Do you really know your customer as well as you think you do? I can almost guarantee that you don’t… and it’s the single biggest missing link between your current business and game-changing growth. In this post, I explain exactly what I mean and how to fill in that missing link by using a target audience research survey.
Most of the time, when I ask people who their audience is I get a response that goes something like this:
My audience is women ages 30-55 who have two kids (in school) and work part-time, often employed from home or in their own side business. Oh, and they make $X per month but wish they could make just a little bit more without going full-time.
Sounds reasonable, right?
Problem is… that’s not knowing your audience. And if you’re conducting a target audience research survey or building audience personas using that type of information it’s killing your business growth.
Primary vs Secondary Audience Data
It’s not that the above information isn’t relevant — it’s just not the most important. I like to call it “Secondary Audience Data.”
Most important is understanding the answers to questions such as…
- How is my customer feeling about [topic related to your business/product]?
- What is my customer currently struggling with?
- What is the burning need that my business could solve for them?
- What are the questions my customer has about [topic related to your business/product]
- Where do they go to research [topic related to your business/product]?
- What kind of concerns or objections does my customer have about my business?
Those questions are the type of target audience research survey info I like to call “Primary Audience Data.” This qualitative primary data is the type of information you’ll need to create brand messaging, copy, graphics, websites, and even products/services that truly connect with your customer.
Focus On Qualitative Research
For small businesses, the best kind of target audience research survey is focused on qualitative data.
If marketing is storytelling and if your business exists to serve your customer, then words — not statistics — will drive brand messaging, product-market fit, and where you should focus your efforts going forward.
Many times we think our product/service is providing one type of benefit to our customer, when in fact it’s value (or undervalue) turns out to be something completely different.
You might discover a big mindset shift, where you find your customers are thinking about your business in a way you aren’t, or it might be a slightly different way a customer phrases an idea that makes all the difference. Either way, these sorts of important discoveries can only occur when you collect the actual words of your customers.
By actively receiving qualitative feedback you can uncover information that will inform your decision making process in just about every area of your business or organization.
One of the best ways to uncover qualitative primary data — no matter what type of business or organization you have — is to survey your audience.
How to Survey Your Audience: What Questions to Ask
If you’ve never surveyed your customers, now is the time.
But before you go willy nilly dreaming up survey questions, let’s get a little strategic. It’s critical to ask the right questions of your customers because your goal is to discover specific kinds of information.
Next, be sure to check out this post from Grow and Convert. Benji provides great insight into the purpose behind each question and how they can be used to discover the information you’re after.
Finally, take the template questions and customize them to meet the specifics of your business.
How to Execute a Target Audience Research Survey
Now that you have a list of target audience research survey questions ready, what’s the best way to get them in front of your audience?
First, there are lots of good online survey tools so just pick one and go for it. As I said, Typeform is my tool of choice. It has a beautiful front-end design that you can customize to match your branding and it works great on mobile, which is likely where most of your responses will come from.
Then I use Zapier to automatically send Typeform responses to a Google Sheet, send me a Slack notice for each submission, tag subscribers in Drip (my email service provider) when they respond, and send the respondent a thank you email. [Leave a comment below if you want to see how I do all that]. But the integrations aren’t a must.
Next, press send. Hopefully you’ve been collecting customer emails because that’s where I’d start. You may even need to send the survey to separate segments of your email list if you have distinctly different customer profiles; that way you’ll be able to identify responses from each type.
Other methods could include…
- distributing to your social media channels,
- including a link in your email signature,
- and if you have a physical location set up a tablet with keyboard and ask people to take the survey while they check out (or maybe better yet, ask them to sign up for your list and you’ll send a link to the survey).
“Survey Says…”: What to Do With Your Survey Results
Let’s talk about how to translate your survey results into actionable marketing ideas for your business.
First, look for patterns and recurring themes in your survey results. If several people are hitting on the same theme or idea, you’re probably on to something.
Again, pay close attention to the actual words and phrases your customers are using and the emotions connected to them. Sometimes a customer will describe a benefit of your product/service in a way you never thought of before.
Next, start testing some of that feedback. Is there an upgrade to your service you could make or a new product you might need to develop? Should you test a pricing or procedural change? You can even swipe the words and phrases from your survey results and use them to create tag lines, headlines, subject lines, blog post titles, etc.
Here are a few common areas you could potentially apply feedback:
1. Messaging — Use your customers’ own words to create compelling marketing copy. There are few things more satisfying as a marketer and business owner than having your customers write your copy for you.
2. Where/how to promote — Are your customers involved in communities, visiting websites, or using other services? There may be opportunity to promote in those same channels.
3. How to improve your current product/service — Was the positive feedback a little underwhelming? Brainstorm a few ways to improve and test your best ideas.
4. Possibilities for new products/services — Are you clients wishing for something more or something else? Possibly something you would have never thought of? Form a hypothesis and test it on a few of your best clients.
I’ll give you a real example from a target audience research survey I ran for a client that illustrates exactly what’s possible when you ask/listen to your audience.
For context, this particular client is a money management and financial planning firm with expertise in Medicaid planning. We ran a survey of their audience — mostly attorneys — to get a sense of how they could help attorneys service their Medicaid clients and possibly create partnerships.
This was a “cold survey,” meaning they did not have a prior relationship with the respondents, so we included a few broad questions that would help us get a sense of possibilities.
Here’s one of the questions from the survey…
I love asking this question because you never know what you’re going to get in return, which is vastly helpful when you’re fishing for new ideas or opportunities.
Here’s what came back…
Now, in the context of the survey, this was a tongue-in-cheek answer. Someone was being a smart-ass.
But it’s the truth!
It was the perfect kind of gut-level emotional response that we’re looking for as business owners because it tells us what our customer really want. And it came from two separate individuals.
For the client, it told us that a large part of their audience is made up of independent attorneys who are overwhelmed and overworked, and who feel like they can’t get into the more substantive part of their practice because they are being bogged down by work that could be done by a person without a license to practice law.
But here’s the kicker: notice how they phrased their response. They didn’t use a bland description like I did above. Instead they quipped, “I need a paralegal.”
It was an emotional response, and the kind that can mean $$$ for your business.
For the client, it was a new idea and/or opportunity. They could test the development of a product or service that solves that need… and they already know exactly how to market it:
They wouldn’t use bland messaging that tries to sound smart, such as calling it a “qualified legal assistant solution.” Instead, they would marketing it as a “virtual paralegal at your side” or “like have your very own paralegal.”
5. How to improve your sales funnel — Are customers hearing about your business from channels you never expected? If so, shift your strategy and rework the top of your sales funnel to optimize for that channel.
Most of us don’t know our customers as well as we think we do… and it’s stunting our business growth.
We don’t just need to know about our customer; we need to understand their inner psychology. It’s not just who are customers are that matters — it’s what they need, care about, and desire.
As I’m fond of telling clients…
Prospects aren’t researching your business — they are researching what your business can do for them.Business marketing mindset shift: prospects aren't researching your business - they are researching what your business can do for them. Click To Tweet
And that’s great, because therein lies the opportunity!
So start getting to know the inner psychology of your customer by conducting a target audience research survey today. If you ask the right questions and turn the feedback into actionable marketing applications, you’ll be on your way to filling in the missing link to business growth.