1. Use an Analytics ToolThis point may seem elementary, but it’s not. Roughly one-third of all websites monitored by W3Techs don’t have analytics attached to their sites. And an even worse statistic — less than 30% of small businesses use analytics, according to a 2017 study by the U.S. Small Business Administration. That’s an audience killer. Analytics is the backbone for understanding your audience’s behavior. Analytics helps answer the most important questions in the process of identifying your audience. For instance, what content do your clients read? What time of day do they come to your website? How long do they spend with you? And where do they go after they visit you? You’ll certainly want to know if your audience is headed to a competitor after they visit your site. More than half of all websites, according to W3Techs, use Google Analytics, though there are dozens of other available programs. If you don’t have an analytics program, do yourself a favor and get one.
2. Understand Your AnalyticsWe already know that a sizeable number of websites don’t attach analytics to their sites. In reality, having analytics is just a small part of what comes next. You have to have someone who understands the data. It doesn’t do you any good to have the data if you can’t tell what it means and you can’t use it to understand and then grow your audience. Reading the numbers isn’t hard, but putting the numbers together to tell a story is far more difficult. For example, if you have data coming from Facebook, Twitter, and Google, you’ll need someone who can take the numbers and paint the picture of your audience’s habits, needs, and wants. Even if you use a social media management tool like Hootsuite, you still must have the skills to analyze the data. Having analytics and understanding them goes hand-in-hand.
3. Understand KeywordsKeywords are the words and phrases users type into a search engine. They’re important because they either send web traffic to your site or drive it away. A part of understanding your audience is knowing how people find your site. What search terms do they use? To start, you have to understand the keywords relevant to your business. The right keywords help; the wrong keywords drive no traffic. Also, customers may ask for content in a way that’s different than how you describe the service. For instance, if you own a “wiener stand” but customers are searching for “hot dogs”, your search results will suffer. That’s why it’s critical to know what keywords your audience uses when searching. Use Google Keyword Research and WordTracker to find out what keywords work best for you.
4. Learn How to Use FacebookYou may think you know how to use Facebook. You may think that it’s simply a matter of posting something on the world’s largest social media channel and then waiting for your audience to land on your website. How wrong you are. There’s an underappreciated art to using Facebook and crafting messages that audiences find useful. All of the parts of your Facebook post have to be in harmony. The overline — the part above the photo — must be catchy without being clickbait. The photo has to be alluring while conveying a message. The headline has to pull your audience in and make them want to click through to your site. We could spend multiple blogs discussing how to use Facebook to your advantage, but instead, take advantage of some of the free online tools that will put you on the road to knowledge. Facebook has lots of free tutorials, as does LifeWire and WikiHow.
5. Understand How Your Audience Reacts on Social MediaFacebook is the biggest social media site with nearly 1.7 billion worldwide users, according to data featured on Statista. But other social sites can help attract an audience, even though they all act differently. For instance, Pinterest makes heavy use of photos and graphics, while Instagram uses photos and messaging. And Twitter has become an outstanding tool for breaking news and marketing messages that are pushing a specific product. There is no one size fits all in social media, and it’s incumbent on businesses to understand how their audiences use all of the available social tools.
6. Monitor Your Audience’s CommentsI know a business owner who stopped monitoring customers comments. Why? Because she didn’t like criticism. Sure, it’s hard when customers say bad things, and it’s harder if you consider the comments unjust. But audience comments, unjust or not, provide a window into what your customers think and how they expect to be treated. Experienced media managers know the value of monitoring comments and using the available tools to talk directly to customers. Ignoring your customer’s comments means you’re not only throwing away a valuable source of information, but you’re also potentially losing eyeballs and business.
7. Let Your Audience Tell You What’s ImportantLet’s use a newspaper analogy here. Newsroom editors decide what the most important news is each day, and those stories show up on the front page of the newspaper. That’s the way the news business has operated for centuries — an editor decides what’s important. But not anymore. Now, the audience tells you what’s important through analytics. An audience tells you what they care about by the amount of time they spend on your site, by the number of times they click on your site, whether they make a purchase or click on an ad, and whether or not they come back. This may seem harsh, but the only opinion that matters belongs to your audience. Giving your audience anything besides what they crave means you don’t understand their needs, and those customers will go elsewhere.
8. Understand Your Business and What You ProvideAs Forbes notes, the niche business market continues to grow, offering opportunities for entrepreneurs. That’s fantastic. But you have to know your business and what you provide, and not chase any business opportunities that detract from your core offerings. Additionally, you’ll know exactly what you should provide through your marketing data and analytics. To illustrate, Tom Cruise’s character in the movie "Jerry McGuire" famously said, "Show me the money." In this case, "show me the data" helps identify whether the niche works, and if it doesn’t, it also helps to determine what changes you need to make. Don’t stay too far afield from the business core.
9. Don’t Be Everything to EverybodyThis point ties very nicely into understanding your business. In today’s growing niche marketplace, you can’t be everything to everybody. A cosmetics company trying to expand into apparel might work, but at what cost? In addition to the startup costs of a new venture, there’s also the lost opportunity cost when you take your eye off of your primary business. Besides, as I’ve said, the audience will tell you what it wants. Give them what they want, and you will have a better chance of thriving.
10. Survey Your AudienceSurveys are an easy and often free or low-cost way to understand your audience’s desires. Short surveys with specific questions yield results you can use to keep customers. A collection of statistics put together by Access show that loyal customers come back and spend more money with a business, and these surveys can help identify areas in which you can improve. However, the surveys also yield marketing data that will show customer concerns and provide clues for marketing strategies adjustment. Helpful tools include sites like SurveyMonkey, GutCheck, and AYTM, all of which offer free or low-cost surveys.
Final WordUnderstanding your audience isn’t easy. You need a strong website analytics tool and someone who can interpret the data for you. Social media complicates matters since the biggest platforms — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest — each attract audiences in different ways. The analytics help to paint a picture of who your customer is so that you can ultimately increase your users. However, without a strong understanding of your audience, that growth will suffer. A lack of understanding can result in businesses moving too far away from their core offerings, paying less attention to their strength. A strong analytics program and analytics team helps organizations better understand why customers come to your website, giving you a better chance of increasing the number of repeat visitors. Featured image via Unsplash.
Mark Brown is a freelance writer and marketing professional. He has years of experience in various management roles. Mark writes about business growth and management strategies for dozens of digital platforms. He lives and works in Palo Alto, California.
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