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9 great sources of audience insight
Every business wants to please their customers. However, very few can confidently say that they entirely satisfy their existing and future customers at every interaction.
Being able to meet and exceed the expectations of your customers as they venture through their unique buyer journeys promises many benefits. These include more qualified leads from your marketing efforts, high conversion rates from leads to sales, lower cost per acquisition for your customers and increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.
However, reaching the nirvana of satisfying your customers means having intrinsic knowledge of who your customers are, what they want and how they make their purchasing choices. The use of buyer personas is often encouraged as they provide a clear and simple snapshot of who your customers are. Such information can effectively inform key decisions around segmentation, key messaging and channel selection. In order to perform as you need them to, these personas must be founded on accurate data about your target audience.
This is where audience insight comes in. By spending time researching the consumers you want to reach, utilising real-life data, you will be able to build a truthful and extensive comprehension of who they are, what they want, their lifestyles and their attitudes. As a result, you will be able to optimise your marketing and sales efforts to target the customers you want in the right way, on the right platforms and at the correct times. You will also be able to understand more about your existing customers to ensure increased satisfaction.
Fortunately, there are a host of paid and free tools at the disposal of businesses so that every marketing budget can benefit from informative analysis of their audiences. In this blog, we have listed nine of our favourite tools so that you can gain insight into the minds of your customers.
Google and Google Trends
Google is the world’s largest search engine – but did you know it’s also a great insight tool? With 5.6 billion searches taking place on the platform every day, it’s no surprise that there’s a wealth of information to be gained about the questions people have and the language they use. And what’s more, this information is freely available.
Using Google, you are able to see what people have been searching for, around the topics related to your products and services. This can be done in two ways.
First, you can type a keyword into Google and see what questions appear in the autofill. The terms that appear here are the most commonly searched by users, so indicate how people are talking about those topics, what they’re asking and what they’re interested in.
Second, when searching a term, you can look at the related search section at the bottom of the page. This will give you a list of other searches people have compiled around the topic, allowing you to get additional ideas about the questions people are asking.
Both the methods outlined above will help you to understand how users are ‘thinking’ and ‘talking’ about key topics related to your business. It’s also an excellent way to get content ideas for your website, such as blog titles answering the very questions that customers are asking, which can boost your SEO efforts and get you recognised as an expert or topic authority.
Google Trends can provide an additional layer to your analysis. With this tool, you’re able to search different key terms to find out how their search volumes (that is, how many people are searching that term and the potential traffic you could target) fluctuate over the year. You can also compare terms to see which are more commonly used at various times. This is great for tracking the seasonality of certain topics and understanding how consumer behaviour and interests vary on a month-by-month basis, as well as in line with external events (such as Christmas, sporting events and so on).
By utilising Google as a research tool, you will be able to understand what it is your customers are asking at any given time, using the language they speak, which will allow you to optimise your website content to incorporate those terms and get picked up. As a result, you’ll be able to enjoy more qualified leads coming through to your website and increased web traffic.
Finally, another way of discovering how your audiences are searching is Answer the Public. This is a search listening tool, which allows you to find out what people have been asking around a specific topic. All you need to do is search the subject you’re interested in to see multiple questions asked around it:
You can also refine your search to specific countries and languages. By using the tool, you will be able to determine what people are interested in around set topics and what language they use, as well as garner inspiration for future content ideas.
Answer the Public allows you to undertake a finite number of free searches. However, if you are using the tool regularly or wish to access a greater data set, you will need to upgrade to the paid version.
SEMrush is the perfect complement to your Google analysis. It is a paid tool, but it does offer enhanced analysis of many SEO elements. While Google can offer a view of the most common search terms, SEMrush allows you to view search volumes for any keyword you input so that you can see exactly how many people are searching it.
It also provides related keywords so you can group keywords and get a better understanding of the different things people are searching around the same topic and compare the search volumes around similar terms. Again, this means you can tailor your content and messaging to match the language that your customers are commonly using.
Similarly, the platform features a topic research tool, which allows you to see the different sub-topics and related searches people are making under a particular topic. In the below example, we’ve searched ‘baking’ as our broad term. Sub-topics suggested include ‘easy baking recipes’ and ‘chocolate chips’. So, if you were a business selling baking equipment, you may wish to share content with titles like “10 easy baking recipes to make at home” or “Our best chocolate chip cookie recipe” to capture the topics your audience is interested in.
The topic research tool can also be filtered to different UK regions – meaning if you’re a local business, you can find out what users near to you have been searching and tailor your content accordingly.
Using the enhanced capabilities of SEMrush, you’re able to get a clear view of what the public is searching on. This should tailor your content plan, key messaging and website copy, helping you to target people based on their interests and language – making it easier for them to find you as a result.
YouGov is an online community which captures the opinions and attitudes of the public on several key topics.
At a free level, YouGov allows you to take stock of general views around many topics, thanks to the regular surveys they carry out. There’s a broad list of topics to explore, ranging from birthdays and coffee to Ed Sheeran and the East Midlands. There are also trackers which analyse changing sentiment over a set period, such as their weekly measurements of Britain’s mood!
Using the data available, you can look into how people feel about things related to your business, as well as understand some of the pain points and challenges they are facing. By doing so, you’ll effectively capture the mood of your audiences and make sure you remain empathetic to their views.
At a paid level, one of the best tools YouGov offers is the Profiles section. The Profiles feature allows you to filter down to your target audience – searched by demographics such as age, location, income and so on – to access data linked exclusively to them and their attitudes. This will develop your buyer personas significantly, casting a light on their lifestyles and mindsets, as well as providing intelligence on the platforms they use (such as TV shows, newspapers, radio stations and so on).
Using this profiling, you will gain extensive knowledge into who your audiences are and their lives. This will help you to shape your marketing strategy, ensuring that you share similar viewpoints to your customers and transform yourself into a brand that aligns with their personal ethos. You’ll also learn about the places they are most present, making sure you appear in the best locations.
Office of National Statistics
While not explicitly an insight tool, the ONS does provide a look into the lives of UK residents, using real-life data. This includes your customers.
Data covered include demographical information, such as the age groups and genders that make up the UK population, where they live, what jobs they do, their income and their households. Using this will add further integrity to your buyer personas, ensuring that they are accurate in line with the most current factual data and statistics.
The ONS also provides data relating to several topics around lifestyle and current affairs, including the likes of COVID-19, culture, health, leisure and so on. This means you can examine the popular views and opinions that your potential audiences have and understand how they ‘feel’ about things. This will provide valuable emotive insight that could be used to develop your offering, key messages and marketing strategies further.
It’s also entirely free to access the information provided by the ONS, making it an excellent starting point for your consumer research.
As social media has grown, it has become an open space for people to air their grievances, share their lives and praise the things they love. So, this means it’s a perfect platform to getting an insight into the opinions and lifestyles of your potential customers.
Social listening works on two levels. Firstly, it allows you to see how your customers are interacting with and about you. By searching your brand name or monitoring your social media accounts, you will be able to see what people are saying directly to you (in terms of questions, complaints, comments and praise) as well as what they’re saying to other people about you (helping you to measure brand sentiment).
Secondly, it allows you to see what’s trending on individual social channels, which is an indicator about what people are engaging with and talking about on a broader scale. This will help you to get a better sense about the kind of social content that generates interest, shaping your social media strategies. It’ll also help you to newsjack, providing commentary around hot discussions, which is a brilliant way of boosting brand awareness, driving views and proving expertise when those discussions are related to your business.
There are a number of paid tools that will help you with social listening, such as HubSpot, SproutSocial and Hootsuite. However, as a free alternative, spend time each day browsing through all your social accounts, tracking not only your brand mentions but also what is going on elsewhere. If you use social media in your personal time – and let’s face it, we all do! – you’ll already be gaining an insight into what people are talking about, which you could link to your work social media activity.
By taking stock of the big wide world of social, not only will you be able to smartly adapt your strategies in line with popular, trending topics and the content receiving the high engagement levels, you will also get an overall sense about what it is your customers are interested in via what they share on social media. You’ll be able to see how your customers feel about you – which will help you to address complaints and keep tabs on your brand reputation.
One thing to bear in mind when utilising social listening is that the content put out on social media is created by users to be shown in a public domain. As a result, the language they use may be exaggerated to impress friends or play up to a particular personality they adopt on social media. This is unlike search listening, where the only person ‘listening’ is Google – so users are much more likely to use natural language. So, it’s important to combine social listening with research of search trends to get a comprehensive view of your audience.
Every brand should be reviewing its web analytics regularly to make sure everything is working as it should, what levels of traffic is coming into your website, and which pages are being viewed. These analytics will also tell a more detailed story about your customers.
Google Analytics highlights the way users are interacting with your website. Using this, you’re able to see what pages most people are visiting, how long they’re staying on that page and whether they’re then going elsewhere on your site. As such, it illustrates how people feel about your website content and whether they are finding the content useful or not.
For example, if users are spending a long time on one of your blogs, it could suggest they’re finding the content interesting, it’s answering the questions they have, and they want to read more. Alternatively, a high bounce rate could suggest that the content does not provide value to them. Using this insight, you will be able to learn what content performs best for your customers and tailor your strategy accordingly.
Google Analytics also shows where your customers are coming from when they arrive on your site – such as social media, email or search. This will allow you to uncover the platforms where your customers are present, where they’ll most likely see you and follow through to your website. You can then target your efforts to these platforms to maximise results on the channels where audiences are most open to you.
Unlike social listening, your social media analytics focus less on what people saying and more on what they’re doing. Using social analysis, you can check what content people are engaging with and how they’re interacting with it.
Like web analytics, social analytics allow you to view the number of followers you have, the number of views your posts are getting and whether people are taking your intended action. This will help you to determine what content is performing well and capturing the attention of audiences, which can be used to finetune your social media plans and optimise results.
While some paid tools will provide social analysis, most social platforms will allow you to view analytics on your content for free. Each platform has its own analytics section so remember to check them all. It’s also worth reviewing these analytics over time to get updated insight into how your customers are behaving at any given time.
By considering your social analytics, you will be able to align your content with what audiences find most engaging. As a result, your marketing efforts will become smarter, and more efficient and executed in a way that is more aligned to your customers, more of the time.
In recent years, review sites have taken a prominent role in the purchasing decision. Reportedly, 91% of people read reviews, suggesting that a positive review could be the key between buying from a brand or going elsewhere. So, what people say about you on review sites really does matter.
Review sites were created as a way for customers to voice their satisfaction or concerns about companies and products based on their experiences, which can of course provide a very potent insight into how people feel about your brand. Most review sites require customers to verify themselves, which ensures that these are genuine users of your products and services. Although the system is still subject to abuse and misinformation.
Make a habit of regularly checking reviews against your business – particularly on leading sites like Google, Trustpilot and Reviews.co.uk – and listen to what people have to say. This means taking the good and the bad on board. It also helps if you are proactive in responding to these reviews which can effectively turn a bad review into a more positive experience.
By monitoring review sites, you will find out what people like about you and what they don’t. You can use this to form the value proposition of your business. Take the below example, left for Argos. Key themes in the review include low-cost, on-trend and sound design. This indicates these are things that matter to Argos customers – and, as such, the company should incorporate this into their marketing messages and focus on providing value in these areas.
You’ll also understand the challenges your customers face, which will allow you to address them and improve your services to increase satisfaction and quality. This then should lead to better reviews in the future – which will convince future customers to purchase with you.
Your sales and customer services teams
One of the best sources of insight may be inside the four walls of your business. While many tools will promise to tell you everything you need to know about your customers, your sales and customer services teams are the ones handling them daily. As such, they should be able to relay to you what your customers want and what their pain points are.
Keep communication open with your sales and customer services team, so that they are encouraged to share any insights that can be gleaned from their conversations with customers. This could be common questions asked, complaints made, ways your products and services could be improved and what positive things are said about your business. Your staff may even make a point of asking customers for their opinions on these topics to survey their views.
Your sales team will be able to tell you what prospective customers feel, and your services team will tell you how your existing customers think. Using these together, you’ll be able to gain a comprehensive understanding of the buyer journey as a whole – from how to target and engage with audiences to keep them continually satisfied. This knowledge will allow you to improve the experience for future customers, as well as boost the loyalty of your existing audiences.
Utilising audience insight tools is fundamental in increasing your understanding of your customers and their requirements. By creating an accurate picture of your different existing customers, based on actual data and fact about their lifestyles and opinions, which will act as a strong foundation for your marketing efforts.
The power of being able to serve your audiences in the way they want to be targeted, on the platforms they choose and in consideration of their desires and pain points, is unlimited. It will also help you to attract the right customers, as well as keep those you already have satisfied – leading to increased satisfaction, loyalty and word-of-mouth marketing.
As a result, you and your audiences will reap the rewards of optimised content, search, PR and social media strategies, offering better results and higher return on investment.