Insights

Who is your real customer?

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And what do they really want?

The great strength of digital activity is the ability to track who’s buying what you’re selling.

Which is great if you are able to find growth opportunities within that market.

The trap is not being able to immediately see who’s not buying what you’re selling.

Which is not so great if you can’t grow the market you’ve got.

Fortunately, digital also gives you the capability to explore new markets, find new buyers and attract a whole new set of customers.

Four simple first steps

There are four key components any good digital marketing agency will take you through.

1) Look at what your competitors are doing.

2) Develop relevant customer personas via research 

3) Develop buyer journeys for these audiences 

4) Raise awareness of your offer with that audience

What your competitors are doing?

As a business owner or marketer you will have a good idea of who your closest competitors. You’ll probably have completed a SWOT analysis and reviewed what they are up to.

A good digital agency will be able to add additional information on what your competitor is doing.

This can be a complete competitive audit, or a simple topline view with regular updates on customer activities. 

They’ll be able to see competitive activity online.

Building a database of how your competition communicates, and what they say, helps you see where opportunities are.

And lets you identify potential new audiences.

Competitor analysis.

Mapping the competitor landscape is, as you know, more than simply looking at where your competitors sit on an x/y axis and trying to find perceptual clear space in the market.

There are more and more tools coming online which can help you identify what is driving the performance of the market and the focus of your competitors’ energies.

What are they talking about – and what are they encouraging their customer’s to talk about? How are they trying to frame the conversation around your products?

What tactics are they using?

What channels are they using?

How can you benchmark your performance against theirs? And how can you benchmark their performance against other competitors – where is the pressure on your competitors coming from (which will give you clues as to how they might try and steal market share from you.)

Set up a framework.

Every competitor analysis will vary depending on the framework you use to develop the analysis. The simplest framework will align your analysis with your goals.

The simple thing to remember is, if you’re testing the waters, take a DIP.

  • Define
  • Identify
  • Prove.

Define what you need to measure.

Define the data you want to collect about your own activity – and about your competitor’s activity.

Importantly, define the competitors you need to keep track of. Play like-for-like. If you’re a boutique fashion chain, don’t keep track of what K-Mart are doing. Track what similar sized chains are doing, and where they’re doing it.

Know the right metrics that will work for you.

It could be about understanding how many people are aware of your brand – which can be measured by analysing follower numbers on social media to identify growth and decreases in the size of your audience – and your competitor’s audience (taking into consideration what activities might be impacting those numbers). 

It could be about content. Look at when you post. If everyone in the market is posting during times when customers are having a break from work, try zagging. Could you be more effective if you save your money at lunchtime and put it into rush hour trade, or weekend activity? Could your content calendar be fine-tuned to not simply look at the days your promote your products but the hours you promote your products? 

It could be about engagement. Look at how long visitors are staying on your site.  How long customers are engaging with a particular piece of content. 

Identify what channels work best for you.

Invest in some channel mapping. This is also called Share of Interaction mapping. This is a simple time chart which maps how the effectiveness of individual channels change over time – both the channels you use and the channels your competitors use. So you can determine engagement per channel. So you can  determine where you’re more likely to get better bang for your buck.

Prove it.

Understanding why you’re effective, and how your efforts can become more effective, is one thing.

Proving it is another – and how you ensure you get the budget you need to keep doing it.

(It sounds obvious, but being able to talk senior stakeholders through changes in the digital landscape and have them understand the need to give you more budget is an art worth knowing.)

Map the key indicators.

Make sure your audience understands not simply why those indicators are important, but how effective your activity has been.

Map the performance over time. Your performance and your competitor’s performance.

A single moment in time will tell management one thing. A timeline helps them see the trends you’re trying to surf.

Map the future.

Once you’ve proven your effectiveness, help your stakeholders see the need for future investment. Identify new trends which are affecting performance and new competitors who are showing disruptive use of channels.

Free tools

There are plenty of free tools available which can help you identify who’s buying what you’re selling.

Google Alerts

This is an easy win and it takes less than a minute to set up.

Google Alerts are a simple way to track your brand’s visibility online. Google simply sends you an alert whenever your brand’s name or any of your keywords is mentioned – you can choose how wide you want to look (from news feeds only to every mention everywhere).

It also allows you to track your competitors’ activity and the paid and organic attention they are getting.

Google Advanced Search Operators

This is an ideal backlink identifier. It’s an easy to use tool which lets you see where a site is getting backlinks from. By seeing where your competitors are getting their backlinks from, you’ll be able to counter these with links of your own. 

SimilarWeb

SimilarWeb is a market intelligence site which lets you:

Benchmark your activity against the market and against specific competitors

Identify competitive strategies and tactics

Develop effective customer journey maps.

There are a number of features which you can use immediately to give your marketing efforts a boost.

It lets you see how much traffic your site, and your competitors’ sites are getting and have gotten over the last 6 months, where the traffic came from and how long visitors stayed.

You can use Similar Web to identify what sort of sites can be used to refer traffic to your site, what keywords (paid and organic) are generating the most traffic, and which social channels are most effective for your industry.

SEMrush

SEMrush is a simple, powerful tool which provide competitive insight for SEO, Paid, Social and Content Analysis as well as providing an overview on your competitors strategic actions.

To get the most from it, you’ll need an account (which costs money) but there are a number of free features which can give you an edge and provide insights into the market and competitive activity.

Organic Keywords

SEMrush will identify the top organic keywords in your category, their ranking position and search volume. 

Chart Tools

This tool lets you see the results of search tactics, and works for paid search and organic. You can easily see jumps and falls in traffic across channels, and when they occurred. Rises in traffic can be mapped against promotions and seasonal events. Falls in traffic can be mapped to similar events and events like the launch of new google algorithms (allowing you to take advantage of competitors who may be on the wrong side of a guidelines violation).

Archive.org

This is a handy tool which lets you identify if changes have been made to a competitor’s site – which can be cross-referenced back to increases in paid traffic.

Anchor Text

This shows where competitors are using anchor text in in-bound links to point searcesh back to their site. It allows you to cross-check ratios of key words and key phrases against URLs.

Develop customer personas through research

This is one of the most critical pieces in your digital marketing puzzle. 

A good agency will be able to help you develop customer personas using the knowledge you already have on your customers, and by completing research to fill in the gaps. By developing personas to group different types of consumers together, and understanding what makes these groups of people similar, you will have a better understanding of who they are, where to speak to them, and what message will resonate with them at each stage of the purchase funnel. Speak to your existing customers, your past customers, and people who nearly became your customer but didn’t. 

Consider who you’re talking to.

And why you’re talking to them.

Are you talking to your existing customers, and people like them?

(For instance, retired single women in Brighton.)

Are you talking to them because they’re the people who buy from you now?

Is there a more profitable audience out there for you?

(For instance, working single women who love shopping online.)

What do they love about what you’re selling?

What do they hate about the experience?

How do they like to shop?

Through the use of market analytics, you (and your agency) can see where the opportunity lies. Developing lookalike audiences and identifying new audiences.

One thing we find useful is the development of customer personas.

This helps you develop more pointed, more effective messaging.

Develop buyer journeys

Once you have a clear understanding of who your customers are and where you are likely to be talking to them, you need to develop a buyer journey for each persona. You should be working out what information they need at each stage of the purchase funnel and where that information needs to be made available to them. 

Why should they care?

At all times remember to tie your personas to your value proposition – the reason you have identified for why your customer should choose you over your competition.

Why are you different?

Why are you better?

What’s so special about what you have to offer?

And be prepared to change your value proposition as you develop deeper and more insightful perspectives about your customers.

Your proposition doesn’t have to be a massive promise, but it should be true.

It doesn’t even have to be a proposition your customer sees – as long as your team understands what the proposition is – and uses the proposition to guide their actions and benchmark their performance. 

When they started out, The Beatles just wanted to be the best band on their street.

As they got bigger, their audience changed – and their value proposition (or USP) changed along with it.

Make sure they hear you.

Selecting the correct market channel mix is a complex business, and the exact mix of channels will depend on your business, your needs, and who your target audience is. Some channels such as YouTube are great at raising awareness of your brand or product, they won’t necessarily drive sales for an ecommerce business, but they may drive leads as part of a content marketing plan for a B2B company

The key here is to build out from your buyer journeys, with a strategy in place understanding where you are trying to target potential customers in the purchase journey.

Some questions to ask yourself and your team: 

  1. Are we trying to drive overall awareness or leads/conversions
  2. What channels do I know my potential customers are using
  3. What messaging/creative can I utilise to resonate with those potential customers at that stage 
  4. Once I know a potential customer has engaged with my brand and is aware of us, how are we getting our product back in front of them?

Knock down the barriers between you and your customers

If you want to increase the flow of traffic and paying customers to your site, start by identifying who those customers are.

If you want proven, effective solutions to your challenges, talk to an agency that gets digital marketing, and has 10 years of industry-leading experience in the field. Call Shout today.

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As Founder and Director of Shout Web Strategy, Michael Jenkins is at the forefront of digital marketing. Since it’s inception in 2009, Shout has built a strong reputation as one of Australia’s leading strategic SEO agencies, assisting online businesses to formulate, implement and track successful marketing strategies. Michael is a respected thought leader and digital strategist, specialising in online strategy, corporate SEO, Google retargeting, email and conversion rate optimisation, and online reputation management. Follow Michael on Google+, connect with him through LinkedIn or visit the Shout Web Strategy website.

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