How to understand your customers

Do you have a real understanding of your customers and why they are investing in advertising? It may sound a simple question but detailed insight can help you target them with the right message at the right time, increasing your conversion levels and sales.

People are very attuned to messages that address the specific pain points and challenges they have, so taking some time to know your customers can help your communication to hit the mark. Here are our top tips about how to do this.

Doing your research

The first step is to get an understanding of your customers and the people who could be in the market for advertising. Asking the right questions is essential. These could include:

• What are your interests?
• What are the key things that affect how you buy?
• How confident are you in making this decision?
• How much background information do you want?
• What challenges do you face?
• What do you particularly like (e.g. being inspired, spending time with family, etc)?
• What type of magazines and newspapers do you read?
• Do you use the internet? How do you access it (e.g. smartphone, tablet, computer, wearable device)? Which websites do you use?
• Why did you choose to buy from us [for existing customers]?
• What do you think we should offer that we don’t?

This isn’t an exhaustive list, so think about what else you might like to know.

The next step is to find the answers. You can do this in a number of ways: through focus groups, using online surveys or by talking to your existing customers and asking for their feedback. You can then use the results to develop personas.

Creating personas

Marketers often use personas to record what they know about typical customers. This helps them to target their messages to prospective customers’ interests and needs and to ensure they use the right language.

These customer profiles show what a typical customer is like and you may have more than one. For example, the needs of a small business looking to advertise for the first time would be very different to a big business with a dedicated marketing team. You’d therefore split these groups into different personas.

Each persona includes several pieces of information:

The name: these are usually easy to remember and help you to refer back to the persona when you’re developing your marketing. Typically these are may just be a name (“Dave”) or a type of buyer (“Savvy start-up”).
A biography: this will outline their lifestyle and how they live. It will tell a story about them. This should reflect a typical customer – you can include a quote from your research if you like.
Goals: what they want to achieve in their advertising and why they might buy it. That would typically be increasing sales, although it could be to raise their profile, relaunch their business or to sell old stock.
Triggers: why are they looking to advertise now? Examples could include extending the business, increased competition or changing the type of stock they sell.
Likes: what are they interested in? That might be in terms of lifestyle (golf, time with family) or in the type of information they’re looking for (how advertising could help, how to choose the right media).
Frustrations: what drives them crazy? That will take their challenges and explain what annoys them and why.
Information sources: this will summarise the newspapers they read, the websites they visit and other ways they access information.

Once you have developed your personas, you can use these to target your customers with the right message in the right place. Test your marketing and sales messages against them to check that your customers and prospects are interested in what you’re saying and that you’ve explained how you help with their pain points or frustrations.

Segmenting your customers

As well as using personas, you can also target your customers based on segments. These group your existing customers and any prospects (such as people who have signed up online or any contacts from email lists you have bought) into similar lists. That may be based on:

Location: where they live
Demographics: this includes splitting people by age, race, gender, economic status, education, income and other measures
Behaviour: whether they have enquired about your services, when they last bought advertising, what they are interested in

You can use these segments to send customised emails with specific messages, to identify customers who may not buy again and encourage them to stay loyal, to make offers to the right people, to change your messages to suit your audience.

All of this helps you reach people with the right message at the right time in the right place. If you can nail that, you should see your sales figures go up.

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