Services Include:

Search Engine Optimization

Local Search Optimization

Paid Search Advertising

Social Media Marketing

Website Analytics

The 1st (and Most Overlooked) Step in Marketing Your Website

I do Conversion Rate Optimization, which means people are constantly asking me about the tools I use. Sure, I have a lot of conversion tools in my arsenal, and I depend on them to gather user feedback and run A/B and multivariate tests, but that’s not actually where the magic happens. The mechanics of implementing a survey on your site, collecting heatmaps of mouse clicks, or running tests are meaningless if you skipped the most critical step: understanding your site’s visitors.

Because it’s not about what YOU want people to do on your site; it’s about knowing what THEY want/need, and showing how you can uniquely help them. But you can’t be everything to everyone, so you have to figure out who your audience is. Ideally, you should do this research before building your website so you can build your site with your customer in mind. However, if it’s too late for that, this work will help you improve your marketing messages. Better late than never!

So how do you get inside their head?

Gather Data from Different Sources

You already have plenty of information on what makes your target market tick; you just need to dig it up and organize it. Your primary goal is to get a solid understanding of their attitude, goals, and values. Their demographic information is secondary. You don’t need to break the bank hiring a market research firm. And your goal isn’t to be 100% accurate; in this case, speed of implementation trumps precision.

So here are some fast, easy, and affordable ways to get to know your target market.

Learn how they think:

  • Interview your “typical” customer, not just your favorites (obvious, I know, but this list wouldn’t be complete without recommending you actually talk to your target market)
  • Interview salespeople and customer service reps. You’ll gain a wealth of information from the people working on the front line every day.
  • Look at your site’s analytics for keywords on customer intent
  • Ask Your Target Market their thoughts on AYTM.com. This is a useful survey tool that lets you pick the types of respondents you need, such as Audi owners with teenagers who spend 13 – 24 nights in a hotel on vacation a year. Pretty specific! They have over 2000 lifestyle tags like that to choose from, plus the usual demographic information. You pick your target market, create your survey and wait for their panel of respondents who fit your requirements to take your survey. You can get good insight into your target market for about $200.
  • Use social media to see your customers’ own words. Look at your competitors’ social media properties as well as your own. Create a tag cloud using a tool like tagxedo.com or wordle.net to give you a nice visual of your target market’s language
Tagxedo

Tagxedo

Understand their lifestyle:
Nielsen is best known for its TV ratings. But did you know about their zip code look up? They’ve segmented U.S. households into distinct types based on likes, dislikes, lifestyle, and consumer behavior. So if you know the zip codes of your best customers, use Nielsen’s zip code look up to get a sense of their personality and lifestyle.

This snapshot is free but you have to pay for more details.

Nielsen's lifestyle segmentation

Nielsen’s lifestyle segmentation

This paints a pretty clear picture of your audience, doesn’t it?

Know their demographics:

  • Look at Facebook insights to see the age, gender and geographic location of your audience
  • Sign up for a free account at Quantcast.com to see demographic information and related websites your audience visits
  • Look in analytics for the geographic location of your site’s visitors

Now that you’ve gathered a heap of information from a variety of sources, it’s time to create your personas. Look for differences in goals, values, and attitude toward your product or service. As you do this, you’ll see why demographic information is secondary. You could find that people of all different ethnicities are trying to solve a similar problem for a similar reason — and that’s what you need to address in your marketing messages. After all, it’s much more powerful to speak to a person’s needs than his skin color. Even if a product or service lends itself to a specific age group or gender, people still buy because of a need or a want. For example, although lipstick is made for women, we really buy it because we want to look good, not merely because we’re female.

Once you’ve found 3 – 5 distinct segments of your audience based on goals, values and attitude, find a picture that represents each segment. An actual photograph of a random person is better than a cartoon or a sketch because it makes the person seem more real. Name your personas and write a brief profile about them. Here’s a good sample profile.

Run these personas by your sales and customer service people. You’ll know you got them right when they say something like, “yep, that sounds just like someone I talked to this morning”.

Now share these persona profiles with everyone involved in marketing your website: designers, developers, copywriters, and people doing PPC, SEO, Social Media and Conversion Rate Optimization. The goal is to get everyone making decisions based on what the personas want, not what your CEO wants. If you successfully integrate personas into your marketing efforts, you should hear your team saying certain content needs to be created because persona, Jane, will be looking for it.

Understanding your audience is critical to delivering the right marketing messages to the right people. But for some reason, most companies skip this step and just dive into building a website and driving traffic to it. Most likely this is because they’re intimidated by the process and think they’ll have to invest substantial time and/or money with a fancy market research firm. But really knowing your site’s visitors is the foundation for having a website that converts in the double digits, as opposed to the industry average of around 2%.

So if you simply spend an afternoon going through the process I outlined above, you’ll be one giant step ahead of your competitors.

For further reading on a step-by-step process of creating personas, I recommend The User is Always Right by Steve Mulder.

About Theresa Baiocco

Theresa Baiocco has a Masters degree in Marketing from the University of Colorado and a Market Motive Master Certification in Conversion Rate Optimization. She is the co-founder of Click Advisors, which does Conversion Rate Optimization for mid-sized businesses.


        

4 comments

  1. Eric Hardenbrook says:

    Direct hit Theresa!  The importance of identifying your customer was about 50% of my topic for the October meetup and since you covered it so well I can spend more time on “Other important things to do before you build your website”. I like your example customer profile. The process is quite revealing!

  2. TheresaBaiocco says:

    @Eric Hardenbrook Thanks Eric!  I’d love to know more about your process of identifying the customer, since we all approach the problem differently.  What critical areas did I miss?  How about any other good resources or exercises for understanding who they are and how they think?  Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. Eric Hardenbrook says:

    @TheresaBaiocco  @Eric Hardenbrook Sorry for the delay Theresa, One tool I keep in mind is the DISC behavioral profile. Just being aware of the profile types and the theory behind it can be a useful tool for effectively communicating with a customer group. If you’re targeting a group in a profession that has a propensity toward a particular profile then I use it as a check to make certain that I’m communicating in a way that that profile will receive my information.

  4. TheresaBaiocco says:

    @Eric Hardenbrook  @TheresaBaiocco Good suggestion, Eric!  I suppose the Myers Briggs could be used in the same way.  That’s a good thought: you don’t necessarily have to run an assessment on representatives of your target market, but just use the profiles as a gauge, similar to what I suggested above with the PRIZM profiles.  Thanks for adding that – I’m going to add it to my checklist!

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