The Marketing Step Many Starts-ups Skip: Know Your Audience

The Marketing Step Many Starts-ups Skip: Know Your Audience

Some marketers will tell you that there are four steps to creating a marketing strategy, some will tell you there are 10, and others will give a number somewhere in between. However, we all agree on one thing: the first step is getting to know your audience.

Before you begin your branding, product packaging or even hiring, you need to know your market. The importance of market research and audience personification cannot be understated! Businesses are beholden to their customers first and foremost, so every decision you make should center their needs. Understanding the market’s pain points, personalities, opportunities, etc. is essential to a complete marketing strategy.

The Importance of Market Research

You may be surprised to learn that half of all small businesses fail within the first few years due to the lack of a proper marketing and business plan. Skipping out on any step in your strategic plan is a risk you do not want to take.

It may sound simple, but too many entrepreneurs overlook the simplest question: does my business even need to exist? And the answer to that is, “Only your audience can tell you that.” If your intended target audience is already happy with the other options in the market, then you’re going to have a really tough time selling yourself—and you’ll likely be in the 50% of businesses that go belly-up after five years.

How Your Audience Drives Your Marketing

We usually don’t need to tell our clients the importance of knowing their audience, but getting them to understand that it’s step #1 is a harder sell. Simply put: your audience is everything. For example, if you know that your audience’s main pain point is that your competitors have shoddy service and poorly explain their USPs, then:

  • your visual brand should be uncomplicated and welcoming,
  • your marketing goals should be about customer satisfaction and retention,
  • your budget should have a significant portion dedicated to customer service, and
  • your team should dedicate a lot of time to email, website and social media engagement.

Of course, every company needs to do their own market research to discover their specific audience challenges and solutions. It’s easy to get into the weeds with questions like, “How wide should the aisles be in our store?” and, “Can we use curse words in our content?” but you absolutely have to get in the weeds before you can create a more general strategy. Audience. Details. Matter.

Tapping Into Your Target Audience

Nailing down your audience is easier said than done. It requires a lot of market research. Personally, I always recommend leveraging an unbiased outside source to conduct your research so that you don’t let your own goals and assumptions cloud the process. As the first step of a long-term marketing strategy, this is too important to not do it right. (Do you sense a theme here?)

While there are a multitude of ways to go about it, these are some of the top methods for marketing audience research:

  1. Analytics – reviewing marketing metrics and industry reports
  2. Creative Mindmap – conducting creative exercises with marketing experts
  3. Focus groups – hosting group sessions with potential audience segments
  4. Internet research – reviewing successful competitors to understand their messaging, etc.
  5. Interviews – meeting one-on-one with potential audience segments to gain deep insights
  6. Positioning map – plotting potential competitors to determine market white space
  7. Surveys – asking pointed quantitative questions to a large number of potential customers

The more methods you use, the better your data and hypotheses will be. Even if you only use one method, such as surveys, don’t expect a one-and-done situation to give you the perspective you need to make long-term strategies for success. Plus—and this is critical—don’t think that once your initial audience research is complete that you’re set for life. You need to constantly re-evaluate. Your audience is always shifting because your world and your market are always shifting. Complacency is the enemy of your marketing strategy!

For more on audience research and strategy, check out our other blog and vlog posts:

Cody H. Owens,
Content Director

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