1. Carry out surveys and polls
It sounds obvious, but it is something that so many companies overlook – if you want to learn more about your audience, ask them questions! There are so many free ways to garner their opinions online. Create and launch a survey using a tool such as Survey Monkey. Facebook and Twitter have the function built in for you to carry out polls on your business pages. Instagram allows you to pose questions on your story, including those with a straightforward ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. The beauty of polls on social media is that you’ll often get a decent volume of responses which you can quantify, but also some further elaboration in the comments with gives you even more detailed insights, explanations and justifications. Asking questions of your audience can help you understand not just their views on your products and where you should go next, but also their opinions on broader current affairs directly related to your industry that may impact your strategy. For example, since lockdown began I’ve carried out polls across multiple social media platforms to gather my audience’s opinion on whether or not we should release an alcohol-free beer (our products), and also how ready they feel to return to the pubs should an announcement be made that they are reopen (current affairs). The answer to the latter should you be interested was a resounding no!
2. Reply to their enquiries with the personal touch
Customer enquiries can come at us across a variety of platforms these days – emails, social media messages, text messages – and it can become overwhelming keeping up with all of the communication channels all of the time, especially when you are a small business. Most businesses, mine included, will have standard stock phrases to reply to frequently asked questions and queries, which are sometimes tweaked slightly for each query – and of course this is efficient and makes business-sense. However, from time-to-time, it is beneficial to break away from these ‘automatic’ responses and throw in a curve ball, asking some questions that customers don’t expect and that create a more personal reply and therefore relationship. I have had more time on my hands as have most of us since lockdown, so I’ve been using this technique while I have the time for it. I’ve asked them the more generic questions around why they chose to use our home delivery service and how they are finding it, to the broader and more personal questions around how they are finding lockdown, how their buying habits have changed and so on. Most customers are pleasantly surprised by such a personal response and will be grateful you have shown an interest in them as a person, opening up and giving you some valuable information about them as your audience as a result. It was through using this technique that I discovered how loyal our customers are and just how many of them (a lot) were placing even more orders to support us and because they wanted to see us through this difficult time. It’s a time consuming technique that you wouldn’t want to maintain all of the time, that is useful to dip in and out of during quieter periods.
3. Measure their comments, interactions and engagements
As the saying goes, content is king and the quality of your social media posts is vital, but it’s only of any real quality if it is so in the eyes of the people who matter - your audience. Keep a close eye on comments and likes across all of your platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so on – and measure how people are responding. A flurry of likes and shares on one particular post can indicate that you’ve struck upon something that really matters to your audience. The comments themselves are gold dust as they allow you directly inside the minds of your audience and what they are thinking and feeling in relation to a particular product or issue. As a general rule of thumb, the more engagements a post receives (likes, shares, comments), the more it resonates with your audience meaning you should probably be doing more of it. If a particular campaign gets barely any interaction, more than likely the message is not appealing to your audience. Measure these metrics over time to discover patterns and gain an understanding of your audience as people, their values and pain points, and what they want from you.
4. Build a Customer Persona
This act in itself might sound counter-intuitive and you’d be forgiven for thinking ‘how can building the customer persona come before fully understanding my audience?’. However, the very act of mapping your customer out will force you to think about who exactly your audience is - and will make glaringly obvious any gaps in your knowledge about your crowd. Go beyond the obvious gender, age and socioeconomic status. Instead, create an outline of your perfect ‘target consumer’ that really gets into the nitty gritty of detail. What level of education do they have? What’s their family situation? Where do they like to shop? Where do they work? How do they like to relax? What about their personality traits, values and morals? Once you have this in place, you can take a person-centred approach to decision making, ensuring that new product or service launches for example are designed exactly with this person in mind. You can also ask yourself if you’re marketing your brand effectively to the right audience and whether or not your current audience has these target traits and demographics. Moreover, if you don’t know if your current audience has these traits, it will bring to light the need to engage in all of the other suggested strategies to get to know your audience better.
5. Engage with them in person
Whatever your product or service, find opportunities to meet with your customers face-to-face (no excuses) so you can take the level of understanding of what makes them tick even deeper. Manufacturing beers is our primary focus, but we do also have a taproom onsite. I make a point of visiting there at least a couple of times a month and speaking to the very people who have turned up to drink our beers. Whilst this is time intensive and certainly not quantitative, what I learn about my customers on a qualitative level is invaluable and worth the time investment. It is an opportunity for me to really get into a detailed, personal conversation with them about everything from WHY our beers/bar, to their own story and background and who they are as people. Your opportunity to engage with your customers face-to-face might be at a trade show or an exhibition. Whatever it might be, make the time for it as it is an opportunity to understand your customers on a much more personal level.
6. Make use of social media analytics
Thanks to Twitter and Facebook having their own built-in analytics services, this doesn’t have to be complicated – even for the biggest of technophobes. If you’re using Google Analytics too, cross-reference the sets of data and they should roughly marry up. While the audience insight on Twitter has sadly been removed, its analytics still provide you with prize gems such as your top performing tweet each month so you get to learn what makes your audience tick. As for Facebook Insights, it does what it says on the tin! It gives you invaluable insight into the personal data of your Facebook followers. Just one of the things it allows you to do is to delve into the demographics of your followers, providing a window into things such as their age, gender and where they live. It groups them together using useful charts, giving you a persona for your most typical follower and helping you to know who to target. Personally, I cannot get enough of the function on Facebook that allows you to see exactly WHEN your fans are online. It might not tell you what football team they support or what they have for breakfast, but how valuable is it knowing when they are most likely to see your posts and engage?! Worth its weight in gold!
So make a start today and begin trying some of these techniques for yourself if you don’t already. Even if you think you already have a pretty good grip of who your customers are, it’s impossible to ever know them too well.
I’d love to know what practices you would recommend to get inside the hearts and minds of your customers, so let’s start a conversation in the comments!
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