To effectively market and sell a product or service, you need to connect with your audience. Understanding your ideal customers can help you define your business’ niche and in doing so, help you develop a solid USP (unique selling proposition) that consolidates your place within a market. Business niches and target audiences can feel a little ‘chicken and egg’, either can come first and each will inform the other. Both are integral to your business’ success. Once you understand your audience and find your niche, you can confidently plan an SEO, sales and marketing strategy that will keep your business profitable.
5 steps to refining your niche
- Market Definition – Define the target audience
- Competition – Know who the competitors are
- Demographics – Are there specifics to your audience?
- Keywords – Research and define a set of core keywords
- Ask customers – Find out and analyse what they want
Begin with relevant market research
Consider your wider market and the segment of this market that your product or service caters to. For example, if you make women’s outdoor clothing, the wider market is women aged between 18 and 65 who enjoy outdoor activities. While this is a great place to start, it’s not enough to build a strategy around or figure out the right messaging to reach your ideal customers. If you don’t understand your target audience, you won’t know the best media to reach them. What’s more, you can’t personalise your messages and content to connect with them effectively. Selling to everyone equates to selling to no-one.
Delve into the detail of your specific audience demographic to understand key insights. You’ll want to find out things like how big the market is for your product, who your ideal audience is, where they are, why they buy, their household income and where there might be opportunities for uncovering new niches.
Statista and Census data for the countries you operate in is a great place to start your research. This will help you determine the size and location of your target audience. Free resources like Google Trends can also be leveraged for audience information as can market research organisations such as Pew Research Centre and Gallup. These resources will help to round out your understanding of your target audience.
Analyse your competition
Reviewing your competition is another valid and valuable avenue for researching your audience and market. Evaluate the brands that are competing for the same or similar market segments that you are. A number of resources can be used to find out which of your competitors website pages and keywords are getting lots of traffic (or not much at all), understand the techniques they use, the content they are creating and the language they choose to connect with their target audience.
Other online resources are great for understanding and monitoring keywords, mentions about specific brands, gathering information on competitors and listening to what’s being said about your niche on social platforms.
By analysing your competition you can figure out what appears to be working and what isn’t. You’ll be able to find gaps in their content that you can fill or even content that you can do better to attract customers. This will help to guide your own strategy and create more of the content that attracts and connects with your target audience.
Use your own website data
Your own website is an excellent source of information on your ideal audience and who you are already connecting with. Google Analytics will help gather basic information about each person who takes the time to visit your website. Age, gender and even other sites users come to yours from is available. These insights can, and should, feed into your content strategy. It will also help you to understand which of your website pages are providing the most value to your audience and the gaps you need to fill to engage more of your audience and specific segments of a larger audience.
Find the right keywords and phrases
Keyword research is essential for connecting with your audience and being found by customers who are looking for a product or service to solve their problem. You’ll need to understand the language your target audience is using to find the products or services you deliver. It’s no use creating content for waterproof ponchos and bonnets if your audience are searching for ‘outdoor jackets and hats’. If you understand the terms and topics your audience are using you are able to create what they are looking for and be found easily by the customers most interested in what you offer.
Begin with some key terms to describe your offering. Key those words into a keyword research tool such as Google’s Keyword Planner and you’ll be rewarded with similar phrases, related terms and topics along with the estimated monthly search volumes for these words and phrases.
Use these results to create a list of terms and phrases to target with your content and topics you can cover. This work adds another facet to understanding your audience and will help you align your content and strategy to deliver what your ideal audience is looking for. The content you create should match each part of your customer’s journey from awareness to consideration and onto their final purchasing decision.
Ask your customers
One of the best sources of information about your audience’s wants, needs and desires is your customers. A simple survey or interview can expose valuable insights that will help you extend your reach into new niches or connect in more meaningful ways that result in longer customer relationships.
Online questionnaires can be used to gather basic demographic information and identify segments within a larger audience. Survey Monkey and Google’s consumer surveys are two resources that are simple to use for this purpose. Triggered with an opt-in form or pop-up box, a website survey can gather general characteristics – age, gender, income level, education, employment, hobbies, etc. – along with any other insights that will help with your marketing strategy. Be specific with your surveys.
Interviews with existing customers are another way to reveal common customer traits and motivations. By inviting them to talk about their experience with your products and brand you can gain an in-depth understanding of what makes your customers tick and why they chose your business for their purchase.
An incentive for customers to participate in interviews or complete online surveys may be needed – a small discount for their next purchase or downloadable gift are the most common gifts used to gather this kind of information.
The aim of audience research is to come away with enough information to make at least 5 conclusive statements about your ideal customers. To use the earlier example this may be something like “My ideal target audience are women aged between 25 and 45 who enjoy trail bike riding and high-energy outdoor sports. They have an annual household income of £50,000 or above, are located primarily in semi-urban areas and spend at least 3 weeks of each year pursuing their favourite outdoor activities. Their favoured methods of communication with brands they follow are email and social media messaging.”
All of the information you gather on your ideal audience from market research, competitor analysis and asking your customers directly, should be used to build and improve your SEO and marketing strategy. It will also help you create content that attracts the right people to your business and also identify and define your niche.
Defining your niche
As you come to understand your audience, your niche becomes clearer (and vice versa). What began as a wider market can now be distilled to a smaller, more interested audience segment. This deeper understanding of your target audience not only enables you to speak with them in their language, it also opens the door to learn more about their specific pain points, how your product offering soothes these needs and also provides the opportunity to develop more products or discover associated niches you can effectively engage with.
Understanding your audience allows you to segment it and optimize your messages. Finding your niche allows you to leverage your messaging and find new opportunities in your chosen market.
The three keys to a profitable niche are:
- Easily identifiable customers,
- Easily accessible customers, and
- Finding gaps that other businesses are not delivering on
The first two elements – easily identifiable and accessible customers – will have already been determined in your audience research. The gaps in your market become apparent as you get to know your target audience better.
To further develop and define your niche, consumer ratings indexes can provide valuable additional information. This will expose areas of a market that are currently being under-served or completely unmet. To go back to the women’s outdoor clothing example, consumer index research combined with the ideal audience research may uncover a need for light-weight and waterproof clothing for female rock climbers. Or maybe a crossover for your trekking gear with foragers. Reviewing the opportunity through the lens of statistical and census research will let you know if this market is large enough to pursue profitably.
Understanding your ideal audience takes a little time and patient research. Doing so will help you to define your business’ niche and develop an SEO, sales and marketing strategy that attracts the right audience and encourages them to become loyal customers. Regularly reaching out to your customers will help to uncover further insights, while competitor and keyword research will help you stay ahead of trends, make meaningful connections with your ideal customers and spot new opportunities. Understanding your audience deeply not only helps you find your niche, it can help you to develop it and spot new opportunities for growth.