Audience research is vital if you want to ensure everything your business does, from B2B marketing to sales to customer service, is customer-focused. It also ensures that your value proposition can be tailored to a very specific and focused manner. But, don’t take it from me. David Ogilvy - the legendary advertising pioneer - said: “Advertising people who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy signals.”
If you're ignoring your customers, you'll make decisions that don't align with what they care about and don't benefit them. You’ll struggle to grow because you’re not helping your audience understand your product/service and how it can benefit them. But, don’t worry. In this guide, I’m going to cover:
- What audience research is
- Key benefits of audience research
- Strategies to conduct audience research
By the end, you’ll be ready to start uncovering unique insights from your audience and improve your product/service, your marketing messaging, sales strategies, and more.
What is Audience Research?
Audience research involves the methods you use to collect feedback and learn from your target audience. It is the foundation for all good companies. If your product/service, marketing, or sales tactics don’t match what your target customer wants, you can’t sell to them.
Your audience research will improve every part of your business. From your marketing strategies, to your sales messaging, to your website design and pricing. If you cut corners, you’ll end up relying on intuition and guesswork — they work sometimes, but more often than not, they’re a recipe for poor messaging and low conversion rates.
When Should You Conduct Audience Research?
The short answer? Always. The realistic answer? As often as you can — within reason.
Most companies don’t have time to conduct regular audience research, but it should always be in the back of your mind. Key moments where audience research is essential:
- New product launches
- When you’re reviewing your marketing messaging
- Before you launch new advertising or ABM campaigns
The more often you can check-in with your audience to find out what they care about, the more up-to-date your messaging can be, and the closer your product/service can be to what your customers want.
Benefits of Audience Research for B2B Sales and Marketing Teams
1. Make Informed Decisions
Knowing who your customer is, what they care about, and what motivates them to take action enables your team to make better decisions. Your audience research will act as a litmus test for new ideas and how closely they align with the topics your audience cares about. You’ll be able to make customer-centric decisions in many areas of your business.
2. Improve Your Messaging
From your landing pages to your outreach emails, messaging is vital to connecting with potential clients. Audience research will help you uncover insights, down to how your prospects would describe your business in their own words. You can use those insights to guide your messaging strategy and lead generation strategy to convert more leads into customers.
3. Test New Ideas
Audience research will help you gather information that will help you test new ideas with confidence. For example, if your marketing team has a list of hypotheses they want to test but aren’t sure how to prioritize, ask your customers and audience which ones they think are worth testing. Even with a small sample size, you’ll quickly gather insights into what ideas resonate with your audience and reduce the risk associated with spending any money on new ideas.
Strategies to Conduct Audience Research
1. Conduct Customer Interviews for In-Depth Learning
Interviewing your customers is an incredible way to uncover insights you’ve never considered. Invite happy customers to interviews with your team. Ask questions like:
- What outcomes are essential to your role?
- What metrics are you measured on?
- How does [your product/service] impact your processes?
- What would life be like without [your product/service]?
- What areas do you struggle in?
This list isn’t exhaustive, and you should come up with questions that will help your unique business gather relevant insights, but they’re a great start. Record your customer interviews so you can share them with your team. If you’re struggling to find customers to interview, consider incentivising your interviews with gift cards or some other benefit to your interviewee.
Once you’ve run several interviews, you’ll start to notice trends. You can then start incorporating those trends into your sales and marketing to ensure you’re aligned with what your audience truly cares about. Holding one-to-one interviews is likely to return the most focused and helpful results. However, surveys are a good option to learn more about your customers at scale.
This process will help you craft an ideal customer profile (ICP) that’s based on real customers, and isn’t simply made up of hypotheses.
2. Talk to Your Customer-Facing Teams for Regular Insights
Your sales and customer support teams have the most day-to-day interactions with your current customers, and audience. Your whole company should be learning from those two customer-facing teams. According to CB Insights:
- 17% of startups fail because of a user-unfriendly product
- 14% fail because of poor marketing
- Another 14% fail because they ignore customers
Learning from your audience enables you to solve all of those problems (before you’ve spent tens of thousands on ads that don’t resonate with your market). Your customer support team will know exactly what pain points your existing customers have, as well as common questions customers have in their buying process.
Your sales team will hear common objections and questions from prospects they’re reaching out to engage with. Make sure every learning you ever have from a customer or sales lead is logged and reviewed. Over time, this collection of insights will grow, and you’ll be able to use it to guide decisions across multiple departments in your business.
3. Gather Insight on Autopilot with Customer Surveys
If you’re unable to get your customers on a call with you, surveys are another great option. You can include a customer survey as part of your new customer onboarding sequence. In general, you don’t want to do this immediately, but have it scheduled for 20-30 days after they became a paying customer. By then, they’ll have used your product/service enough to answer your survey.
You already have processes in place for when someone becomes a customer, so all you need to do is add a customer survey into that process. Your customers will be happy to answer if it helps them in the long run, and you'll gather insights that you’d otherwise miss out on. You can ask questions like:
- Why they chose your product/service
- What jobs your product/service helps them with
- What their goals with your product/service are
- Who was involved in the buying process
4. Learn About Your Website Visitors with LinkedIn Analytics
LinkedIn has a useful - but rarely mentioned - tool, called Website Demographics. It’s a fantastic method to find out who your audience is based on your website visitors. Once you install the tracking script on your website, you’ll see data on who your audience is.
You can see data on your visitors’:
- Job titles
- Company size
The insights will highlight if you’re getting visits from a particular demographic that you hadn’t considered, and even see what pages your visitors are engaging with, and changes in your engagement based on the audience segment and time period. You can use that data to inform your LinkedIn strategy and improve your ad targeting to boost engagement rates across your marketing campaigns.
5. Find Common Pain Points with Google
Google is the largest search engine in the world. It’s also one of the first destinations most people go to when they have a problem. By studying common results on Google, you’ll quickly find your audience’s pain points.
For example, in the example below, when you start typing LinkedIn advertising into Google, we can immediately see problems people have. They want to see costs, guides, courses, benchmarks, and ad formats.
If your business offers a product or service around LinkedIn advertising, these are all potential pain points you can address in your marketing content. There is also a variety of SEO and keyword research tools that will surface these for you, like Answer The Public, Ahrefs, and Semrush.
You can also look at intent-based keywords that are closely related to the bottom-of-the-funnel, such as “best LinkedIn advertising agency”. If you ran an agency, ranking for that keyword would drive interested customers to your business on autopilot.
6. Join (or Create) a Community Where Your Audience Spends Time
If your customers and audience are spending time somewhere, such as a LinkedIn, Facebook, or Slack community, you need to be there. For example, if you sell to SaaS companies, head to Facebook and search for groups with SaaS in the title.
Immediately, you’ve found the watering holes that your ideal customer hangs out in. By spending time in these groups you’ll see common questions, ideas, and pain points that your audience has. You can also use these groups to promote your content and learn more about what type of content you should be creating to engage with your target market.
If there are no groups that match your audience, consider creating one. You can invite your existing customers to join, and encourage people matching your ideal customer profile to join.
Blending Your Quantitative and Qualitative Learnings
No matter how much information you have, it’s key to remember that your audience is made up of real people — not just data points.
- Their pain points you solve is unique
- The metrics they’re judged on at work are unique
- The reason they’re considering you is unique
Ensure you blend your quantitative data with qualitative data gathered from surveys and social platforms. This will help your team realize there’s always a real person behind a target account, and guarantee that your sales and marketing efforts never follow a quantity over quality approach.
Learning from your audience is crucial if you want to grow. Without audience research, you’re leaving your business growth to chance. It is an ongoing project that’ll never be finished. But, that’s exactly why you need to do it. Every time you hold a customer interview or receive a new survey submission, you may uncover unique insights that you might not have considered before.
You can then use those to inform your sales, marketing, or product strategy. The customer will guide everything your team does, and that’s one of the most effective ways to avoid failure. If you need help learning more about your ideal customer, and how you can use intent data to discover customers looking to purchase a solution like yours, Internal Results can help.
Our B2B marketing solutions help growing companies engage with their ideal customers at scale, using targeted content syndication, granular targeting methods, and intent data.
Get in touch today and we’ll show you our proven process for B2B lead generation.