When it comes to branding, knowing who you are and what your vision, mission, and values are is the first thing you should do. But it’s no use clarifying all of that strategic goodness if you then don’t know who to share it with or how to share it with them in an engaging and effective way.

Once you have got clarity on your own identity, it’s time to understand your brand audience and create some buyer personas so that you can build a strong brand community of loyal and loving customers.

Why you need to understand your audience

To capture your audience’s attention

Whether your audience encounters you online or offline, your brand identity needs to capture their attention and entice them to buy your products. Knowing your audience and understanding what they value in a product, what aesthetics they’re drawn to, and what their buying behaviours are, will help you design packaging, signage, and marketing that really captures your audience’s attention.

To connect with your customers

Once you’ve captured the attention of your audience, you then want to connect with those customers and show them that your products are for them. When you know your customers well, you can write copy, create marketing campaigns, and make content that speaks directly to your ideal customer by connecting with them on a deeper level. So when they’re reading the about us page on your website, scrolling through your Instagram page, or seeing your posters around town, they feel connected to your brand and eager to buy your products.

To build brand loyalty & advocacy

Lastly, when you’ve attracted and connected with your audience, the goal is create brand advocacy by  keeping them coming back and recommending your brand to others through word of mouth. Using consistent branding across all channels that continues to speak to your ideal customers, releasing new products that feel like they’re made for them, and building on that relationship, is a sure-fire way to achieve that brand loyalty and advocacy. Knowing what your customers like, what they value, and what keeps them coming back, will allow you to do this effectively.

What you need to know about your audience

When you think about your audience, these questions probably come to mind:

  • How old are they?
  • Where do they live?
  • How much money do they make?
  • What level of schooling did they finish?

You wouldn’t be wrong in having those questions in mind. These questions cover the demographics of your audience, and can actually be helpful if one of those things is particularly relevant to your brand or needs to be acknowledged.

For example, if your product is for the elderly, then knowing how old they are is obviously going to be helpful, and knowing that your customers live in the city might be useful for a company selling beach escapes.

Demographics are not to be ignored, but they matter a lot less than you think. What’s infinitely more powerful, are the psychographics of your audience. This is where you start asking questions about your audience:

  • Personality
  • Values
  • Opinions
  • Dreams
  • Desires
  • Challenges
  • Behaviours

These answers are what you should focus on the most, because understanding them will help you to speak to your audience on a deeper level and meet them where they’re at.

How to understand your audience

Brainstorm what you know

Chances are, you already know quite a bit about your audience already. You’ve likely had conversations with your customers, have data on their buying behaviour, or you yourself are an ideal customer for your business.

Start with getting all of this information down on paper (or screen) and take stock of what you already know about your ideal customer.

Research what you don’t know

When you’ve reached the upper limit of your knowledge about your audience, it’s time to fill in the blanks and research the things you don’t know. There are three main ways to do this: social listening, research, and customer engagement.

Social listening

Social listening is all about seeing what people are saying about your brand, products, and industry online. There are a lot of tools that enable you to do this automatically, alerting you when your brand or products are mentioned, but you can also do this manually by looking at your mentions and hashtags, and searching your brand and products online.

When you’re engaging in social listening, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What positive things are people saying about your brand?
  • What negative things are people saying about your brand?
  • What language are your customers using when they discuss your brand?
  • How do they describe what you sell to others?
  • Are there any keywords that are regularly used to describe your brand?
  • What emotions do people have when discussing your brand? Are they excited, angry, hopeful, inspired, frustrated, informed, etc?
  • In what contexts are they using your products?
  • What is making them talk about you and your brand?
  • What other brands do they use and why?
  • What other brands do they follow and engage with and why?

These will help you understand who your audience is, what’s important to them, and what buying habits they have.

Additional research

You can also do more research about your audience to understand them better. Starting with a Google search is an easy way to begin your research, and you can look for things like:

  • Relevant statistics about your audience

For example, if you sell planners, it could be helpful to know that X% of business owners use paper planners every day, but X% are on the road, so might need it to be portable, etc

  • Other brands and products they are using

For example, you can look at existing planners to find out what people are using already, or search digital alternatives to see what other options your customers are turning to and why.

  • Communities or groups they’re in

For example, you could search Facebook groups for business owners to find communities of entrepreneurs (the ideal audience for your hypothetical planners) and read what they’re posting to find out what they’re like, what their goals are, what things they’re working on, what language they use, and more.

  • Challenges of your ideal customer

For example, I looked up challenges for business owners and found articles about the challenges entrepreneurs face and what they currently do to overcome them. You can do this to understand how your products can help your customers, and know how to meet them where they’re at.

Customer engagement

Last but not least, you can talk directly to your audience to get to know them better. Talk to a few people who represent your ideal customer, and ask them questions such as:

  • What do you value in a brand?
  • What aspects of a business encourage you to support them over another?
  • What are your main motivators for buying a product? Price? Aesthetics? Convenience?
  • What are your dreams?
  • What are your challenges or struggles?
  • Why do you need a product like ours? What problems does it solve for you?
  • What do you need from a product like ours?
  • What are your favourite brands to follow and why?
  • What other products and brands in our industry have you used?
  • If you’ve tried a product like ours before, what did you like about it?
  • What didn’t you like about this product?
  • What would your ideal product of ours be like and why?
  • If we could help you with one thing, what would it be?

Thoughtful questions like this that really get to the heart of your audience’s dreams, needs, and desires, are going to help you create a brand that resonates powerfully with them, and products that truly make a difference to their lives.

Create your audience persona

Once you have brainstormed what you know and researched what you don’t know about your audience, you should have a comprehensive picture of who your ideal customer is. Now you can consolidate this information into a document that you and your team can use going forward. This ensures that you’re always thinking about your audience when creating new content, campaigns, copy, and products.

As mentioned earlier, your persona should cover your audience’s:

  • Personality
  • Values
  • Opinions
  • Dreams
  • Desires
  • Challenges
  • Behaviours
An example of a persona from a brand strategy document.

In this example you can see the first page covering the personality and values of the customer, while the second page covers the dreams, needs, and challenges they have. There was also a third page included that covered how this business could help these ideal customers with their products and services.

Your document doesn’t have to be designed like this, it can just be a word document or Google Doc that lists these things. It can use bullet points or full paragraphs – as long as it communicates who your customers are and what they’re about.

Understanding your audience is one of the best ways to create a powerful brand with a fierce and loyal customer base. Connecting with and speaking to your audience on a deeper level with words, images, and products that they really relate to and are drawn to will make your brand irresistible to the people it’s made for. Are you ready to get to know those people?

Building a Brand is a new series by noissue that helps entrepreneurs hone their creative side and establish the building blocks of their brand's identity. You might be starting a new business, or you might have an already established brand that needs a little work. Either way, you'll find many great takeaways in this series! A new story will be released monthly, so be sure to check back for more if you enjoyed this piece.