Why is Audience Research Important?

June 10, 2021


We’re back with another episode of The Digital Marketing Troop.

This time, host John Tyreman welcomes Emily Bliss and Lauren McVetty, both of whom are content marketing specialists, to discuss the importance of audience research.

How should audience research factor into your digital marketing to inform more tailored content for better SEO and engagement?


John Tyreman: Hi gang, welcome to the Digital Marketing Troop, where we talk about what’s going on in digital marketing. I’m your host John Tyreman and I’m joined today by Emily Bliss, director of content, and Lauren McVetty, senior content marketing manager at Silverback Strategies and we’re here to talk about audience research. But first, I’d love to get your instant reaction on a hot topic in my household recently, pineapple on pizza. Yea or nay? Emily, let’s start with you.

Emily Bliss: I am going nay.

Lauren McVetty: I’m also a strong nay on that. I think Emily and I are both New York girls so we have very, very strong opinions about what is and isn’t good pizza.

Emily Bliss: This is true.

John Tyreman: I’m in the minority, then. I love pineapple on pizza, so.

Emily Bliss: Wow. Did you get any support at home?

John Tyreman: Actually, yeah. It was interesting, you know, we put it on the pizza for the kids. They liked it because it’s sweet and it’s pineapple and so we got buy-in. So I’ve successfully influenced a new generation of pineapple pizza lovers.

Emily Bliss: Sorry to disappoint, John.

John Tyreman: That’s totally fine. I’m doing my part. So anyways, let’s dive into the topic at hand today: audience research. For marketing practitioners who might not know what audience research is, Emily, how would you describe audience research and then Lauren, I’d love to hear your perspective, too.

Emily Bliss: Yeah, it’s got a lot of definitions. But I fear that it’s always approached as this big, you know, hairy task that no one knows how to go about doing. And that’s what I love about it. There’s so many definitions. It can be as simple as talking to your customer service team, understanding what some of the hot topics are that are being discussed by your customers. It’s reading what your customers read, understanding what they’re searching for and what they want to know about your products and services, and what their key issues are. But then also there’s the idea of the demographic information, psychographic information, any of the other important tells about your audience that can help you craft a message. There’s a lot of real simple elements of it, much more complex, storytelling, fluffier elements. But you can’t go wrong, you just have to start somewhere.

John Tyreman: Lauren, anything to add to that? 

Lauren McVetty: Really, with audience research what we’re trying to do as marketers is just solidify that foundation in which we’re building our strategy, really understanding those motivating factors and the different contributing factors that are going to go into that decision-making process. And that’s obviously, it varies across industry, and even within different industries depending on the type of business that you are, if you’re a product provider or a service provider, it can be really, really different across the funnel. So, just understanding what that best ideal customer profile looks like by getting some of that kind of first party data from your existing customers is super important.

John Tyreman: Lauren, you’re in the trenches with a lot of this kind of audience research, what we do for a lot of clients at Silverback. Are there any stories or examples that you can share of recent projects you’ve worked on where audience research was a part of it?

Lauren McVetty: Yeah, definitely. I know we work with several education providers, specifically some online learning providers that audience research is super important because there are different parental groups by age, there are different users in terms of people with experience, with homeschool already versus those who are new to alternative learning solutions. So there are so many different layers and lenses to look at audiences through for something as complicated as deciding if you want to send your child to an online program versus a traditional program. So having that base layer of who these cohorts are is really important for us to be able to make sure that we’re messaging properly.

John Tyreman: Lauren, you touched on two things that I really want to dig into and unpack. Number one is leveraging first-party data as a part of audience research but then cohort groups. And with third-party cookies kind of being phased out over the course of 2021, with Google’s shift to these less specific, little bit more vague, cohort-based ad group targets, do you think audience research will become more valuable?

Lauren McVetty: Yeah, absolutely. I think, previously, we relied really heavily on second-party and third-party data to inform our content strategies, especially if you’re working with a smaller or mid-size brand where maybe they don’t have as many resources in house to conduct their own first-party research. So it can be a lot of testing and learning and for smaller businesses. They don’t really have that marketing budget, those resources to be able to have the back and forth, the touch and go of learning as you go. So I think as marketers, it’s going to be really important for us to use content and other resources to identify that first-party data for ourselves, especially as Google’s rolling back a lot of what they’ve enabled for us previously, and what they’ve given us in the past.

John Tyreman: Interesting. Emily, do you have anything to add there?

Emily Bliss: Yeah, and just like Lauren said, all of that information is going to be important. And I’m really interested in what the crossover is between cohorts, and in-market. Can we be using these terms synonymously, are we not? I could be reading a little too much into it but, we used to have all this context built up and we knew what in-market meant and some of those signals were wild. You know, you did X on the internet and that means you might be interested in Y, and that was context that all the audience research in the world may not have really given you that conclusion. So, I’m curious how cohorts are going to align with in market audiences because that context is really key for us, especially with clients. We don’t want to introduce ourselves to people, every time. We don’t have to introduce, reintroduce their pain point, reintroduce the value prop every time we touch them across to their multifaceted nonlinear journey.

John Tyreman: Interesting. Interesting. So, it sounds like that audience research will give marketers kind of a leg up in understanding some of the psychographics behind the cohorts that they’re targeting. Is that kind of what I’m taking away?

Emily Bliss: Yeah, yeah, definitely. I mean, I definitely think so and some of it is just going back to basics, too. Back to, you were relying on all this stuff that Google is giving you but now we need to go back to the horse’s mouth, if you will. You know, hear it right from these people. Ask them, what value you provide in their lives. Really getting it back to basics, I think, is where a lot of people would start. I know that’s definitely where I go, making sure we’ve got that foundation, and then we can build and iterate off of it. 

John Tyreman: Interesting. We kind of touched on how we can leverage audience research to impact, quite frankly, mostly just ad campaigns. But how can audience research impact content strategies at that level?

Lauren McVetty: I think really it goes back to looking at our strategy with a full-funnel approach. I know that, obviously, it depends on the industry and the specific company that we’re working with, but depending on the product or the solution or the service that you’re selling, these can be really complex buying processes. And so, depending on where these users fall in that journey, their motivators and the questions that they have can be really, really different. We really want to make sure that we’re creating content that addresses needs at at every level and I think, conducting really comprehensive audience research can kind of give us those important factors that these users have in mind across all stages, so that we’re hitting them with the right messaging at exactly the right time and, and making sure that the assets that we’re creating and the money that we’re investing in creating content is well spent.

Emily Bliss: And taking those stories that Lauren’s, harvesting and putting them on the right channel to be found, there’s the audience research of, what do they care about, what plagues them? But then also, where are they searching for a solution? Where are they searching for, how do I do this, where do I find that? What does a trustworthy resource look like and what platform can I put it on? And that’s a little bit tougher to crack, I think. You don’t really want to just kind of spray and pray all over the place. But at the same time, to diversify, putting that message out there, you could end up uncovering a really interesting avenue that you weren’t previously using as a way to reach prospects.

John Tyreman: I think you touched on a really good point because if you think about it from like the customer journey perspective, like there are so many different paths that a customer can take to interact with a brand and it’s, it’s not linear. So, you know, while a majority of your audience may be considering certain aspects of your business at a certain point in a funnel, you know, there’s still a subset of that audience that may do it in a reverse order. They may consider something other than price as their primary concern. And, or, you know, history and business or trust or reviews – there’s all sorts of different considerations and that can happen at different stages and in different sequences. So I think you’ve touched on a really good point there.

Emily Bliss: And, and that’s where, too, the audience research when we were saying it can come from so many different sources, and it impacts so many different parts of the business. You mentioned reviews. That’s a tough one for the clients that we know, reviews are absolutely what wins you business. But I mean, what are you, gonna go pay a bunch of people off? You know, that’s tough, that gets out of the marketing wheelhouse kind of quickly,

John Tyreman: I think you can also direct… I think a lot of companies don’t really do a good job of directing their customers to where to write a review or why writing a review is important. So, I think as marketers, there’s still a job in communicating why it’s important and helping guide the customers to the right platform. But yeah, there’s still a lot more that’s outside of marketers’ control. I’m curious for companies who want to get started doing audience research, let’s say they don’t know or they don’t know enough about their target audience. Lauren, let’s start with you, what are some easy quick wins that businesses could do to get started? And then, what does that range of options look like?

Lauren McVetty: Yeah, one of the simplest tasks would be to start with, obviously, your existing customer base, sending out some sort of a satisfaction survey, getting a read on why those particular individuals chose to work with your company over a competitor, or what those kind of motivating factors were in making that final decision, whether it was price or timeliness, or the level of service or communication, if they felt comfortable working with the brand based off of any of the messaging on the website. Getting that initial feedback from people that you know have purchased your product or solution, who’ve been satisfied with the work that you’ve done, that can give you an initial starting point to start building some of these customer personas off of. I think that’s a really easy entry point into the realm of audience research for people.

John Tyreman: Emily, let me ask you: What other ways can marketers find these audience insights?

Emily Bliss: We talked a lot about talking to your existing customers. As Lauren mentioned, really opening up that line of communication, but this is a little bit  ore technical territory, but your CRM data, all that first-party data has got to be a lot more robust than it probably is now to greet Google with what they’re coming in with. And just to take more advantage of it. So, I think that’s where things like tracking come into play. Are we appropriately tracking people as they come through our website, the interactions they’re taking, what they bought, what it cost? Imagine if we could marry, what Lauren was saying about talking to your customers and why they chose us and overlay on top of it, these people who spent the most money in the last month and what makes all these people common and then we’ve got this intersection which is just absolutely glorious. So, yes it could impact content, takes a lot more team members to get in there. But I think this is where people are going to really want to make sure that their CRM profiles of people, both prospects and customers are a lot more robust, while keeping privacy in mind, of course, but really getting some interesting data if they can.

John Tyreman: Lauren, Emily, thank you both so much for taking the time to hang out with me and chat about audience research and how that relates to content.

Emily Bliss: I do want to… Do we get 10 points every time we say cohort?

John Tyreman: 15, actually.

Emily Bliss: Okay, good. I definitely want our scorecard after this, John. Let us know. 

John Tyreman: Okay, I’ll go back, review the audio and I’ll tally that up and let you guys know.

Emily Bliss: Perfect. Well thanks a lot, John, we appreciate it.

John Tyreman: If you found this podcast episode insightful, please subscribe. Tell a friend and leave a rating and review. To learn more, head on over to silverbackstrategies.com where we have a wealth of digital marketing insights on our blog and Resource Center. We’ll see you next time on The Digital Marketing Troop.