The first rule of business, whether it’s logistics, stocking, new product development, or marketing, is to give your audience what appeals to them, not what appeals to you. If your products are intensely branded and presented with your personal slant, there’s no room in-between for buyers to imagine themselves in an ownership position, and that means lost sales. So how do you figure out what your audience is really looking for, versus what you already have primed to hand over?
Look to Past Purchases
There’s a reason that big names like Amazon offer additional “also purchased” product suggestions on product pages: they know that people tend to shop within their comfort zones for groups of items. Essentially, if multiple shoppers buy item X and item Y together, and someone is already buying item X, there’s a very good chance that shopper will be interested in item Y too. You can use this to your advantage by examining past content and seeing what resonated with your audience:
- Which item in your catalog received the most shares in the last three months?
- Which post had the most comments?
- What type of complaints and complements do you hear most often?
- Have you noticed a certain common trait among top sellers, such as a specific color?
If you find that the volume of data coming in from customers is a little too deep to wade through, try treating it as “big data” to gather some insights. Export your comment and review feeds and run them through a text frequency program to see what the most commonly-used words and phrases are. It’s an unusual approach, but it might just provide you with some surprising – and math-supported – insights into what your customers are talking about.
Ask Them Directly
While this is a obvious approach, it comes with a caveat: you absolutely must respect your audience’s time. The general rule of thumb is to offer something: a percentage discount is good, a dollars-off discount is better, and a free product (with free shipping, if applicable) is arguably the best carrot to dangle for queries.
People tend to give up more information and are more willing to discuss things at length when a reward is waiting for them – they view the interaction as more of a task-compensation framework to be completed than a charitable gift of their time that can be rescinded if they get bored. Use this method to get information – either in interview format or through a poll with 1-5 or worst-best scaling – that you can leverage to create more targeted, success-geared content in the future.
Eavesdrop on their Social Media
Twitter is a rich research ground for curious business owners, and surprisingly few make use of it. These largely public conversations between incredibly diverse individuals are searchable by keywords and hashtags, producing everything from pain points to candid photos of products in use. Search for your own products, your competitors’ products, and scenarios where your product would serve as a solution.
For example, if you make beach towels, look for location-based beach-related hashtags and people complaining about sand in their swimsuits and introduce your product by tagging both members of the conversation. You won’t want to do this to excess, of course, but a few well-timed interjections can get your brand name a little more visible on the radar. Just make sure to mix it up with other types of posts: no one likes ceaseless promotion without substance backing it up.
Involve Your Audience
All the most well-known social media platforms have some sort of voting system, even if it started as an ad hoc development. Facebook has likes, Twitter has retweets, Reddit has upvotes – they’re each user-generated grading systems that continually shift content closer to or further from the spotlight depending on the crowd’s overall approval or interest.
While a sitewide implementation of this type of feature might not be feasible for your business, you can use a similar technique to make a poll of your hottest sellers and turn it into a contest of sorts, with all the “winners” receiving a coupon or similar promotion. A lot of businesses tap into this concept around March Madness season, developing “brackets” of their own products and declaring winners at the end of the user-driven eliminations.
Above all, remember that your audience wants to talk about and engage with your brand. Your job isn’t necessarily to entice them to do so, but rather to remove obstacles like lack of information, tired communication formats, and off-the-mark humor on the way from casual interest to invested fandom. Listen sincerely, course-correct when necessary, and always be willing to try something new and you’ll find that customers will respond in kind. Every connection – in our culture and in our business climate – has a foundation of interest and engagement, even sales. Foster it well, and you’ll never feel like the wants and needs of your audience are elusive or difficult to pin down.
Delany M is a well-rounded freelancer with an emphasis in product descriptions, landing pages and articles. With over a decade of experience to her credit, she has enjoyed writing for national chain retailers, small e-commerce boutiques and a wide range of service providers. She prides herself in going “beyond the word” to capture the essence of a brand or company, ensuring copy that is as noteworthy as the goods and services her clients provide.