Are You Truly Listening to Your Target Audience?

customer serviceAt Inbound 2014, our campaign manager Rachel learned a lot about what it means to truly listen to your audience and engage them at their interest levels, rather than creating arbitrary or negligent content that doesn’t serve them.

Listening to your audience is among the most effective ways to gain visibility, build a following and increase the potential for brand ambassadors. Appealing to your audience begins and ends with listening to them.

So how do you do that, exactly? How do you listen to your audience well enough to know what they’re interested in and what content is useful to them?

To help you out, we’ve listed a few tips for doing a better job at listening to your audience.

1. Monitoring Social Media

An easy way to stay informed on the content, topics and issues that are relevant to your customers is to set up social engagement monitoring. You can track hashtags, the most re-tweeted posts, and relevant news items. Once you have a handle on the things that are trending and most relevant to your target audience, you can engage them at that specified level.

Similarly, on social media platforms like LinkedIn, you must go where your customers are. Monitor the groups they’re in, pay attention to the topics and issues they express, and use that insight to create content that better meets their needs. You can develop and offer solutions to problems, produce content that offers education on a relevant, trending topic, or simply acknowledge your customers’ concerns.

2. Setting Up Google Alerts

Setting up Google Alerts will help keep you up-to-date on the instances when you, your company, your CEO, or an employee is talked about or mentioned in a public online environment.

Google Alerts aids in helping you listen to and get to know your audience by showing what sentiments they’re expressing about your brand or company in various places on the web.

  • Crisis Management – Google Alerts can provide you with a heads up when a customer is unhappy with your company. When you know the dissatisfactions your customers are expressing, you can begin orchestrating a strategy to recover gracefully and hopefully retain their business, minimizing the impact a misstep may have on potential customers.
  • Staying Abreast of Current Trends – Another way that Google Alerts can benefit your interactions with your audience is by keeping you constantly informed of any developments in your industry. When you know what’s going on, you’re able to communicate more effectively, and you’ve minimized your risk of social media and content faux pas or oversights.

3. Get Excited About Feedback

Many companies view the act of acquiring customer feedback as a chore, something that takes up time without yielding many beneficial results.

In today’s brand-based world, getting excited about customer feedback is among the most effective ways to improve your brand and your rapport with the people who support that brand.

As a company and a brand, one of the worst mistakes you can make is ignoring a customer’s issues with your product or service. If a customer is expressing a dissatisfaction with some aspect of your product, and you dismiss that issue as a single, isolated incident irrelevant to your product as a whole, you risk alienating a demographic of your customers who might genuinely find your product or service difficult to use.

In his Ted Talk, “Design for people, not awards,” Timothy Prestero expresses the opinion that “there is no such thing as a dumb user…only dumb products.” You must design your product or service to be user-friendly for the people that will use it. Find your customers’ feedback and absorb it. Only after you’ve done this can you make cognizant, strategic improvements to your product or service.

4. Create An Avenue For Interaction

Sometimes, getting input from your customers is tough. Sometimes, you need to create an avenue or even an incentive for their feedback so that you can get an idea of what does and doesn’t work for them.

If you have a list of customers who have recently interacted with your brand on your website, you could create an email asking for a personal review of your product. If you want to make the feedback process more enticing to them, you could include a one-time coupon or a special offer.

Some other ways to encourage customer reviews and feedback?

  • Set up profiles on a host of review sites (think Yelp, Yahoo Local, etc.).
  • Interact with reviewers – don’t let a review go unanswered. Say thank you, engage any criticisms and show that you care. Even if it’s a bad review, displaying a willingness to face critiques head-on and with aplomb will gain you points with onlookers and probably with the customer who left the negative review.
  • Make it easy – No one likes to jump through a ton of hoops to leave a review. People lead busy lives. Make the reviewing process as obvious, and as easy, as possible.

At the end of the day, getting customer feedback is valuable. Brainstorming unique and compelling ways to accomplish this will serve you well in the long run.

5. Monitor Your Customers’ Reaction To Your Content

One of the easiest ways to monitor your customers’ reactions to your content is to look at social shares and backlinks on the content you create.

Your company blog offers a great opportunity to monitor which content your customers are not only compelled to click on, but more importantly, which content they feel compelled to share.

The number of views on a blog is relevant as well, but social shares communicates a much stronger level of resonance for the blog, that the reader not only found it interesting and useful, but that they feel their social and professional circles might, too.

Learning to listen to your customers can help you become a better brand and a better company. Implement your own strategy for getting in touch with your customers and truly absorbing what they have to say; you may find yourself making vast improvements in no time.