7 great ways to research your ideal buyer

23rd, Mar 2015

Buyer Persona Speech Bubble People Customers Profile ClientsHow much do you know about your ideal buyer or client? In my last post, I covered 14 things you must know about your buyers in order to effectively focus your marketing. Now the question is where you can find that information.

In developing a buyer persona or client profile, you want it to be based on real data and research, not just what you think is true about your market. To that end, here are 7 ways to gather that information:

1. Existing data from clients/prospects. One of the first steps you should take is to look at what clients and prospects have already told you about themselves. When new clients and prospects come in, you should try to gather as much information as you can, such as their individual and company information, demographics, needs, how they got to you, etc. Go through your own database (or create one if you don’t already have one) and analyze and segment your contacts. You may be surprised by how much you can learn about what types of clients are attracted to you, at what times and under what circumstances. The data can reveal niches, trends, patterns and other useful statistics allowing you to better target your ideal audience.

2. Appending data. Often you can’t collect as much information as you would like directly from contacts. People hate to fill out forms and it can be difficult to get answers without annoying clients and prospects. In some cases, you can fill in the gaps by appending your data through third parties. There are services offering to fill in gaps in your data with financial and industry information, contact names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses. There are also data mining and aggregation services which gather information from public sources and the internet.

3. Analytics. Your email, web and social media analytics provide a great deal of useful information to help you to create and hone your buyer personas. Understanding how, when and where people find you online and engage with you can reveal a wealth of information about them. For example, the key words they are searching online can tell you about their concerns or reveal trends. The third party sites sending traffic to you tell you about what information sources they may be using. When you produce content, analyze which types and outlets result in more site visitors, registrations, email click-throughs, and social media sharing to determine what resonates with your audience.

4. Surveys, interviews, focus groups. It’s crucial for your buyer persona to incorporate feedback from actual people. Affirmatively reach out to your clients and prospects. Find out how they found you, what their chief concerns and motivations were, how they went through the buying process, and what they like about your services.

5. Competitive intelligence. Yes you need to focus your research on your buyer, but you should also look at what your competitors are doing. In what ways are they targeting this buyer? How are they positioning themselves? You should look at their website, marketing materials, clients, and social media and web traffic. How are buyers connecting and engaging with them? From where are they getting their traffic? What distribution outlets are they using? The idea is to consider what are they doing differently from you and what lessons can you learn about your buyer.

6. Industry sources. It’s crucial to understand the industry in which your prospects operate. What is happening in their industry? Who are the relevant players? What are the key concerns? Research and subscribe to publications, blogs and other information resources relevant to your audience’s industry. Think about how these developments impact your clients and prospects both positively and negatively.

7. Social listening or social media monitoring. By actively monitoring social media channels, you can gain valuable information about your target audience. You can use social media to learn about industry developments and concerns, find influencers and communities, check out competitors, research leads, explore content ideas, and pose questions to your prospects. Join relevant LinkedIn groups, use Twitter to search for appropriate hashtags, follow companies and competitors, and set up alerts to stay current on your market.

You can do all of the above on your own, but there are also tools and service providers to help you with each of them. There are plenty of recommendations online for everything from CRM systems and marketing automation software to web analytic and social listening tools. For some suggested tools, see Social Media Today, Blogging Wizard and Curata.

Some of these may go beyond your needs and that’s fine. As I said in my last post, the important point is to not gloss over creating these profiles. The more you know about your buyer’s needs, the better you can tailor the substance of your message as well as how you promote it to them.