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Getting Started With Demographic Research

February 15, 2019 at 3:17 PM


Particularly as a small business owner, it’s essential you understand who you’re marketing to. Who’s interested in your products? Who identifies with your brand? What sort of language, personality, and imagery best resonates with your ideal audience? These are all questions you need to answer - because otherwise, your business probably won’t grow beyond ‘small.’

 As a small business owner, you probably have some idea who your customers are. A broad notion of the people who are interested in your products and services. It’s impossible not to form at least a vague conception.

Thing is, vague isn’t good enough. Not if you want your business to thrive in today’s hyper-competitive marketplace. See, that’s the thing about the modern business landscape - everybody has a voice, which makes it that much harder to be heard.

What that means is that if you aren’t speaking directly to the right audience; if you aren’t pointing your marketing and product development efforts, you’ll probably end up lost in all the noise.

You need to understand your target market. You need to establish a few buyer personas that represent your ideal customers - I’d recommend at least two to five. For each persona, you should establish:

  • Who they are. What descriptive traits can be applied to them? What’s their age, gender, salary, education level, family, and location?
  • What they care about. What do they value? What are their life goals?
  • Why they’re purchasing your products or services. What key selling points interest them?
  • How they communicate. What key phrases or keywords are they using to find you? What language would resonate best with them?
  • What types of content they’re interested in. Do they prefer video? Short-form articles? Infographics? A tone that’s irreverent and pithy or professional and authoritative? 

Particularly if you’ve never put together a buyer persona before, this can be a little overwhelming. But don’t worry. It’s easier than you’d expect. All you need is a lot of research and a little creativity.

We’re going to focus on the former today - on where to direct your demographic research efforts for maximum effect.

The first place you should start, unsurprisingly, is social media. Websites like Facebook provide a wealth of details about a brand’s audience, and social listening tools can give you a good window into the questions customers are asking and conversations they’re having. Don’t just pay attention to your own brand here, either.

Look at the social following of established competitors, as this will provide a window into how your own demographic breakdown might look.

Your site’s analytic data is also a good place to look. Pay close attention to how each visitor found your site (where they came from, what keywords they used), as well as what they do when they get there. In addition to giving you a bit more insight into your target audience, this information can also help you improve usability on your site.

You could also publish a survey or interview every now and then, incentivizing your customers to fill them out with discounts or freebies. In addition to demographic information, such surveys can also focus on their experience with your brand. You can learn why they chose you, what they value, and what their goals are when it comes to buying from you.

Last but certainly not least, don’t try to put together your buyer personas on your own. Bring the rest of your team on-board for the process. The more heads you can put together in both the research and conceptualization stage, the likelier you are to come up with something great - and to come out with a deeper understanding of who’s buying from you and why.

Demographic information is something you as a small business owner need to understand. Fortunately, that understanding isn’t as difficult to come by as you might expect. Knowing where and how to carry out demographic research is a critical first step. From there, the rest is a breeze.

About the author

Brad Wayland is the Chief Strategy Officer at BlueCotton, a site with high-quality, easy-to-design custom t-shirts.

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