“Know your customer better” is a topic often made to sound like rocket science. Several billion words have been written online about how to specify your real customer. All these words are not wrong, because customer knowledge is very, very important to content marketing solopreneurs. Where a lot of advice goes awry is that the way you are asked to “know your customer” comes from the old days of “offline marketing” – and so entrepreneurs are not often told that the online customer has been to evaluated a little differently.
There’s also a lot of talk online about niches … especially “finding your niche” and targeting your “niche customer”. This again is good advice, generally speaking, but so many entrepreneurs spend so much time agonizing over “their niches” or spend wildly on “niche finding tools” that they fail to see something uniquely valuable right in front of their eyes! They fail to see that nine times out of ten their Content Marketing Audiences behave exactly as they do! We are all online customers in a way, and we all have certain ways of behavior that are common to us. Many of us marketers are in businesses that are built around problems we have faced and have solved for ourselves – and we hope to share our insights and learnings with others gainfully. So why not look at our own buying behaviors to see what our target audiences may do similar to us?
You’ll never go wrong if you look at your own self as a customer stereotype!
Here’s something I’m going to tell you to make things ultra simple in the “know your customer” quest … and when I say simple, I mean ridiculously simple. So simple that you may scoff for a while and then see the sense of what I am saying!
Chances are that 9 times out of 10 you will be in business because you love the idea of the product you want to sell. (If you are selling something that doesn’t make you feel energized, how will you ever sell it to others?)
So then, if you are the standing example of someone who would fall for such a product, you need to find many more people who resemble you. Start looking for people like your own self with similar tastes, preferences, behaviors, attitudes, age group and pain points.
A bit of simple math will then tell you how many such prospective customers you need to make your business viable. Can you not find that many people, who are similar to you in many ways, in this digital universe of gazillions of people?
For example, I am a Consultant and know what I like and what I suffer. I need about 8-10 others like me every two months to be making good money by teaching them how I’ve managed my issues and gained in business! What does it take to do this simple straightforward customer quest than to really know yourself?
Even if you are in a business line that doesn’t involve people exactly like yourself – so what? You still are a customer and if you buy stuff online, you probably have many of the behavioral patterns that most people online have. So you’re still the best person to research to see with detail how exactly you go about buying.
What do you you do first, then second, then third when you look for exploratory information? When do you reckon you’d had enough information to make some decisions? What makes you choose what you choose? What are your inflexion points when you make decisions?
When we become marketers we all often forget that we too are somebody’s else’s customer – and we forget to watch ourselves dispassionately for clues on what we do online.
The one thing you learn by watching yourself online is “digital body language”!
This is one area that offline marketing never had to deal with so much and so offline marketers find this to be challenging. But online, as a content marketer, you hardly ever see your customer physically and often know them just by email ids or Twitter handles or fake names. So how do you gauge a likely customer from an unlikely one? You learn to read the signs of their “digital intent” as betrayed by their “digital body language”.
For example, when you look at how people are searching on Google, what keywords they use, you can sense whether they are looking merely for generic information on a topic or a specific product on a topic. Most people, as human search studies show, go from the broad to the narrow on any topic. So people searching for generic information may not yet be ready customers, while those searching for specific products or brands or models could be your low-hanging fruit.
Again I must stress, there’s no one better to study than your own self when you are searching for something online. There are lots of Freeware tools you can use to record your own on-screen actions (like the great tool Camstudio). Just set it up to record you, in the background, as you go about searching for something you need.
I do that all the time nowadays – with the result that I know every minute action I take when I am searching first for generic information, then specific information, then social feedback, then names and tools of different vendors, then comparisons and prices, and finally free trials of products.
By just doing this exercise again and again, I have found out so many little things I never knew I worry about, so many revealing actions I take, so many mistakes I make, so many sources of feedback I rely on, so many ways I like to take a break from the pursuit of information by engaging with fun stuff online as a relief to the tedium of search …
Great gurus of marketing call this behavioural journey the “purchase funnel” and get so scientific about it that it seems overwhelming to decode. But it’s not that difficult at all!
Even if not everybody is like you exactly, there is the elementary consistency of average human behaviour that you can safely rely on. You can assume that if this is what you yourself are doing, there must be several thousands more or less like you in this huge digital universe.
Learning the curious nuances of online body language by recording your own self is an invaluable learning. Not only do you see what you failed to see before, but if your customers are more or less like you, think how easily you will be able to vibe with them.
If you know their needs, know their struggles and can help them because you have that “intrinsic empathy” that informs all the marketing you do and the way you communicate, you’ll be a winner!
A crucial part of the self-analysis is to watch how you use keywords for what you need!
A little known tactic to see how you use keywords in Google to search for what you want is to keep your browsing history intact. Don’t erase it without first checking if it may be useful in your self-research. It will be a total revelation to you on how you use keywords to get what you need from Google.
Before building this site for solopreneurs, I had other sites which I was building as a solo-entrepreneur myself. In those days of building those sites, I had done extensive searches of various topics – to get my site up, run and manage it, get traffic to it, manage my mailing lists, manage the CRM, build products and services and set up ecommerce.
At every stage through this process, I had a browsing history saved, to go through to see what questions had assailed my mind, what doubts I had looked to clear, what wrong keywords I had used to get wrong information, how I had then corrected my keywords to get the right information – and even how I had searched for something in particular, but then been waylaid by something wrongly reached, but which was an eye-opener in a new way!
The learnings from all this were invaluable when time came to build this site for solopreneurs. It is so common in keyword research (which forms the basis of so much content marketing) to assume that people always get their search keywords bang on. But keywords are often wrongly used to make searches, and then you realize it’s not the results but the keywords you used that led you into a wrong trail. You then get the right keywords to use after much trial and error.
Now think how we behave when we wear our marketing caps and forget we too are customers. We believe tat all the keywords that keyword tools give us have been typed in by people who are very clear about their search intentions. We assume that everybody who put in any keyword knew exactly what they wanted to know and why. Do we ever stop to think they may not have had the search intention we think they had, and they may have wanted something entirely different, but not known how to articulate it to get the best results from Google?
At the very least, a spot of self-analysis will teach you that all those keywords that keyword tools spit out are not sacrosanct for SEO. Take them into your content as pointers to what people may be looking for in general … but don’t get all worked up to get the “search intention” behind them just right!
What do you then do with all the customer information you collect?
You divide them into sub groups in the most natural sets you can think of. Ideally you should group them depending on what sort of “tone of voice” you would like to use with them. That way you will later find it easy to communicate with your customer segments because you have divided them not by territory, or age or tastes, but by the flair and tone of voice they respond best to.
For example, let’s again say, I as a Consultant have found a big group of consultants and entrepreneurs more or less similar to me as my potential customers. I may then decide to group them via “personality-based groupings” depending on whether they respond better to a formal communication tone, an informal communication tone, a creative communication tone or an energetic communication tone.
(Note: This is what I may be tempted to do, but you have to think of your own audience and best decide your segmentation, bearing in mind that you will be addressing your audiences as groups they best segment into.)
Once you’ve got your “groups”, the next thing to do would be to make-believe you have a person who represents that group best. Give him (or her) a name, a job title, a family, a work life, interests and hobbies, behavioural peculiarities etc. Flesh out this representative “persona” till you can almost see this person in front of you. Visualize this person with some images, words of description and even some make-believe dialogues they would likely say.
And then when you have all your representative “personas” for all the groups you have segmented, try to detail the likely “purchase funnel” or “buying journey” of each one, based on how you saw your own online behaviour recorded. Would they all do exactly what you did, or would they deviate a bit here and there? Go with your best hunch, for who knows such people better than you, who are yourself so like them?
Trust your own instincts and intuition. As a human being, you gauge so many people beautifully every day. Why should you feel you need a different way of looking at people, just because you are called a “marketer”? And why are customers any different from ordinary people, like you and me, just because they are called “customers”?
So what are your thoughts on this topic? Do share!
This post is incomplete without your input. The community of content-marketer solopreneurs would feel galvanized to hear from you … so do share your thoughts on this topic with us, in the comments field below this post.
Other articles in our series “Content Marketing Audiences”:
- My Consumers’ Behaviour Isn’t What Experts Say … What To Believe?
- How Solopreneurs Can Hit Bull’s-Eye With Their Target Audiences!
- Content Marketing To Millennials? First, Tune Into Their Wavelengths!