By Blair Williams, founder of MemberPress

Knowing your audience is key to marketing and selling your products and services. And while most entrepreneurs know that they have to do market research to define their target audience when starting a business, just knowing the basic demographics such as gender, age, location, annual income, etc., isn’t enough.

After all, if you don’t know the biggest pain points and the deepest desires of your audience, how will you be able to tap into their hearts and minds enough to convert them into customers?

So, get to know your audience better. Here are four ways to learn more about your target audience.

Create a buyer persona.

The first step to learning more about your target audience is to create a buyer persona. Buyer personas are fictional and general representations of your target audience, and creating one will help you gain more insight into who your ideal customers are. Keeping your buyer persona in mind will help you craft products/services and marketing materials that resonate with your audience.

Instead of just including the basic demographics of your audience, buyer personas go further with details such as their challenges and pain points, the blogs, websites or books from which they get their information, common objections and more. Search the web for free buyer persona templates and start brainstorming your ideal customer.

Hang out in forums and groups.

If you want to take a peek at the conversations your target audience is having on the web about your industry or niche, hang out in online forums and groups. Spending time in forums and groups allows you to see real-life conversations about the issues your audience is dealing with and what questions they’re looking for answers to.

Not all online forums and groups will be useful to you -- you have to search for the right ones. If you own a software company, a site like Quora may have a large group of audience members talking to each other about building a website. But if your target audience is moms looking for solutions to make parenting easier, you might find that a Facebook group for moms would be a better fit for you.

Do some social media digging.

Nearly every single member of your target audience is on social media. In fact, according to Statista, 77 percent of the U.S. population had a social media profile in 2018. So, go where your audience is and start doing some digging on social media.

Keep track of hashtags relating to your industry as well as other trending hashtags to follow what your audience is buzzing about in real time. You can also take a look at your competitors on social media. For instance, which of their posts are most popular with their audience? This can help you find out what type of content your audience will be most interested in, too.

You can also take advantage of a free tool like Facebook Insights to find out more about the fans of your page.

Understand your analytics.

Finally, you may be overlooking one of the best places to learn more about your target audience -- your own website. Tracking and understanding your website analytics will help you to determine what your audience is interested in based on what you’re already doing in regards to your products/services, content and marketing. Some analytics you should keep an eye on include:

  • What pages and posts on your website are most popular.
  • What posts are liked and shared most.
  • How visitors are finding your website -- through social media, guest blogging, organic search, PPC, etc.
  • Which pages have the highest bounce rates vs. pages with the lowest bounce rates.

You can even perform an experiment to discover what your audience is most interested in. Try offering two different types of content upgrades. As an example, one content upgrade could be for a small e-book and one could be for a webinar on the same subject. If your webinar is more popular, you’ll know that your audience is more interested in video content than written content.

With these four ways to learn more about your target audience, you can craft meaningful marketing messages for your audience, which in turn helps you build more meaningful relationships with them. Instead of knowing your target audience on the surface, you’ll know the root of what makes them tick, including what drives them to buy.

Blair Williams is the founder of MemberPress, an all-in-one membership website software for WordPress.

Published on: Feb 21, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.