The more you know about your reader, the easier it is to write to them.
Think about the types of messages you send to family and friends… They’re personal, and you can dash them off in seconds. You’re very familiar with your audience, and it’s easy to write to them.
It makes sense then that the more you know about the readers for your marketing copy, the better you understand them and what they care about. With deeper insight, your messaging will be more targeted and more effective.
Sure, with B2B client work, you’re writing to a bigger audience, but the overall concept is the same as writing to family and friends.
The Holy Grail of marketing is to be in the right place, at the right time, with the right message.
So for years, businesses have created customer personas or avatars to draw a better picture of their audience. Maybe you’ve had some clients send you such bare outlines…
“Jill is a 40-year-old Content Marketing Manager at a software company working remotely. She has two children under 10 and drives a Prius.”
That’s not much to go on.
You can tease out common pain points for “Jill,” such as competing priorities, a confusing workflow, and the need for more time/budget to achieve goals.
Filling the gap between vague personas and deeper customer insights is the emerging discipline of audience research.
In the past six months, I’ve seen multiple agencies and consultants go all-in on audience research to help their clients better understand their potential customers.
In just a moment, I’ll share some of the fantastic software tools you can use, but first, let’s address today’s world of fractured marketing.
The Age of Fractured Marketing
Today’s markets are fractured. A decade ago, you could reach any market by attending primary industry conferences and focusing on industry publications. Now, there are dozens of podcasts and YouTube channels that influence decision-makers.
These days, smart marketers know there’s no single thread you can connect from the prospect to the purchase.
Prospects have so many communities, websites, podcasts, YouTube channels, etc., where they turn for information.
This means prospects tend to gather information from various places, hopefully including your landing page or content, but you’ll probably never know for sure.
Content marketing isn’t an exact science.
We know that with all the different niche communities, it makes sense to network with industry leaders and identify ways to reach other people’s audiences. For instance…
- Sponsor a popular newsletter
- Syndicate content in an industry publication
- Appear as a podcast guest on a popular podcast
These are all proven ways to borrow related audiences. It builds credibility and helps them learn about you.
Every industry has its established industry publications, but their advertising costs may not be within your client’s reach, or they may not feel like the right “fit.”
At the same time, every industry has up-and-coming leaders heading up their own media channels.
Imagine collaborating with leading podcasters or a YouTube channel host. Choosing good fit partners who want guests and have an audience of your prospects.
Yet, you may not know these people in the fractured marketing world. Then there’s the reality of building a content strategy that reaches different audience segments. Who’s ready to buy now vs. in six months or a year?
Partnering with the right people, and creating the right content, requires understanding your audience at a deep level.
Where do they spend their time? What do they listen to or watch? Who are their influencers?
All good questions marketers need to answer today.
2 Audience Research Software Tools
Whether you want to get up to speed on a new-to-you industry or you’re looking for ways to develop a strong content strategy for your client, you can never know too much about your prospective reader.
These software tools can help.
Software Tool #1: Sparktoro
Developed by Rand Fishkin, formerly of the SEO tool Moz. Sparktoro helps you discover where your audience spends time online. You can use an existing website, social media account, or demographics to drill down.
Simply type in a query, and you’ll receive websites, hashtags, and other fodder to round out your audience’s interests and concerns. For example, you can type in “people who use specific words in their bios” or talk about a particular topic.
It’s a bit like a treasure hunt. For instance, if you write in the educational technology space, you can type in “edtech” and see what websites this audience visits most. You can also see popular YouTube shows, podcasts, and other areas of interest.
These can give you ideas for potential partnerships and deepen your understanding of what your audience cares about.
Software Tool #2: Netline
Netline is a 30-year-old B2B lead generation company with two audience research tools: Audience Explorer and Intentive.
With their Audience Explorer tool, you can explore by job or industry. It offers a real-time peek at what people are downloading by job title.
For example, a drop-down menu lets you choose your industry, industry size, and other parameters. I chose marketing technology.
“Marketing Director from Genus Technologies registered for a Report about Marketing Strategy.”
If relevant to your industry, you could dig deeper by reviewing the Genus Technologies website and seeing what types of reports they publish.
Netline uses this as lead generation tool to entice companies to contact them for more information on their content syndication services, but it’s still an intriguing look.
They’ve also launched a new tool focused on buyer intent. Called Intentive, it’s geared toward the “intent” of the prospect.
To picture how this works, think of your own behavior. If you’re researching hotels for a weekend getaway, you intend to take a trip and stay overnight.
You can assess your buyer intent by looking at the data and seeing what they click on. You can use that data to help you gauge what they want to know more about and their priorities.
Both tools let you filter keywords, topics, and industries to search for clues on your customer’s interests. Even a few minutes with one of these tools can be time well spent.
The next time your client gives you a vague customer persona, ask more questions. What do the ideal customers read, watch, or listen to? Who are the up-and-coming industry leaders? What are the top questions, and what are the contrarian points of view?
By using such audience research tools, you can better understand your reader, which helps you write stronger copy and carve a place for yourself as your client’s “go-to” writer.