Digital Marketing

Don’t Sell – Understand Your Customers’ Needs to Buy! 8 Steps to Integrating Audience Insights


The available data we marketers have at our fingertips at every moment is monumental. Even three years ago, understanding your customers was much harder than today. But the mountains of PowerPoint decks and vlookup-filled spreadsheets don’t necessarily tell you what your customers need and want from your products and services. That’s where we can leverage an audience insights methodology to understand motivation, preference, pain points, and wishes.

Below I’ve outlined an eight-step process for gathering information about your customers and integrating it into your marketing strategy.

  1. Define research goals based on desired outcomes. Are you introducing a new product? Building a new website? Creating a new content hub? Developing a digital solution for what is now analog? Whatever your plan is, start from the desired outcomes to build a baseline for understanding your impact. Cull through those decks and spreadsheets and find the nuggets that inform your plan.
  2. Operationalize. These initiatives will take a team to implement across business units and functions. Your best bet? Engage them from the outset, so they’re aligned and have a vision for what you’ll create together.
  3. Talk to customers and potential customers. Build a smart interview guide, generate a list of people similar to your target audiences that are already customers or maybe future customers, and ask them what they care about, where their barriers are, what they want from you, and what they’re hoping to do. For new audiences, you may need to leverage a recruiting firm to identify them.
  4. Gather quantitative data, too. Build a survey that aligns with your interview guide, reach out to your target audience, and ask enough people to get a representative look at who they are and what they’re hoping to achieve.
  5. Analyze and develop insights. We frequently use personas and journeys to help interpret the data into actionable opportunities to eliminate friction and identify occasions to delight, differentiate, and wow audiences. Still, you may use other methods to illuminate the data and interpret it for action.
  6. Activate. Take that pile of new ideas and create a matrix, rating them based on organizational readiness, level of effort and investment, and anticipated outcomes. Prioritize ideas based on your scoring, and build a roadmap for achieving your goals.
  7. Test and Measure. Test them with your user groups or use web-based testing as you roll out your enhancements. Watch results, and be prepared to pivot if your hypotheses are not proven through the data.
  8. Celebrate. For a minute, when your desired results begin to show, give yourself and your team a (potentially virtual) high five.

We spend a lot of time talking about personalization and targeting audiences with relevant and compelling content and calls to action. But all of that is wasted without audience insights as a foundation. It’s worth it to take a step back and put the necessary pieces in place to make sure you’re successful. Following the eight-step process above will help you build a deep understanding of your customers, create a plan to meet their needs, and, most importantly, achieve your goals.

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Lisa Sherwood

Lisa Sherwood is a Lead Content Strategist with Perficient. She uses her 20 years of experience to build approaches to content that generate results for some of the world’s largest companies in the healthcare, ecommerce, retail, and nonprofit sectors.

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