Optimising your online presence as a business
The internet offers your customers more choice and more information at a greater convenience than they’ve ever had before. And with a surge in online spending this year, it's clear that if you own or run a business—no matter its size—it is essential you have an effective online presence—one that connects you to your customers and guides them to your products and services.
In this three-part blog series, we’ve teamed up with Digital Journeys to examine why it is critical for businesses to take a customer-centred approach when it comes to trading online, and how it can offer you a simple, cost-effective path to generating revenue growth.
Identifying your target customers
Before anything else, you need to identify who your target customers are. And burst that bubble right now if you think it’s ‘everyone’. It’s not—no single product or approach resonates with ‘everyone’.
To narrow things down, start by considering the products and services you offer. Ask yourself: who wants or needs them? Who would benefit from the different features and qualities you provide?
Also examine your existing customer base and try and spot any trends. Who are your loyal customers? Who spends the most? Who visits you most frequently?
For example, say you owned an organic seed company, your target customer group would be people who enjoy growing their own food, care about the quality of that food, and want to be respectful of the environment.
Building a picture
Once you’ve isolated one (or a few) target groups, start to piece together some common characteristics that personify that group—i.e. if that group were embodied by one person, who would they be? Consider personal attributes such as:
- Demographics—age, location, gender, income, occupation, marital status, and ethnicity.
- Psychographics—personality, values, activities, interests, opinions.
Remember, your aim here is to sharpen your online presence so you need to consider the specific behaviours, motivations, and needs of your target customers in relation to their online habits and your product.
- Online behaviour—What devices do your customers use to browse and buy? Which social media platforms do they most frequent? Where do they go online for information—any particular forums or directories?
- What drives them to your product?—What are their motivations for buying your product? What are their expectations for their online experience? What are their obstacles to purchasing?
Finding accurate information about your target customers involves a little research, but it’s an important step if you want to avoid assumptions—like thinking your customers are guys, when in actual fact they’re mainly wives and girlfriends buying presents for their special man!
Try mining the following sources:
- Your customers
Talk to them, ask them questions. Consider building a short survey with one of the many free survey tools—Google Forms is a good starting place—and identify key traits and buying habits.
- Your competition
Companies that are selling similar products will most likely be targeting a similar audience. Check out their websites and social media, who are their posts aimed at? Who likes their content? What content is popular?
- Online forums
Find out who is talking about your product areas on popular forums like Reddit or Quora—what’s important to them? What questions are they asking?
- Online research, statistics, survey results
Investigate what other people have found out about your customers—but be warned: make sure your data has been collected within the last few years by credible sources!
- Google Analytics
If you have a website—and you should!—Goggle Analytics can give you insight into who actually visits your site. You can track things like age, location, and device (mobile or desktop) they are visiting you from. You can see how long each age range and gender spend on your site, which pages they spend most time on, and where they’ve navigated to you from.
Putting it all together—creating a persona
An effective way to bring together all your data is to create a customer persona, or profile, for each of your target customer groups. These can help you to visualise your customers and empathise with their needs, keeping them at the fore-front of your efforts.
How many you create will depend on your research—there is no right or wrong here—but remember to keep things simple and relevant. You are not writing the character for a novel! Try and stick to the information that influences how they interact with your brand online.
Here’s an example persona for the organic seed company:
Finally…Putting it into practice
The example above brings into focus a lot of features it would be important to provide your online customers if you were to sell organic seeds: quality pictures, accurate growing information, assurance of organic certification, natural packaging. It tells you that an effective Facebook presence could be a good way of attracting attention, as would an advertising campaign in spring.
Of course, this is just one example. Who are your customers and what makes them tick? What do they want from you? It’s never been a better time to find out!
In part two of this series, we leverage the information you’ve collected about your customers by applying it to their online journey.
In the meantime, it's worthwhile taking a stock check of the quality of your internet connection to ensure it's equipped to deal with a stronger online customer platform. To find out what features you should be looking for with a business grade broadband plan check out our recommendation tool.