may result in lower conversion rates and loss of potential customers
As you can imagine, some of these issues are really hard to get around. To avoid that, you can do several different things:
- Try out the product/service for yourself (it is safe to assume that the client will let you take it out for a test drive free of charge)
- Take your time to research client’s website and look at their existing content that explains what they do in more detail
- Make a questionnaire and explain to your client that it is in their best interest to give you proper answers. Here is a section of our standard questionnaire as an example:
4. If the above steps aren’t enough, you should consider jumping on a call with the client and solve any open question that way.
What is also really important to note here is that content marketing shouldn’t be only about the product or service you plan to promote.
When you have a clear understanding of the product/service, you are tempted to create content around its benefits and advantages. While that can work in situations where you’re using paid channels to focus on prospects that are near the bottom of your marketing funnel, you will have to be more creative and less promotional when you decide to reach out to influencers and bloggers.
That is the reason why you have to clearly distinguish what you do and what your audience wants and needs to read about. Connecting one with the other requires a fine balance between plugging your business and just delivering useful content to your target audience.
Which side should play the main role depends on what channels (PPC, guest blogging, influencer outreach, email marketing…) you’re using to promote the content and which stage of the marketing funnel are you targeting.
4. Defining Target Audience
There are some steps you should take before you start with a deep target audience research — define common characteristics of your average buyer.
While defining demographics is important, in the context of content marketing, you should give more thought to what kind of people you’re talking to, what they like/dislike, what are their problems, pain points and so on.
This will allow you to create more engaging content that will have a better chance to strike a chord with your potential customers.
Having right demographics data is important for organic promotion but it is especially useful if you plan to share and promote your content via paid channels like Google AdWords, FB, Twitter, LinkedIn or any other bigger social network you can advertise on.
Let’s take Facebook ads as an example. The level of detail you can go into to select the people you want to target is quite impressive.
The main point you should take away from this is that most of the time, your content promotion efforts won’t be restricted by the promotion channels but by the level of detail you achieved while defining demographics.
Here are the main and secondary characteristics you should look to define.
Depending on the project you are working on, some of these characteristics could have little to no relevance and you shouldn’t waste your time on them. Also, there is always a possibility you will have to distinguish your target audience by an attribute that isn’t on this list so keep that in mind too.
Look at this list more as a recommended outline rather than a rule of law.
If the client doesn’t help you with determining the demographics of their consumers, you can look at the average consumer and try to extrapolate the necessary data. Alexa and Quantcast can help a lot during this process.
If you get an opportunity to run a survey, here is a great template from Survey Monkey you can use as a sample to craft your own survey.
In instances where your client has a decent amount of followers on FB and Twitter, you can use their analytics to try and deduce some demographic data that way.
To avoid getting overly technical, the psychographics data is used for classifying people by looking at their attitudes, aspirations and other psychological criteria.
It ultimately allows you to find what are the motives behind people’s purchases.
Defining psychographics can be really challenging because it revolves around subjective information in contrast to demographics that rely on hard statistical data.
There are 3 main areas you want to define:
- What are the interests of your target audience?
- What kind of activities (often hobbies) do they take part in?
- What are their attitudes/opinions towards particular subjects?
There is a great piece from Neil Patel that explores these questions in more detail.
Knowing what information to look for is only the first step. Now you have to go out there and gather that data.
A few different ways to gather psychographics data:
- Make a survey
- Interview existing clients
- Research websites and forums they visit
- Analyze your website analytics
- Make use of powerful analytic tools like:
- ClickTale (Behavioural tool)
- CrazyEgg (Heatmap tool)
- Qualaroo (Website survey software)
- Bounce Exchange (Behavioural tool)
5. Classifying Target Audience (DMU)
DMU or Decision Making Unit is a term that describes a group of individuals that are involved in the buying process of products/services in the B2B environment. There are 6 roles in the DMU you need to be aware of (it is important to note that one person can cover multiple roles):
Since we are looking at this from the content marketing angle, there are 3 roles you should focus on: users, influencers and decision makers.
You often won’t have the resources to cater to everyone and these are the roles we believe you can have the most impact on through content marketing.
Users are obviously the people that are using your product or service. Why are they important? The answer is simple. They have problems (read: pain points) and you are here to help them.
It also doesn’t hurt that users often take the role of initiators.
Let’s introduce an example to simplify things.
You are a content marketer looking to do a target audience analysis. You notice that the quality of your target audience analysis is constantly subpar because the current tool you have at your disposal doesn’t allow you to conduct a proper keyword analysis.
What do you do? As someone that will use the tool, you reach out to your superior asking if there is a possibility they could purchase some software that could help you solve the problem at hand — this makes you both a user and an initiator.
An Influencer can be anyone whose opinion has an influence on the decision maker.
There is a whole marketing area dedicated specifically to influencers. A thing called Influencer Marketing, you may have heard about it
If you’re a marketer and your product or service gets recommended from someone like Neil Patel, your sales could skyrocket. Take this post as an example “10 Online Marketing Tools That’ll Accelerate Growth of a New Business.
Looking at the number of shares and comments, it is safe to assume that the article had quite the reach. Taking into account the authority Neil brings, lots of companies would pay good money to be on this list.
If you want another example, just look at The Oz Effect.
Even though it can be tricky to measure the impact influencers have on your sales, there are countless examples that show you why influencing the influencers is something you want to make a part of your content marketing strategy.
5.3. Decision Makers
As the word suggests, decision makers are the ones that have the final say about the product/service purchases.
They are basing their decision to buy on the information they got from the users, influencers and other roles involved in the buying process.
5.4. DMU Roles In The Content Marketing Funnel
The main reason you want to distinguish the roles described above is because you want to target them with a different type of content. Well, type might be misleading — you want to target them with content appropriate to the marketing funnel phase they are in.
It is hard to be exact as the roles and phases can overlap but it often ends up like this:
- Users — Awareness, Interest
- Influencers — Interest, Consideration, Intent
- Decision makers — Intent, Evaluation, Purchase
Let’s circle back to the example from the beginning of this chapter.
As a content marketer (and a user, for the purpose of this example), you are interested in tools that can improve and speed up your target audience analysis. You want to know how to do a keyword research, should you focus on long tail keywords and so on.
Influencers in your niche are generally aware of the problems you have and the tools you can use. They are more interested in how you can use the specific tools to get the job done. And it is often in your best interest to reach out to them with the right message to increase your chances of influencers spreading the right word about you to the right audience.
As the final wheel in the buying process, decision makers may need completely different information. They know you need a keyword research tool but there are multiple options out there. Should they go for Ahrefs, SEMRush or something else? Which tool fits best into your workflow? What pricing options do they offer?
Additionally, customers are not always aware they have a problem or that you offer something that could improve their workflow or make their life easier in some way. In such cases, you should put some effort into creating content that will make them aware of those problems and potential improvements.
Long things short, your target audience may comprise of different roles. Different roles may be interested in different information.
Your job is to recognize the role you are reaching out to so you can serve them the content they are most likely to be interested in.
6. Creating Personas
Welcome to the most creative part of target audience analysis — the creation of target personas.
Think of it like creating a game character with a backstory. You first go through basic things like name, age, gender and then move on to a more complicated elements. You are trying to define his/her goals, values, roles in the buying process, frustrations, hobbies, their sources of information and so on.
Hopefully, you will be able to derive most of these things by looking at demographics and psychographics. If you have any missing data (like pain points for example), you can come back to this after you do additional research and update the characteristics accordingly.
For additional help, you can look for different buyer persona templates:
- Marketo’s personas cheat sheet
- Persona Templates from HubSpot
- User Persona Creator by Xtensio
- Buyer Persona Template from Demand Metric
- Customer Avatar Worksheet from Digital Marketer
- MakeMyPersona by HubSpot
They are often bundled up with useful advice that will guide you through this process.
More often than not, you won’t be able to cover all your customers with one persona.
Another example incoming.
You’re selling some kind of office equipment and you identify 3 target groups (personas):
- Office workers
- HR departments
Note how CEO’s and Managers are grouped together. That is because they have enough characteristics in common that they can both be defined by just one fictional persona.
Do these 3 personas cover everyone that could possibly have an interest in your product? Of course not, but you have to draw a line somewhere and try to predict when a target group is big enough to deserve its own persona.
The more experience you have, the easier it will be. Practice makes perfect.
7. Identifying Pain Points
Knowing pain points of the people you are reaching out to and trying to connect with is arguably the most important element in the whole story.
It allows you to craft the content with a sole purpose of solving an actual problem or question that is bothering real consumers — which is the ultimate goal of content marketing and a reason behind its success.
One of the biggest mistakes you can do here is to concentrate only on the pain points your product/service solves. Let’s jump into our training shoes and take a look at an example from the fitness industry.
You have a client that is trying to promote and sell his fitness program. People that are interested in it have some obvious pain points such as weight problems, no access to fitness equipment and poor eating habits. However, those are not the only problems you should focus on. We have to go deeper.
Lack of confidence that affects their everyday life. Not enough motivation to make a change. Poor organizational skills that leave them with little to no time to work on their body. These are all important pain point that also can and should be addressed.
As you can see, we don’t want to tackle only the problems that are strictly related to the fitness program. An added benefit of this approach is that it allows you to cover more ground with your content and gives you a chance to engage with the audience on subjects that can trigger high emotional response.
One more thing that is really important to mention here. It is easier to motivate people with a fear of losing something then it is with the ability to gain/earn it.
So, the content that revolves around things you will miss out on because of your low self-esteem will usually have more traction than things you can gain if you are a confident person.
Granted, this probably belongs to content creation phase but it doesn’t hurt to keep it in the back of your mind while working on target audience analysis.
It doesn’t matter if you’re creating an interactive content like a quiz or a calculator, posting an infographic on your blog or guest posting on authority website — if the subject you cover isn’t useful to your target audience in some way and if it doesn’t trigger them on an emotional level, the results of your marketing campaign will be greatly diminished.
There are quite a few different ways you can employ to find your customer’s pain points. We will talk about the ones that are most commonly used and some we’ve seen the most success with.
Conducting customer surveys is a great way to get valuable insight into consumer’s mind. However, if you plan to invest your time (and probably some $$) into it, you better have a gameplan.
1. Define the goals of your survey
Defining the information you want to get from your customers will help you craft the questions that reflect those goals.
2. Define who you want to survey
You may want to adjust your targets depending on the outreach channels you have at your disposal. You can try to engage:
- Regular customers
- Anyone who has ever bought anything from you
- Your social media followers
- Visitors of your website
- All of the above
3. Decide how will you reach out to them
Here are some options you may want to consider:
- Send the survey to your email list
- Share it across your social media channels
- Embed a survey into your blog post
- Promote it online with some of the tools mentioned below
4. Decide which tool will you use to conduct the survey
The most popular tools on the market that can do this job well:
If you are in the position where the client can’t or won’t provide you with an access line to his customers and you are still eager to conduct a survey, you can try to access your target audience through panel companies.
The last thing to note here is that getting a decent response rate can be very challenging. If your response rate is really low, try to look at how you can incentivize your audience to get better results.
7.2. Social Networks
If you know where to look at, social media metrics can give you a valuable insight into your customer pain points and what kind of content are they interested in general.
7.2.1. Facebook Insights
There is no point in trying to manually check anything on your FB fan page when Facebook tracks all the statistics you’ll ever need.
Besides demographics data, the most useful section you should pay attention to, in the context of analyzing your customer’s pain points and interests, is the Posts tab. You can check which kind of posts (link, photo or video) attracted the most engagement (Reactions, Comments & Shares) on average.
By looking at your top performing content, you could find a clue to what your followers want to know more about.
7.2.2. Facebook Groups
Another great way to find out what is troubling your target audience is to find and join Facebook groups in which people discuss your area of interest.
Finding these groups can be quite challenging, at least finding the ones where you can get some valuable feedback. You’ll probably join and leave 10 spammed ones before you stumble upon something worthwhile.
A piece of advice. Don’t avoid groups where you have to fill out an application or say your reasons for joining. That kind of groups are generally free of spam and members usually lead argumented discussions you can join to gain some insight into your audience.
7.2.3. Twitter Analytics
The story is the same as it is with FB Insights. A lot of useful demographic information about your audience, but you want to concentrate on a few metrics that may point to their pain points.
Again, you want to look at the top performing content. You can do that by selecting the Top tweets tab while you are under the Tweets section.
The second thing you may want to check are the interests of your followers as shown in the picture below. This won’t give you a whole lot of information about pain points but may still be useful.
There is no such thing as knowing your audience too well
Our content is focused on marketing, SEO, small business and start-ups so these findings are only logical.
Since you bothered to check Twitter analytics, you may as well inspect your organic audience (people who viewed and/or engaged with your organic content — content you didn’t promote or paid for).
Use the information found here to get to know your followers better.
Since we covered just a small part of Twitter analytics here, check out this overview of the most important Twitter analytics stats for more info.
Since we only focused on pain points in this section, we only touched on a few selected metrics. Both Facebook and Twitter have a lot of data about their users you can use to see what resonates with your audience the best. We highly recommend allocating some time to carefully go through everything they offer.
7.2.4. Look at what your competition does on social media
If you have some time to spare (or you don’t have enough followers to have a valid sample) you may want to look at what are your main competitors doing on social media.
Look at the type of content that gets the most engagement as that is something you may want to replicate and improve upon in the future since your target audience is obviously interested in it.
This is a challenging and time-consuming task to do by hand so if you plan to really dive into it here are some tools we recommend:
- Simply Measured (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)
- Klear (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)
- Agora Pulse (Facebook, Twitter)
- Sprout Social (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+)
- Snaplytics (Snapchat)
- MWP — Video Marketing Comparison Tool (YouTube)
- Facebook Graph Search (Facebook)
7.3. Keyword Research
Keyword research is one of those things that is easy to explain but gets really complicated, really fast when you try to conduct it.
As a content marketer, you’ve probably already done a keyword research, for one purpose or another, so we won’t go into too many details.
There are a few different numbers floating around, but we can say for sure that at least 67% of consumers research products online before buying. To find out pressing issues your customers have (and to subsequently provide them with answers and solutions), you need to know common questions and phrases they use while they’re doing their research.
There are a lot of great keyword research tools you can use like:
How do you do it?
Make a list of phrases you believe they use and run it through your tool of choice. After that, depending on the tool you are using, you should be able to see useful statistics like search volume, parent topic, posts that get most of the traffic that ranks for those keywords, additional keyword ideas and so on.
In the scope of target audience analysis, the first step (gathering the phrases) is arguably more important. The tools are here to confirm your suspicions and to give you additional insight into how many people have the same questions. If some phrase has a search volume of 3/month, while still being relevant, you may think twice before spending any resources on it.
To compile a list of keywords and phrases (long-tail keywords) worthy pulling through your keyword research tool, use Google Suggest. Google is constantly upgrading his search algorithm so there are no reasons why you shouldn’t make it a part of your arsenal.
If that isn’t enough, fear not. Most of the keyword research tools will help you by suggesting some phrases that revolve around your keywords.
7.4. Niche Forums
Forums are specifically designed to help people find answers to their questions. Is there a better way to find the real problems your audience is dealing with than to browse through forums related to your niche? Besides asking them directly, probably not.
Information found here will give you an answer on a really important question: „Is my perception of what the customer wants to know more about correct?“
I’ll say it once again, the goal is to create the content that the audience wants and that doesn’t always have to match with the content you think they want.
Researching forums will allow you to take the guesswork out of the equation.
If you haven’t heard about Quora yet, it’s time to leave the cave you’ve been living in and look for the nearest wi-fi connection.
Quora is a Q&A website — a glorified forum that covers all kinds of topics. It is on the rise for a few years now and last year it hit 100 million users mark.
The real boom happened when bloggers and marketers figured out they can get a decent referral traffic by answering selected questions and building up a following. Because of that, you will encounter mountains of biased answers you have to take with a grain of salt.
This is just a minor inconvenience since we’re way more interested in the questions then we are in the answers.
What makes Quora useful for the target audience research is that it covers a wide area of different topics and has a very user-friendly interface that allows you to go through a lot of questions in a short period of time.
Let’s say we’re creating content for a client that has a project management tool.
Just make a profile and type in the area you are interested in.
As you probably noticed right away, Quora tries to sort questions into appropriate groups.
On the right side, you can see how many questions related to this field have been asked and the number of people following the subject area.
A little below it, there is the list of groups (Related Topics section) related to the group you are currently looking at (Project Management in this example).
You can also type in specific questions to see if someone asked it already.
After you click on any of the questions you will get something like this:
You should pay close attention to the right column.
Related Questions section is a goldmine for finding what kind of questions people are most interested in your target area. Whenever you click on a new question, this section is filled out with a mesh of new and old questions related to your field of interest. This allows you to quickly cycle through questions and see what is your target audience most interested in.
However, not every question brings in the same value. That is why we have Question Stats. Knowing the number of views and users that are following a question tells you how many people are interested in this particular problem. That way you can focus only on questions that have an audience which means they may be worth tackling in your content marketing campaign.
As the largest platform of aggregated content and community discussion, as well as a member of top 10 largest websites in the world, Reddit is a force to be reckoned with. With so many users and such a large pool of topics covered, you are bound to find some relevant information on almost anything.
While Reddit can be used as a promotion channel, the community there is downright brutal to anything that seems suspiciously salesy and promotional.
Luckily for us, we’re here only to search and observe.
The bad part is, it may take you some time to get the hang of how things work around here. Mostly because Reddit isn’t exactly the poster boy for a user-friendly design. We strongly recommend you to install browser plug-ins like Reddit Enhancement Suite if you are not already familiar with the website.
Our goal is simple. Find the subject you are interested in and look at discussions. Since this is also a Q&A site, you can quickly browse through questions and take a closer look at the ones that seem interesting and the ones that have a lot of comments.
Use the filter at the top of the page to find hotly debated topics, recently posted threads, controversial topics and so on.
Take some time to browse around. It is highly likely you’ll encounter questions that may lead to the pain points you’re searching for.
As a side note, Reddit’s search functionality doesn’t always behave nicely so you may want to fall back on Google and look to research Reddit using search operators, as shown in the picture below.
7.7. Competition Research
We already touched competition research when we talked about checking what your competition does on social media.
However, there is another way to find your competitor’s top performing content. To do this, you need to have an access to a tool which allows you to inspect backlink profiles.
We are using Ahrefs so let’s say you’re developing a content marketing strategy for a similar tool and you decide to check Ahrefs’s website to see what content gets them the most organic traffic.
You will get something like this:
Disregarding the traffic to the homepage, content that drives the most traffic to their website revolves around keyword research, website traffic, and SEO tips.
You may think:
Even if this is what my audience is interested in, Ahrefs already has this topic covered and there is no way I can outrank them or „steal“ some of that traffic. So how does this exactly help me?
A fair question.
Since this is a part of your pain point research and your goal is to have a clear and definitive list of those pain points, at this stage, you shouldn’t be concerned if a particular problem is covered or not.
Furthermore, just because something ranks highly, that doesn’t mean there are no ways to get around it. Maybe you have the means and knowledge to cover the topic in more detail. Maybe they forgot to explain a step you could focus on. Maybe the content is outdated. Maybe you can write the same piece but target a specific target audience that has different needs/problems.
It may take some time to find a hole in their defense but you can’t expect to take the trophy (or in this case traffic) out of their hands without hard work.
8. Research And Analysis Are Done, What Now?
In the ideal conditions, by the end of this process, you should have the following info:
- Detailed insight into the product/service you’re working with
- Demographic and psychographic data
- A few well-crafted personas
- List of all relevant pain points you came across
All that is left is to mix and match.
We can’t really tell you what steps you should take from here as this depends on your content marketing strategy and goals you want to accomplish. The one thing that is sure is that you will be creating some type of content and try to place it in front of the right eyes.
Is that going to be a controversial article, a fun infographic, a useful calculator, an educational video or something completely different, the weight of this decision falls upon your shoulders.
You have to reach a conclusion on what type of content is the most appropriate for your target audience and has the highest chance to attract and convert.
If only we’ve done a detailed research of our target audience that holds the answer to this dilemma.
Oh wait, we did just that.
Last but not least, don’t take your eyes off of the budget, time constraints, the size of your social media following and other constraining factors as they can severely limit the type of content you can produce and the number of people you can reach. This can have a significant impact on the effectiveness and on the ROI of your content marketing campaign.
9. The End
Congratulations, you’ve reached the bonus post-credit scene!
As expected, no additional value can be found here, just a poor attempt to finish the article in a witty manner.
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