All your marketing questions can be answered by knowing your customers
In this podcast, I chat with Bianca McKenzie from the New School of Marketing about what it really means to know your customers. And why it’s the best thing you can do for your business.
You can listen to the real thing, or read on for the full transcript.
Welcome to the New School of Marketing Podcast. I’m Bianca McKenzie and today I’m talking about getting under the hood, how to really know your customers, and why it’s the best thing you can do for your business with Amy Annetts. Amy Annetts is a marketing strategist in Melbourne, has been practicing marketing for 25 years. She creates marketing roadmaps for small businesses who need to know where they’re going. Amy blends her corporate and traditional marketing experience with the latest digital techniques. Using a full scale marketing toolkit, Amy’s clients use campaigns that end in more customers and she loves red dirt and traveling Australia, having done the lap twice and many Outback trips in-between, but that’s a whole different story. And it’s actually a story that I’d love to go into at some point with you Amy, welcome to the show.
Thank you, Bianca. Yeah, I’m more than happy to speak all day about traveling around Australia. [Inaudible 00:01:29] for that.
I’ll have to start out a podcast for that I reckon. Awesome. Well, we’re also both two marketing fanatics I would guess, and really diving into talking more about marketing. And it’s been a little bit of a challenging time, especially last year and many businesses, they’ve been rethinking and they are rethinking their direction and what they need to do better to market themselves. Where should they be focusing right now?
Yeah, it’s a big question. And even though all businesses big and small, they’re all different in terms of where they’re at and what their challenges are and what they’re hoping to achieve. But time and time again, it comes back to a common starting point, which is understanding who your customer is. And I know that we hear that a lot, but it truly is the foundation of all of your marketing. So the more you know your customer, the better your marketing will be.
So one of the common questions I get asked is things like, should I be spending time promoting my business on LinkedIn or should I be spending time on whatever platform it might be? Which often is a starting point for many businesses when they’re thinking about what else can I do with my marketing? And my answer is always, let’s talk about who your audience is. What do you know about them? What do we need to go find out about them? Because again, once you really dig deep into that, it just becomes a really obvious where you need to be spending your time, what you need to be saying, those sorts of things.
Yeah. I love that. And I keep telling that to people as well, even though I do Facebook ads, if you don’t know who you’re targeting, Facebook ads are going to be really challenging. So, you talk a lot about knowing your customers, I talk about knowing your customers, every good marketer would be talking about knowing your customers. What does it really mean to really know your customers?
Yeah, it’s a good question. So the obvious starting point is, male, female, age group, geography, all the demographic stuff, which is very important too. But going beyond that as well and thinking in relation to what it is that you offer in the industry that you work within, for your audience, what are their goals? What are their needs? What are their objections? What are their preconceived ideas? What are their past experiences? What are their media habits? What are they influenced by? All of those aspects that relate to your industry and your product beyond demographics. Demographics are important, but going beyond that.
So coming up with customer personas or customer avatars, all the same thing. Your ideal client, they’re all just different terms relating to what I call customer personas. And then actually coming up, give them a name, so that you are referring in your day-to-day business of doing your marketing or selling your products or services. You know, you’ve got these personas in the back of your mind by name, Barry, John, Sue, whatever it is. No more than a handful, but that they become in your mind at least real people that when you do have a question in relation to, well, what should I be doing? Well, you think, okay, what would best suit Barry in this situation? Is that something that relates to him? Would he be interested in that? How would I talk to Barry about that? So really making them into real characters that actually do reflect, of course, who your ideal clients are.
I love that because it’s so much easier to talk to a person than to an imaginary kind of person. So if you can make them real I guess, that makes a lot of sense. It becomes a lot easier to have that conversation rather than my target market is, and then have this abstract group of people. It’s much easier to create something for one person than it is to create it for thousands of persons. But there’s going to be more people like Barry. And I know that when I started doing this work a long time ago, before I did Facebook ads I did a lot of marketing stuff as well. And a lot of people always struggle with actually getting that concept of making it a person. Can you give an example of how this comes together in a real situation, in a small business situation?
Yeah. So, if you’re already up and running with your small business, if you’re lucky enough to have a client base, my starting point is to ask the small business owner, tell me your most common client. Tell me, do you work with mainly male, female? If it’s 50/50, that’s fine, we can start with that. Just reflect on who you’re already serving and coming up with some kind of rough groupings. So starting at really the super basics, male, female, age groups, or age ranges, stage of life. So they have families, young families, older families, no kids, whatever it is, start to kind of group them, just sketching it out on a whiteboard or [inaudible 00:07:49], whatever works for you.
And so for some businesses, depending on their stage of growth, they might only just have one persona that they feel comfortable starting with. And that’s okay. But usually if you can carve out two to three fairly easily and then just start to make some notes about them. And I’d give them a name right off the cuff. So all of a sudden they already start to become kind of like real people. And if you feel comfortable, you can call your persona after actually a real client if you like. You don’t have to share that with them. But reflecting on who you’re already serving. If you don’t already have an established customer base then think about who you want to be serving and in exactly the same way, describe who they are, demographics first and then what problems are you solving? What are their preconceived ideas about this? What are their level of experience? All those sorts of things.
So it’s a bit of guesswork, or a lot of guesswork. It’s using what you know already to be true and then validating this over time. So getting comfortable with the idea that you’re just making sketches and then you will build and improve on those personas. Over time they will get sharper, they’ll get more accurate. And if you have to scrap one, you think actually no, that’s not really a big enough persona to have it on its own, then that’s fine. But it’s a constant reflection. And if you’re not using them in your marketing every day, then maybe it’s not the right persona. It’s time to go back and maybe resketch some of those. But, 9 times out of 10 when I do this work with clients, it’s quite scary how quickly those personas do start to map out just simply what’s in the business owner’s head all ready.
Yeah. I love that. And I also find that a lot of times people start businesses because they are trying to solve a need that they have. So in a way they are, or they were, their own ideal client and like knowing yourself is, I don’t know, in a way, yeah. It’s easier to kind of go back to that person. And I give my ideal clients names, thinking about people that I’ve worked with already. It’s like, okay, well, I really loved working with that person, what are the characteristics of that person? And then I know there are more people like that.
And I know you and I both like travel. Well, you’re probably more of a travel fanatic than I am, but we love going camping. And I was telling you beforehand that we bought a camper trailer. And actually when I think back to when we bought that camper trailer, the business that started making these camper trailers, they had been modifying them for other brands before. And then that got taken away from them and they started making their own camper trailers because they had learned so much from modifying all these older camper trailers that now they knew how to fill that need in the market of creating almost a perfect camper trailer upfront. So if you think about that business, how would they have thought of their ideal client? How would they have described their ideal clients? Sorry, I’m just springing this on you right now, but I think it might be really good to sort of use a real life business.
Yeah, exactly. And like you said, there’s no better way to create a business on the back of a known market need. So, you’ve already validated, in the case of your camper trailer supplier, they’ve already validated that there is a market need. So your question is, how would they have come up with a persona? I suppose for them, relatively easily, because they’ve got a very good view of what the need is and they shaped the persona around that need. So for instance, and you and I were talking about the camper trailer and often camper trailers are bought for families. So there straight away, you know part of the persona is it’s for families. They probably would have talked about, all right, so is it two kids or do they cater for kind of three kids plus? Do we have bunks or are we just simply, I think the standard family is 2.1 kids or whatever it is now. And maybe that was the persona they’re going for.
They know that maybe dad, David, just give him a name, is the sort of the purchaser for the family, but his partner would be certainly very big influencer in the whole thing, might be doing some of the background research as well. But David’s sort of the one that’s maybe leading the way and doing the comparison, chatting to friends and families, those sorts of things.
So back to your question, yeah, I think in their case, it would have been an ideal scenario of shaping and going, really brainstorming around David and his scenario. He as a person, perhaps he grew up camping himself, so actually knows a fair bit about it, but hasn’t yet taken the family on any sort of major camping experiences. So this is very much a new experience for him as a dad. So I can imagine them being in a room with maybe their small team just really fleshing this out and saying, okay, well, who are we really making this for and is it just David? Do we have a couple of different models in the series where we expect David to take a model A, but we might have maybe a more slim line version for Susan who maybe it’s a no kid family, but they’re an older couple that caravans just, don’t suit them, but they don’t want to sleep in a tent either.
Yeah. I love it. Thank you for that. Sorry to throw that at you, but I think it’s really good for people to sort of listen to that because when you are sitting at your desk and thinking about, okay, well, who’s this for? I know that a lot of people just go, oh, it’s for everybody. Or it’s for women in this age range. That’s great, but you kind of need to think deeper, don’t you? If we take the camper trailer example again, so we purchased the camper trailer and we have done so much research on this. And when you think about that, then it’s kind of like, okay, well, when these people are doing research, when my ideal clients are doing research, where are they doing that research? Are they looking at Facebook reviews? Are they looking at a Google? So do you need to have a substantial blog or even a YouTube channel that we explain things?
And this is how you can sort of, I guess, start to form your marketing and where you put it out and fill out your marketing channels and then what kind of content are they looking for? We have looked at so many videos of how to set up a camper trailer and how to pack it in and the best ways to stock it and all that kind of thing. And I think obviously that takes it a lot bigger, but I think that really helps people think about who is it for, but also how do I speak about, or what kind of information do my people need? It becomes a really big thing doesn’t it? And I’ll move on to the next question because it’s kind of like, okay, well I know so much about my client, but how can I find out more? How can a small business owner find out the information they really need to get under the hood of their business?
Yeah. So my starting point is always your best guess brainstorm. And whether if it’s just you and your business, or it’s just you doing that, if you have a small team it’s a great activity to do with your team, because everybody has something to offer to fill out the picture. You could do customer surveys, so survey who you already serve to find out things like what brought them to you? What problem did you solve? What experience did they have in the past before they came across you? What are they hoping to achieve? What are their plans for the future in relation to, again, what it is that you said them with. Of course we’ve got to be relative. So customer surveys are great. You could also do a focus group. So get some of your clients together, maybe put on some donuts or I don’t know, wine and cheese or whatever it is, and just for an hour or 45 minutes have them [inaudible 00:18:09]. And that’s also a really, really fantastic way.
Look at your frequently asked questions from your existing base. Social media listening. So certainly on your own social media platforms, what language are people using? What are they talking about? But probably more important would be having look on, other whether it’s… It could be competitors’ platforms or maybe complimentary products or services perhaps, or just something if you’ve already got an inkling about David. David, you know that loves water skiing as well, for instance. Maybe water skiing is very big part of the outdoor experience when his family’s camping. So, maybe you could be having a look at [inaudible 00:19:08] media platforms about water skiing. Finding out more about David about what they’re talking about, what’s happening at the moment, those sorts of things. On Google trends, simply having a look on Google trends. Again, in relation to industry, what people are searching for, what people are talking about. They’re just a few ideas.
I love that. So many ideas and there’s so many places to be spying on people in a way.
There’s so many places. My husband actually joined an owner’s group of the camper trailer brand that we purchased. And the brand is actually in that group as well. And I think that’s really smart because then you’re listening in and seeing what kind of people are we attracting? What kind of questions are they asking? Because I know that that’s also a part of their research and development. It’s like, go, well, what kind of improvements can we make and things like that. So, look on Facebook for [inaudible 00:20:16] or certain product groups. He’s in a land cruiser group as well. So, there’s so many places to keep your finger on the pulse.
And that’s sort of industry is a fantastic one because it’s a positive, it’s a healthy lifestyle. It’s good fun and people love to share their experiences and stories and things they like and they don’t like. [Inaudible 00:20:41] so easy to get.
Yes. I think it’s really important for people to be there. And obviously, because I can see people do that and then in a way, either get overwhelmed and bombarded about all of the things. Because there’s always going to be people that have suggestions on improvements and it doesn’t mean you have to do all of the things. So I think what you need to be careful with is you’re there to listen in to find who your ideal client is and how they speak and what kind of words you can use, but don’t forget why you’re in there kind of thing.
Yeah, exactly. And the thing just to touch on the point you made about getting overwhelmed as maybe the product designer or the owner for the camper trailer business, an idea with that is to create a product roadmap. So you could be jotting down all these ideas, fantastic ideas that users are coming up with and maybe tweaks and things they’ve done to their own camper trailer later on, you could just simply jot them down and put them on a wishlist or a to-do list mapped over three or five years, for instance.
Yeah. Yep. It doesn’t have to all happen now really. So, talking about all of this, what would be your number one tip on getting started because I can imagine people open up their computer and just stare at the blank document and go… So what is your number one tip on getting started?
So number one tip would be to think about customers you serve already today and also those that you want to serve more of. So that’s a point I didn’t make earlier was you might be serving a particular group of David’s, Barry’s and Susan’s today, but are they the personas you want to be serving tomorrow? Maybe there’s a group that you haven’t yet attracted that you want to target. So put them down as well because that will help you steer your marketing towards attracting that new, additional type of personas or swapping out the Barrys for the Johns or whatever it is. So, think about who you have today and those that you want to serve more of in the future. And just simply starting with what you know, this is all about your best guess. So don’t get stuck in, this has got to be right or I don’t really know, this is your best guess and you’re going to validate it over time.
Yeah. And especially because I know that in marketing, we talk about who’s this person? What age are they? Are they a family person or are they a single person or a couple or are they older? Are they younger? What kind of income? Where do they live? What kind of house? What kind of lifestyle? And it becomes a lot and it can be a range of things. And this is what I know when I first started that I used to get stuck with them. It’s like, this is this person, but there’s other people like that. There’s small variations on this person. And that’s fine, you don’t have to write down all the variations. And there are ways to start with this. Do you have any resources for people that want to get started with this?
I do. On my website I have a resources page that has a customer persona template. It’s really basic, but basic for a reason. It’s just so that you can just get started and start jotting down some thoughts.
Awesome. I’ll link to that in the show notes. And I know you’ve talked about a few kind of personas. How many do you think people should have?
Yeah. I suggest anywhere from one to three or thereabouts. So as I said, some businesses, perhaps they’re just getting started or depending on the nature of the business, they might only feel comfortable or capable of just developing one as a starting point, and that’s fine. Around about three I think is ideal. Some clients I work with we’ve developed up to sort of six, but that starting to get too many. So, one to three would be my suggestion.
Yeah. I think that’s a good number because once you have that persona, then you need to create your marketing around that. So in a way you are developing three different messages. They might be similar, but I guess they’re still different. If I think about my business, I do done for you Facebook ads. I also teach. They’re two very different personas. Actually I have three different personas because I have two different courses. So in every piece of marketing and I put out, I have to think about, okay, wait, which person am I actually talking to when I put this out? And I guess when you do have more than one, it can be slightly overwhelming. So I think one to three, I think maybe starting at one is actually not a bad one because then you can focus all of your messaging, all of your marketing at that one person.
And I know that people will kind of be sitting there going, one person, isn’t that limiting myself? But that one person is like so many other people. So the reason why us marketers talk about one person and have one persona is because it becomes easier to talk to one rather than talk to everybody.
Exactly. [inaudible 00:26:47] also with that one person about fine tuning what you’re doing. So it doesn’t mean that you’re not attracting others, but you’re just really fine tuning and doing really well, talking to that particular persona that you have in mind.
Yeah, that’s the starting point isn’t it, just knowing that. And I think this is where a lot of small businesses fall flat at the start is because they try to be all of the things to all of the people and that’s where it gets really, really challenging. So getting under the hood and really knowing who you’re talking to, but we can talk about this forever can’t we because it’s so important.
Oh, it is. It is. Yeah, exactly. And as I said earlier, it’s the foundation of where then you take your marketing plan, which we sort of touched on.
It’s the foundation of your business and I keep coming back to it too. It’s like marketing 101. It is the foundation of your business success. Awesome. Well, that is the end of those questions. I always add a few more questions. What are you curious about right now?
Yeah, I love this question. I knew you were going to ask me and I was thinking about it and I thought, do I make it marketing related? And anyway, I have. I’m curious about PR at the moment and making that more, I suppose, accessible and relevant for small businesses. And I say that because it’s an area that I’m professionally developing more into. That’s my challenge for 2021. I see that it’s an area that’s not overly utilized and I think it’s a fantastic lever to work in with all of the digital marketing that we’re doing more and more of nowadays. So that’s where my curiosity is at the moment.
Yeah. It kind of sparks my curiosity now because I hadn’t really thought about it that much. Because I think back to my uni days, PR subjects, and back then obviously the internet wasn’t really a big thing back then. It was around obviously, I’m not that ancient, but the opportunities we have now weren’t around. So when I think back to PR I think to like print and that kind of media, but no, there’s so many other opportunities.
Yes, exactly. Yeah. Well like you, my uni days, PR and it was pre email.
There are so many options. All right. And if you had an extra $1,000 in your marketing budget, what would spend it on?
Yeah, I love this question too. And I’ve flip-flopped and I’ve settled on if I had an extra thousand dollars, I would spend it on expanding my visual branding. So what I mean, I work with a fantastic branding expert/graphic designer and she’s helping me in my own business extend my visual branding. And so the idea of storytelling nowadays is just crucial to any business and your visual branding is a really important part of that as well. And not just your videos or your blog posts or your copy on your website, the visual elements tell the story as well. So that’s where I’d put my thousand dollar.
I like that. I love that. That’s great. Yeah, I totally agree it’s so important. So much of what we do is in a way visual with all the social media platforms and everything we put out there. I love it. Great. Awesome. Well, that is the end of this week show. If you have questions about getting under the hood and planning your marketing and finding your persona, head to amyannettsmarketing.com.au, I’ll put everything in the show notes as well. A really big thanks to you, Amy. I loved having you on the show.
Thank you, Bianca. Yeah, I loved it too. Thank you.
Amy Annetts, a marketing strategist in Melbourne, has been practising marketing for 25 years. She creates marketing roadmaps for businesses that need to know where they’re going. Amy blends her corporate and traditional marketing experience with the latest digital techniques. Using a full-scale marketing toolkit, Amy’s clients use campaigns that earn them more customers. And she loves red dirt and travelling Australia, having done ‘the lap’ twice and many outback trips in between.
But that’s another story.
Get in touch to see how Amy can help you.