Steve Jobs famously stated, “You can't start with a technology and try to figure out where you are going to sell it.”
In other words, you first need to figure out who your audience is. If you want to build a successful business, it’s a prerequisite.
That entails understanding their needs, preferences, emotions, interests, and pain points.
But understanding customers’ needs isn't easy.
Do you know that 90% of startups fail?
One of the major reasons is their failure to understand their customers.
But you don't have to be part of the failure club.
Here is a starter guide to how to understand your audience and incorporate those insights into your content marketing strategy.
Why Do Businesses Fail to Understand Their Customers?
Typically, businesses conduct customer research to develop an effective marketing plan. For this, they first create a buyer persona.
A buyer persona is an imaginary character that you create based on your research. It should represent your target audience. By creating a buyer persona, businesses can understand who their ideal customers are.
It’s common for businesses to have multiple buyer personas.
Another strategy to understand customer needs is keyword research. This strategy can help businesses find what their users are looking for.
Even though these strategies are the most commonly used ones, they aren’t enough by themselves. Businesses need to scratch beyond the surface.
In theory, these two approaches should be enough to serve your purpose. However, in reality, both of these are incomplete.
Because, in most of the cases, both buyer personas and keyword research focus on details like what customers look like, how much they earn, or what they search for.
These details often don’t answer far more important questions which actually reveal a consumer’s motivation and emotions:
- What they were thinking when they faced certain challenges?
- What makes them pick one solution over others?
- How does their existing solution affect their business?
- Is there anything that could have made their life even easier?
Thus, conventional ways of audience research leave a huge gap in your understanding of the audience.
Such practices lead to bland, jargon-laden copy or overly promotional social media advertisements.
Long story short, you need a better framework for audience research.
How to Understand What Motivates Your Customers
In order to comprehend your audiences’ motivation, you need to have a clear idea about four things — their pain points, anxieties, expectations, and priorities.
1. Pain Points
A pain point, simply put, is a root problem that the consumer has. It’s the main reason why a consumer looks for a solution in the first place.
But how do you find your customers’ pain points?
The best way is to directly ask your customers. However, sometimes they might not be able to express it using the right words.
For instance, a customer might say they need a jacket when actually they are looking for a way to keep themselves warm. It’s possible that a shawl or a cardigan may also serve their purpose.
That’s why it’s a good idea to ask more specific questions to reveal the actual motivation of the customer.
Your job is to ask such questions and find their pain points. Once you know them, you can work towards addressing them.
Your audience has anxieties, both personal and professional. And while buying a product, these anxieties can come into play.
They might worry about the price of a product or the effectiveness of the solution. They may not be completely sure about the durability or the user-friendliness of the product.
In order to make a sale, you need to make users confident about your product and brand. For that, you need to address their anxieties.
Your audience expects a certain level of satisfaction after they purchase your product.
They have a certain idea about how helpful your product is to solve their pain point. If you fail to meet these expectations, your brand’s reputation is likely to suffer.
That’s why you should focus on the outcomes. From providing excellent customer service to providing loyalty discounts, all of it comes under this umbrella.
Keep in mind that your product and customer experience should match the customer’s expectations.
Not all pain points and outcomes are equally important to your customers. Depending on who the consumer is, some requirements may take priority over others.
For instance, when you are offering a premium service, quality is far more important than affordability.
You need to understand the hierarchy of priorities to determine which pain points, anxieties, and outcomes you can address.
How to Uncover Your Customer’s Needs and Wants
In the previous section, we talked about what you need to look for.
But how do you get your audience to talk about anxieties and motivations? Or how they feel about your product
Here are a couple of battle-tested ways to get them talking:
1. Conduct Interviews
Interviews are great for understanding consumers’ actual experiences and opinions. You can learn a lot about the challenges they face, their preferences, and a lot more.
You can either meet your customers in-person or arrange short telephone interviews.
To get a balanced perspective, consider interviewing the following groups:
Your existing customers can help you understand more about their expectations and the difference your product makes in their lives. If your customers are satisfied, you can also get testimonials from them.
Leads are people who may be on the fence about your product. They may be evaluating other alternatives before settling on a product.
By interviewing them, you can learn about your audience’s pain points and anxieties in detail. They can also give you a fair idea about how your products stack up against your competitors. These insights can help you improve your products.
No matter how great your company is, you will have lost some customers along the way. It’s a great idea to rekindle those relationships by asking them what went wrong. Lost customers can draw your attention to the areas that you may need to improve upon.
Many marketers complain that interviews may not yield the result they expect. One of the reasons could be the way you frame your questions.
It’s a good idea to ask open-ended questions to make them feel at ease. Such questions give them the freedom to share their experiences without any limitations.
Here are some examples of open-ended questions:
- Which problem does this product solve for you?
- Which other products did you try? What did you like about them?
- How are you using this product? Which features do you use the most?
- Provide an example of an instance when this product made a major difference in your life.
At the same time, avoid asking questions that put pressure on the customers to respond in a certain way.
Examples of such questions include:
- Do you think the X feature is cool?
- We are planning to include a new Y feature. Do you want to use it?
2. Conduct Online Surveys
Online surveys are great for gathering opinions from a large audience. The responses you get from these surveys can be later used to segment your audience.
Unlike interview questions, survey questions are typically more structured. On average, the survey should consist of a series of questions with pre-populated answers for respondents to choose from–like multiple choice questions, or agree/disagree-type of questions.
It’s a good idea to include straightforward questions at the beginning of the survey. You want the respondents to complete the survey.
Keep personal questions towards the end of the survey.
Sometimes there could be some people who may not have used the product. Or maybe they stopped using the product.
Use qualifying questions to weed them out:
- How long have you been using our product?
- How would you describe your job role?
- Were you involved in the purchase decision?
Once you have your survey questionnaire ready, send the survey to your newsletter subscribers.
An effective survey invitation email should check off the following boxes:
- It should have only one request — the survey invitation.
- It should clearly state the purpose of the survey.
- You should tell respondents approximately how long it will take.
3. Ask On Online Forums and Social Media Groups
Q&A sites, online forums, and social media groups are where your customers share their opinions, help each other, and exchange ideas. You can leverage these platforms to check the pulse of the audience.
To find online forums, all you need to do is type your target keyword and “+ forum” in the search bar. You’ll get a list of forums that you can check out.
Quora is another great platform to reach out to your audience.
The answers on the site are in-depth and often even come from experts. By going through those, apart from understanding what questions your audience ask, you can also find out what kind of answers/content they find valuable.
4. Check Out Review Sites
User reviews, especially the ones from verified users, provide an unbiased evaluation of a product online. Looking into user review sites while conducting audience research can pay a good dividend:
- You can get an idea about pain points, user expectations, and features that are most important.
- You can find out what your competitors are failing to deliver.
Testimonials from customers, Google reviews, Amazon reviews, and case studies are also worth paying attention to.
How to Use Audience Insights For Content Marketing
Once you have some deep audience insights, how can you use them for marketing? Let’s take a look at how you can incorporate audience insights into your content marketing plan:
1. Write Memorable Copy
Nike’s got “Just do it.”
Volkswagon’s got “Think Small.”
What do they have in common?
They are considered timeless because they are memorable.
They stick to the audience's mind by directly appealing to their emotions and motivations. No wonder, even after decades, people remember their slogans well.
You need to strive to write such copy.
To write such copy, you need to take three things into account — the pain points, expectations, and concerns of consumers.
However, unless you are a seasoned copywriter, it may not be easy to decide what to include and what to edit out.
Here is a list of things that can help you in your quest of creating memorable copy:
- Frequently Used Words: Every niche has its own set of abbreviations, jargon, and ways to talk about the business. By sprinkling those into your copy, you set a familiar tone right off the bat.
- Recurring Themes: Do your customers mention a certain issue or requirement repeatedly during interviews? Chances are, that issue is important to your audience. Therefore, it’s a good idea to create copy based on that theme.
- Insightful Comments: Your customers might have some pain points which you may not know even exist. If you pay attention to reviews and survey responses, you might find some insightful comments. The inclusion of these comments can be a great way to hook your audience.
To understand how these things look in practice, here is an example. Check out the homepage for Basecamp, a project management tool.
Image via Basecamp
The headline starts by addressing two major concerns of their customers:
- Having a tool that offers every feature required for collaboration.
- How to manage everything when your team is working remotely.
The sub-copy acknowledges customers’ concerns first. Next, comes reassurance. It covers everything they need to win the audience’s confidence.
2. Create Content that the Audience Wants to Read
In chasing SERP rankings, brands have started producing similar content. They might not blatantly plagiarise, but they do regurgitate the same ideas without bringing anything new on the table.
Such low-value content doesn’t convert well. Your audience wants to consume super relevant content that provides value.
You need to be able to stand out from the crowd.
To craft the right kind of content, here are some questions you need to ask:
Is Your Content Crafted Keeping Your Target Audience In Mind?
Your content may be original. But if it isn’t created keeping the needs of your target audience in mind, it won’t strike the right chord with them.
For example, let’s say you run an SEO blog for intermediate level SEO professionals. If you write a blog post on how to set up a website and the best platforms for website building, it isn’t going to be very relevant for your audience.
However, if you focus on audience research, content ideation shouldn’t be a problem. Additionally, survey results can help you segment your audience. Customer interviews can also help you get a lot of content ideas.
Is Your Content Specific?
Having an overall idea of relevant content topics is great, but not enough. In most of the cases, those topics are too broad.
A single post or two may not be enough to cover such in-depth topics. Even if you cram the entire topic into a single blog post, it may not cover everything in detail.
If you work with influencers, you may want to write about influencer marketing. You can write one post briefly covering everything but that won’t give your readers great insights.
The solution is breaking down the broad topic into smaller subtopics.
Good ol’ divide and conquer.
In the above example, the parent topic can be split into subtopics like:
- How to find the right influencers
- How to reach out to influencers
- Influencer marketing campaign ideas
- Influencer marketing trends
Your job isn’t done yet.
Once you have the subtopics, you need to go back to your customer data and understand their priorities.
What do they want most?
You want to prioritize your topics to match their requirements.
In the above example, if your audience already has active collaborations, topics like influencer campaign ideas will be more relevant to them.
Does Your Content Full of Fluff?
Even blog posts with the best content ideas can fail to garner audience appreciation if they lack substance.
The internet is full of “ultimate guides” which offer vague advice at best.
Good content sticks to the principle, “Show, don’t tell!”
It’s a good idea to include a lot of actionable tips and examples. Even while explaining a complex topic, you should try to simplify it. Your storytelling skills can make all the difference.
To produce quality content that is optimized well, hire writers with at least some subject matter expertise. Writers with industry experience are likely to know how to captivate the audience with their words.
Ready to Get Started?
Understanding your audience’s needs is extremely important for any business. If you can understand their pain points and motivation, you can address them. This, in turn, can help you boost your conversion rate.
The best way to uncover your audience’s requirements is to talk to them directly. Once you understand them, make sure you provide them with what they are looking for.
Do you have any questions about understanding your audience’s motivations? Please mention it in the comments section.