Who Are You Talking To?

Your Audience's Perspective

August 2014

Three marketing experts and a business owner go out to lunch together. While waiting for appetizers and drinks to arrive, the business owner pipes up and asks all too casually, “guys, I have a great website, but it’s not getting any traffic. What do I need to do to draw people to my website?”

The first marketer responds, “You need to blog to attract new customers because content is king.”

The second marketer scoffs and says, “Forget that, everybody has ‘fresh content’ nowadays – you need to use Facebook to draw a crowd. That’s where the real action is!”

The last marketer laughs “No, both of you are falling behind the times, you need to use Twitter. Nobody’s got time to read or cozy up to friends anymore. Short bursts of chatter timed just right is the name of the game.”

The first marketer retorts, “Are you kidding me? If you’re just gonna be hip and keep it short and sweet, then Instagram is the way to go, now. A picture, after all, is worth a thousand words, and everybody’s gone mobile already.”

The poor clueless business owner looks upon all three marketers and sheepishly asks, “Uhmmm…what about Linked-In?”

All three marketers look at the business owner with a collective “What about it?”

Therein lies the frustration with most business owners trying to tackle the online world and successfully market themselves online. With so many options and outlets for marketing online, its no wonder the owner ends up throwing his hands in the air and does nothing more than pray that one day the right audience will stumble upon his website and give him a ring for his services. Or perhaps worse, half-heartedly tries any one (or all) of the approaches above and becomes disappointed in the lackluster results he gets.

If you find yourself in this boat with no real clue where to start with drawing the crowds to your front-door, you are not alone. What the marketing experts failed to take into consideration is your business and clientele. They didn’t ask you about your business, what your customer profile is, nor where your potential customers can be found online. Their advice can be generic, dated, and even harmful towards accomplishing your objectives.

You know on some level, consciously or sub-consciously, that their advice is not quite spot on and, as a result, any action or effort you put into following their advice is half-heartedly undertaken. Guess what? Your audience senses this lack of passion in your voice and effort and gives you almost no attention, if any.

So, what do you do?

Start over.

That’s right. Start over. Stop all marketing efforts altogether. Go back to the drawing board. You’re doing it wrong. How do I know? You wouldn’t be having lunch with the proverbial trio of marketing experts and having the conversation above unless things simply weren’t working for you.

By starting over, I don’t mean for you to throw your website away and build a whole new one (unless it really is a lousy one). But definitely stop doing things just to go through the motion and because somebody else said you should. Let’s assume for now your website is your pride and crown jewel with just the right verbiage to engage your audience and compel them to buy, if only they could find you! I mean for you to start over with your fundamental approach to marketing online. Start with your customer. Once you truly understand what makes your customers tick and what actions they’re likely to take to try to find you, then, and only then, will you begin to formulate a strategy that is in tune with those customers. Whether that strategy includes lots of blogging, lots of Tweeting, or lots of engagement on Facebook, or any other social medium will become crystal clear once you’re viewing your services through the eyes of your customers.

The very first thing you need to do is gain a healthy dose of empathy for your customers. Who are they? How old are they? What gender are they? Where do they congregate? What are their worries, passions, and daily concerns? Until you know your customers inside and out and create a solid customer persona for your business, you will be floundering with your marketing strategy and execution. Every hour you spend traveling South on the Information Superhighway when you should’ve been traveling North is THREE HOURS wasted. One hour down, one hour back, then one hour ahead. Think about that for a moment. If you spent 40 hours doing something that’s not working, that’s 120 hours to fully recover from that effort and forge ahead.

The most important skill you need right now is the ability to put yourself into your audience’s shoes.

Only if you can think like, feel like, and behave like your audience, will you be able to communicate with them effectively.

Lets look at the process of writing a movie for a second. To develop a story and shape it around the characters in that story, the writer must know her characters inside and out in order to make them believable. To do so, the screen writer will pour an immense amount of effort into developing the personality and quirks of a character, often with a complete back-story that clearly describes (to the author’s mind) who that character is. At some point, the author stops looking at the character he/she created from the point of view of “what would I (the author) do as this character?” to asking as the character through the character’s eyes and soul, “what would I do?” When a writer writes from this vantage point, the character comes alive and the and the story becomes very believable. The audience responds emotionally to that character’s path through the story.

Becoming your audience is, in essence, what you have to do. You need build characters that are highly detailed representations of your audience and future customers. We call these representations “customer personas.” Customer personas help you make better business decisions and communicate both efficiently and effectively. When you truly know your customer, your marketing strategy for targeting them will come together quickly and flow very naturally. And the best part? Your audience will respond.

Once you know your audience, turn your critical eyes back to your website and anything else you have been doing to market yourself and see how you’d respond to your message from the vantage point of your customer persona. Take down notes of your observation and begin crafting a better message through the eyes of your persona. In all likelihood, you’ll start to naturally brainstorm on better messaging, words to use, or branding and restructuring of your website to be appealing and accessible to your customer personas.

You can learn more about the process of developing #{chapter_link ‘customer-personas’} in our #{strategy_guide}

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