In today’s age of digital saturation, customers expect more personalization from the businesses they interact with online. Research shows that 99% of marketers say personalization helps advance customer relationships, and 80% of consumers are likely to purchase when brands offer personalized experiences. Without personalization leading your marketing efforts, you could miss out on higher profits and customer loyalty. 

Stretch your marketing dollars by leveraging different audience research methods to uncover key trends in customer feedback that can help shape more effective digital campaigns. Let’s explore the specifics of audience research and how to execute different tactics to benefit your business.

What is Audience Research? 

Audience research is the process of gathering information about a target market’s characteristics, behaviors and preferences. This deep dive into audiences helps businesses better understand their customers’ needs, desires and pain points—all inputs which can inform a more tailored messaging strategy.

Qualitative Versus Quantitative Audience Research

Businesses should utilize a variety of qualitative and quantitative audience research methods to gather information about their target audience. Each methodology has its own set of advantages and best use cases, but it all comes down to your research goals and overall business needs.

Qualitative research is ideal when exploring complex issues where context, nuance and anecdotal experience is of greater value than numerical or statistical data. Some of your research methods could include in-depth, open-ended interviews or focus groups. You walk away with a more detailed understanding of people’s beliefs, attitudes and experiences that ultimately shape their purchase behaviors. 

Quantitative research primarily focuses on objective and statistical information, such as studying numerical data through a large volume of surveys and online analytics. You can test your hypothesis, make predictions and draw conclusions based on clearly identifiable trends, patterns and correlations.  

Key Audience Research Methods for Marketing

Both qualitative and quantitative research methods are valuable and come with their own unique strengths, but which one(s) you use depends on specific marketing objectives, your timeline to produce results and the resources at your disposal. At Silverback, we employ the following audience research methods to build our clients’ messaging strategies: 

1) Analysis of Customer Reviews and Social Comments

Comb through your social media channels and review sites for immediate insights into what customers are saying about your business. You can also use this process as an opportunity to respond to comments and improve your online brand reputation.

Beyond monitoring your own social channels, use this opportunity to evaluate what people are saying about your competitors. You’ll gather valuable insights about what they’re doing right, where they’re missing the mark and what customers want or value most from their business—which can help you become a more competitive player in your industry.

2) Online Surveys

Surveys are a valuable tool for gathering information about a company’s products, services and the customer experience it offers. Depending on the survey design, you’re able to dive deeper beneath the surface to uncover not just customer satisfaction levels, but also the context and circumstances that inform that satisfaction or lack thereof.

When you understand what makes customers happy and motivates them to buy, you can adjust your messaging at the top of the funnel to better address prospective customers at the awareness and consideration stages. However, even your most satisfied customers may not be the most loyal ones. Surveys will assist you in determining which factors contribute to loyalty or churn, allowing you to improve your marketing efforts and offerings.

Understanding customer satisfaction lets your business know what customers want in order to identify areas of strength or weakness. Surveys also provide information about customer demographics, such as age, gender, income and location which can help you target your audience more effectively. 

How to Conduct Surveys

Conduct surveys by collecting a statistically significant number of customer email addresses, or identifying “like” audiences based on your ideal customer profile using demographic filters and screener questions that prequalify participants. Statistical significance will vary depending on whether your survey design is more qualitative or quantitative in nature. You’ll also need to consider the limitations imposed by project timeline and the specific testing platform you use (e.g. Google forms, SurveyMonkey or UserTesting).

Proper survey design is also critical to achieving accurate results. Your questions must be straightforward and concise to ensure respondents understand what you’re asking and are able to provide the correct information. You can leverage several question types, including multiple-choice, ranking, open-ended and Likert scale. Keep survey fatigue in mind when building out your questionnaire; asking as few questions as possible in order to get the information you need will help prevent biased responses from tired customers. 

3) 1:1 Customer Interviews 

Conducting individual customer interviews is an effective way to gather qualitative data, providing a venue for open dialogue than can shed light on more nuanced elements of a customer’s experiences and motivations. These in-depth conversations allows researchers to more effectively map earlier stages of the customer’s buying journey and can uncover different triggers and catalysts that push customers down the conversion funnel.

Despite all the pros that come with customer interviews, there are some drawbacks to this audience research technique. Interviewing quickly becomes time-consuming and resource-intensive. It can also be challenging to obtain a representative sample of customers, as some groups may be more or less willing to participate in interviews. There’s also a greater risk of inaccuracy driven by biases, as questions and responses can be easily influenced by the interviewer or the respondents’ personal experiences and perspectives.

4) Competitor Research 

Competitor research is a valuable tool for businesses of all sizes, as it helps to provide insight into the larger industry landscape and your relative position in it.

By understanding your competitors’ strengths and weakness, you can identify opportunities to differentiate your business and enhance your customers’ experience—whether that means improving your social media presence, optimizing your SEO strategies or better targeting under-addressed audience groups with relevant ad creatives.

5) Industry Research 

Industry research involves collecting and analyzing data about a specific market to inform your paid and organic campaigns. Data sources to consider include:

  • Online searches: A good starting point for industry research is conducting online searches to gather information from reputable, industry-specific websites, journals, trade publications and news articles.
  • Industry associations and trade shows: Attending industry events (in person or online through webinars and virtual conferences) and networking with industry professionals can provide valuable insights into industry trends, best practices and new products or services entering the market.  
  • Market research firms: Market research firms often conduct studies and publish reports about specific industries. These reports provide valuable data and insights into industry trends and market dynamics. You can sometimes download reports online for free by providing these firms with your contact information. Other lengthier reports can be purchased for a fee.
  • Government agencies: Government agencies, such as the Census Bureau or the Bureau of Labor Statistics, often collect and publish publicly-available data about specific industries that can be useful to understand emerging market conditions.

Staying atop industry trends and developments not only helps you refine your marketing strategies, but can also impact larger business decisions regarding the types of products and services your business offers—especially if there’s a gap in your market that top competitors aren’t addressing.

With so many research methods to choose from, it’s important to consider the limitations of each. Online searches, for example, may yield incomplete results, while market research firms may present biased information motivated by deeper agendas. 

5 Types of Audience Research Questions to Ask

Depending on your research goals and objectives, you can ask your target audience a variety of questions. Examples of the types of questions you might ask include: 

1) Demographic questions

Demographic questions help your business understand the makeup of your customer pool based on characteristics like age, gender, income, education level and geographic location. Asking these baseline questions helps you lay a foundation that responses to other types of questions can build upon in order to build stronger marketing campaigns.

2) Behavioral questions

Behavioral questions can reveal how a customer’s lifestyle and choices influence their willingness or ability to purchase your products or services in the first place. These questions can also be theoretical, asking customers to consider how their actions might change under specific conditions, like a sale. 

If you sell time management products, for example, you could devise a scenario that prompts a potential customer to explain what would make them feel overwhelmed when tackling a to-do list and what would motivate them to seek out tools and resources to help.

3) Attitudinal questions

Attitudinal questions relate to your customers’ perception of your brand. Posing the right questions can help you determine their satisfaction level with your products and services—and the reasons behind that satisfaction or lack thereof—or their overall brand loyalty. 

4) Motivational questions

The motivations behind why your customers buy and engage with brands are paramount to crafting marketing messages that resonate. Here are some examples of motivational questions:

  • What are the three most important factors you consider when purchasing [insert brand, products, or services]? 
  • What, if anything, would incentivize you to buy [insert brand, products, or services]?

5) Open-ended questions

Open-ended questions that leave the direction up to the customer could provide more in-depth and detailed responses. However, it may be more difficult and time-consuming to identify patterns across respondents without the specific framework some other question types offer.

Need Help with Your Digital Creative Marketing Services?

Silverback offers digital creative marketing services led by a team of experts in analytics, paid media, design, and audience research to deliver, execute and measure the performance of strategic creative campaigns. Learn more about our strategy and analytics services

Lauren Mcvetty

Lauren is a content strategist with expertise in copywriting, social media and UX. She applies a performance-oriented approach to creative storytelling to deliver meaningful results for clients.

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