If there is one piece of advice that you’ve heard from just about every business expert, it’s that you have to “know your audience.” Starting with the very first draft of your business plan, you’re expected to have a profile of your target audience and customer, and a keen understanding of what that market needs and wants.
Let’s assume you are using an online website builder to build a website. As you fill it with content, that need to “know your audience” starts becoming more important. Quality content drives traffic to your site and keeps users engaged; content that is irrelevant or boring (or even worse, insulting to their intelligence) only drives them away. But how do you know your target audience? You probably have an idea of who they are and what they want, but you never want to make assumptions. At the same time, you also don’t have unlimited time and money available to conduct in-depth user research.
If that sounds familiar, you do have options. Learning to listen to your target audience and customers and paying attention to how they interact with you, your site, and each other, will give you all the information you need to successfully give your audience what they want. And best of all, all of these methods are free. Also, use tools you already have.
1. Get Social
Social media is a goldmine of information about your target audience and customers. By looking at Facebook, Twitter, even Pinterest, you can see which content resonates with your audience and what falls flat. What are they sharing? What are they commenting on? Using the free analytical tools provided by those sites, you can easily see what your audience is responding to and plan accordingly.
However, social media provides more than analytical data. Engage with your audience to ask them what they want. Sometimes, an informal poll about preferences can spark a conversation that leads to compelling content. Watch blog comments, forums, and Q&A areas for topics that spur conversation – or spark confusion. If the same topic appears with some regularity, there’s a gap you can fill with your content, and better meet your customers’ needs.
2. Survey Says
Conducting a large-scale, statistically accurate survey can be expensive and time-consuming, but the good news is that you don’t have to spend all that time and money. Your website builder most likely includes tools to add user or customer surveys to your site; if you use an online website builder, you can take advantage of free survey apps or plug-ins to make the process even simpler. Other options include sending surveys to your email subscribers, or posting simple poll questions on social media. Basically, you’re just asking your customers what they want to see on your website. Provide ideas to gauge interest in the content you’re already planning, or ask customers to give you ideas about what they want to see.
3. Follow The Pack
Trends can be a goldmine of inspiration for content and a very clear indicator of what your target audience is interested in. You don’t want to cover the same topics that everyone else has already beaten to death – unless of course you have a unique angle or point of view on a popular topic. However, trending topics are a useful barometer of what people are interested in, and can drive traffic to your site.
Determining the trends that are rocking your users’ worlds requires staying on top of industry news, following social media and even looking to your competitors. What’s getting attention on your competitors’ sites? Pay attention, and you’ll discover clues to your own customers’ interests and needs.
4. Watch Trends
Your website itself can be a useful – and free – source of information about your customers. Review the analytics of your website to track user activity. How do users navigate the site? What are they searching for? Where are they leaving the site? Your site analytics can also tell you where your users are coming from – both in terms of their physical location and where on the web they arrived from. This can guide your content in several ways. First, if you notice that a large portion of your customer base is visiting from a particular region, you can tailor some of your content to that region. Second, seeing the source of your traffic allow you to better develop content for sources that are lacking, while staying on track with those that are performing.
Learning how to build a website your target audience and your customers want to visit is the most important step. Take the time to understand their needs and once you do, create content that your customers want, and will keep returning for. You don’t have to invest in expensive market research, but simply use the free tools you have available to you. It takes a little work, but the results are well worthwhile.