When it comes to the relationship between brand and shopper, we know what the ultimate goal is: loyalty. Brands want customers who love their products, believe in their messages, and trust through thick and thin. Consumers want a brand whose products they love, in whose message they can believe, and that values their support. Well, how can a brand make that happen? By continuously studying and learning from its audience.
This post is the first in a series of three about audience. We’ll talk about researching and defining your audience. Next, we’ll cover where to reach them and through which channels. The third post will discuss why—what advantage(s) does this give me?
So let’s begin, what is an audience? This term gets thrown around all the time in branding conversations. Every company has publics, those who have a stake in the decisions of the company. Usually publics are categorized into shareholders, employees, and customers.
For any established brand’s audience, we can break it down into two groups: customers and potential customers. People who have already bought your product/service and people who haven’t. Logically, in order to reach potential customers, you need to know what separates these two groups. The only way to do that is to research your customers.
Like any research endeavor, you know you’re going to need a variety of methods to get a clear understanding of the big picture.
You’ve got your direct methods….
Surveys get you qualitative data en mass. Here you can ask pointed questions about what drew your customer to your brand, what would make them recommend it to a friend and what they would like to see more of from your brand. This can be done through email, your brand’s website, or even can be included in shipments to your customers.
Polls are a great way to get a bunch of quantitative data. They help brands gage how on-target they are in terms of messaging. For example, you can set up a poll on Instagram that asks whether or not people liked the last piece of content you posted. Instead of looking at “likes” on that post, which most people “like” out of habit when something is on their feed, you can prompt people to take a second look and respond “yes or no” thoughtfully, giving you a clearer picture of the success of your content.
Interviews can be conducted over the phone or even through DM on social media. This practice, while time consuming, can get you answers to tough questions like, for example, “would you continue to buy our shoes if we started making them from recycled materials? would an increase in price be worth the environmental benefits?” Just don’t forget that if you conduct interviews in one place, like Instagram, you should also interview members of your audience who are not on that platform. You never want to limit where you research because then you limit who you research.
Finally, focus groups. Obviously, COVID does not make conducting focus groups easy, but keep them in mind for the future. Focus groups allow you to get a diverse group of your audience together for a discussion. This may be one of the most beneficial research tools because people are most candid when talking in a group of their peers. Instead of responding to questions on a sheet of paper, focus groups can be entirely centered around candid reactions to one aspect of your brand. For example, you could have multiple focus groups—one for brand aesthetic, one for messaging and one for community relations. Think of all the valuable data that could come out of that!
And you’ve got your indirect methods…
Social media listening tools like Meltwater allow you to see what people are saying about your brand without them knowing. While this isn’t the best method to get direct answers to questions, it helps brands gage the effectiveness of their messaging and understand how consumers talk about your brand to their friends and followers. For example, you may see that the word “quality” appears most often when people talk about your brand on social media. That’s a good indication that your products themselves are at the center of branded conversations, rather than, for example, the influencers who endorse your brand.
You can also spend time looking through your reviews. A lot of brands don’t take advantage of customer reviews, which can be a smart way to start a dialogue with your customers. Ask them to open up about their negative/positive experience with your brand. I promise you’ll learn a lot!
Now, all of these methods aren’t necessarily for everyday use, so it’s important to have a monitoring tool in place constantly. For even small-budget research, analytics programs are affordable and extremely helpful. This could be FB Insights, Google Analytics or setting up a business Instagram account that gives data on your followers. These are great tools that can tell you who is interacting with your brand, what posts or website page is attracting the most engagement, or, what channels aren’t bringing in enough engagement. With data tools like these, you can monitor your audience over time and use that information to really get to know them and their digital/purchasing habits.
So, why should you care about all this stuff? Because it will give you a more educated starting point for all of your brand’s PR and marketing efforts.
In the next post, we’ll take a dive into finding where your audience spends its time, and what to do when you find them.