Having a really solid understanding of your customers and your buyer personas is important to the success of any business.
Understanding your target audience’s needs, challenges and how they make decisions will give you the tools you need to strengthen your digital strategies as well as your overall marketing and business plan.
For business who can afford it, the customer research process usually involves hiring an agency.
Most customer and market research agencies will charge and arm and a leg for their service – often relying heavily on traditional cost-intensive methods like surveys, one-on-one interviews and (here’s a blast from the past) focus groups.
Even those who have the resources to take on hefty management and agency fees are left with an overarching problem.
The focus on traditional research methods means that most agencies don’t go as in depth into the business’s online strategy; not giving nearly enough consideration of how much of the research and decision making process now takes place online.
It’s an old fashioned approach.
Any keyword researcher worth their salt will tell you this and will use the customer’s needs, behaviours, attitudes and demographic information as their starting point in determining consumer intent and potential relevant search terms.
Successful website design and user experience also hinges on good, solid customer research. How else can you tailor a customer’s experience to suit them specifically without knowing exactly who that customer is, how they behave, and what it is they are looking for?
As professionals in SEO and digital marketing, we’ve built a comprehensive tool box of useful techniques for finding information and data to build accurate, detailed portraits of your customers quickly.
Our customer research toolbox gives you everything you need to start generating detailed reports without having to resort to costly outsourcing methods and the types of expensive and time-consuming techniques they use.
We’ve compiled a list of our favourite fast tools and techniques used by the Kwasi Studios team – to get some initial insights into your audience quickly.
Check the Key Demographics
When you want to find out who your customers are, the best place to start is with their key identifying information like age, gender, location, income, family and lifecycle stage. This type of information is called demographics and paints the broadest portrait of your audience.
There are a few different ways to get this information, but the quickest ways to get started are using the demographics reports in Google Analytics or Facebook Insights.
The Google Analytics report below, showing the age and gender of your visitors, can be found under Audience – Demographics – Overview. Google Analytics also includes reports on interests and geography (where your users come from).
If you have a Facebook Page, you can also find the ages and genders of people who like your page. The report is under Facebook Insights – People.
Identify Key Needs
Almost every product or service exists to meet a need, fill a desire or overcome a problem. Knowing what that is gives you tremendous insight into your customer.
If you make ice scrapers, you know your customer needs to de-ice their car windshield. Which means that you also know your customer drives a car and lives somewhere that gets pretty darn cold.
[Product X] solves [problem Y] for [customer Z]
[Product X] helps [customer Y] achieve [goal Z]
An easy place to start is by looking at what your business offers and figuring out what and whose needs it addresses.
Another way to get at the need is to look at the terms your website visitors are using to get there. You can use Google Search Console or the Site Search Report in Google Analytics to find this information, or you can make some hypotheses and use some of the following techniques to validate them.
Find out What Customers Are Saying
The first two techniques focused on customers who are already visiting your website or social media pages, but eventually you will have to start looking into potential customers: the people you want to start finding you online (this is the name of the game, after all).
To do this, you should see what people are saying elsewhere on the web about your brand, products or services (or similar ones) and the needs they meet. You can start by just searching for the names of the brand, products, services or needs you’re interested in, but if you want to narrow your search down to just discussions by real people, there is one trick you can use.
Let’s say you sell adult colouring books. If you just search for “adult colouring books” you’ll get a lot of results from people selling colouring books, like this:
Not terribly helpful.
Instead, at the end of the keyword you’re searching simply add site: followed by the homepage URL of a forum or question-based site.
Bonus Points: Use Text Analysis
You can save yourself a tonne of reading and identify the topics – and even keywords – that your target audience is most interested much more quickly by running the text from forum threads and social discussions through a text analysis tool.
Online-utility.org has a free easy-to-use text analysis tool. All you need to do is copy the text from the forum thread or comments you want to analyse into its text field and the tool will tell you which words and short phrases pop up the most.
These are the results if you run this blog post through the text analyser:
Map Out the Buying Process
Understanding what your target audience needs and values is a big part of the puzzle, but to really make sense of it, you also need to understand the process they go through from the moments they begin to realise they have a particular need up to the point where they (hopefully) make a purchase.
Mapping out this process in full can often involve a lot of research, as it covers a wide range of online and offline behaviours, but mapping out the stages of the process when your audience is on (and just about to get to) your website is fairly straightforward with Google Analytics flow reports.
The Behaviour Flow report shows you the paths visitors take through your site, starting from either the landing page they arrived at or even the source or medium that brought them there.
This helps you know when and where users expect to find certain types of information or take the steps to progress towards a decision. These flow reports, especially Goal Flow Reports (if you have conversions set up), will also show you any points of friction in the process.
Conduct Polls & Surveys
At the end of the day: it never hurts to ask.
One of the good things about the web is you don’t have to hand over fistfuls of dollars to expensive market research agencies to survey or poll your potential customers. There are a number of inexpensive tools that let you go straight to the source for answers about your target audience.
Google Surveys is a cost-effective way to survey a targeted group based on demographics and even screening questions (targeting by location, occupation and industry is available in Google Surveys 360).
Using any or all of the tools and techniques above can give you some powerful insights about your audience, and can go a long way towards building a comprehensive digital persona and content strategy. If you want to learn more about researching your customers but still aren’t sure where to start, why not drop us a line and see how we can help.