Part 2: Find Your Audience
Last week, we went into how to clear away the roadblocks that are keeping your marketing efforts from actually working. Now as promised, this week, we’re talking about how to actually find your audience. You know there are people out there just aching to give you their money, but who are they, where are they, how do you reach them? These are some of the most important questions you should be asking to begin the process of jump-starting your growth. We’re going to break our answer into five tasty little bits: who, why, what, when, and where.
Who: Persona Building
When it comes to finding out who your customers are, you need to go against all your instincts and resist the urge to think of your customers as a group of people. If you were at the (incredible) seminar at Denver Startup Week similarly titled “The Art and Science of Finding Your Customers”, you might remember the suggestion to “think small”. Even if you see a huge potential customer base, thinking small means thinking really small.
If you want 1000 customers, you have to start with one. This is what we call “persona building”; creating one perfect hypothetical customer – the ideal archetype – that will serve to guide the conversation moving forward. Don’t just focus on why or how she buys your product, get specific. Where does she live? Does she have a family? What does she do for a living? How much money does she make? What does she do in her spare time? What are her personal and career goals? What are her values and what keeps her up at night? These questions seem oddly specific if you’re just trying to sell a $10 monthly subscription, but if you want to know how to talk to someone, you have to know who they are and what they want.
Why: Drivers and Blockers
So what does your hypothetical customer want? Why are they going to be interested in your product? Well once you build a persona, you’ll actually know quite a bit about this person, so figuring out what they want and what they fear (as it relates to your company) should be an easy step. If your customers include 55 yr old businessmen to college-age women, the 55-year-old man will likely have a much different reason for interacting with your brand than the 20-year-old English major. What these two people are thinking about when they buy your product is likely very different.
Start with this: for each persona, find of three reasons that this person in particular would be interested in your product. These can be as simple as 1) convenience, 2) cost, and 3) connecting with friends. Hopefully, yours will probably be a bit less painfully generic.
Just as drivers bring customers in, blockers are the motivations that push them away. Maybe your persona is an older woman and your product requires a small degree of technical know-how. Maybe your product helps people save money, but your persona enjoys the convenience of the more expensive option. The truth is, even the best personas for the best products are going to have some sort of blockers. Knowing what they are is going to save you a lot of unnecessary hassle down the road.
Have you ever done some low-key internet stalking on someone you’re about to meet for the first time so that you know what language and topics will give you the edge in a conversation? Admit it, you have. And if you haven’t, you’re probably putting yourself at a disadvantage because everyone else is. Anyway, everything up until this point has been the hypothetical equivalent of poking through someone’s Facebook and LinkedIn profiles. Now it’s time to start the conversation.
Last week we drilled home the point that ‘you’re probably wrong’. When it comes to messaging, the big take away here is that you’re probably overthinking things. Yeah, I know, it’s fun to put on the Don Draper hat and try and lock in a clever piece of ad copy. The truth, however, is that in this early phase, we actually want to shoot for simple language that clearly and concisely speaks to the drivers we identified. The point here (which we’ll go into in Part 3 of this series) is to test the personas, drivers, and messaging. To that end, an extremely clever tagline could actually work against you in the long run. Save your Mad Men crap for later down the road.
Display ads, email campaigns, Facebook ads, press, social media, programmatic, etc, etc… it can be overwhelming. Like we mentioned in Part 1, if you’re trying to market your SaaS company, you probably aren’t going to be generating a lot of business from developing a kick-ass Snapchat. So how do you know what channels you need to be hitting?
The first step in developing a channel strategy should be going back to your personas. Assuming you have a good idea of who this person really is, you should be able to extrapolate and figure out where they hang out online. Do they even use Facebook, or is LinkedIn the only social media they use? If you send them an email are they likely to open it, or are they likely getting 200 emails a day and only opening the ones they know are most important? If these questions are too hard to answer just by assumption, you can always try and go right to the source: find someone who actually matches your persona and ask them what channels they use most.
Ok so we’ve got all the other pieces in place, now when do you do all this stuff? How soon, how often, etc? There’s no easy answer for this, but it’s also not terribly hard to figure out. Of course, the ‘when’ questions will be different for every channel and maybe even every persona, but here are a few rules of thumb to get you started:
- You can only ask someone to do something 3 times. When it comes to calls action, you basically have three chances to get them to engage. In all forms of paid advertising (and maybe even generally across the board), if you didn’t get them to act after the 3rd time, stop. Anything else you do with that particular CTA is a waste of money.
- On social media, you have to build up some street cred before you can ask for something. Before you try and get your audience to read your blog or visit your new website, you need to give some love to your friends and followers. Generally, you should spend 80% of your time on social “giving” likes, comments, and engagement to others for every 20% that you spend asking people to engage with you.
- When in doubt, honestly ask yourself how you would want to be marketed to. If you got an email yesterday just like the one you’re now writing, would getting another one today make you open it or just piss you off? What time of day would you be most likely to engage with the particular piece of content you’re currently trying to push?
The most important thing you can do is remain flexible and be ready to adapt. If you’ve done everything we’ve mentioned in this series so far, after all that, the truth is that you still don’t really know anything. The good news though, is that you’re about to! Next week we’ll go into how to test all this, and start to gather that juicy data and squeeze out those sweet, sweet analytical insights.