May 31

3 Best Practices for Audience Research

A 2022 CoSchedule study finds that when it comes to marketing campaigns, proactive planners are three times more likely to have success. Audience research is at the heart of any fruitful marketing plan and informs everything from messaging to which channels deserve room in the budget.

“Know your audience” is advice that can benefit entertainers, writers, and marketing professionals alike. However, when it comes to marketing, some methods of getting to know your audience are more effective than others. Below are three best practices for conducting audience research:

1. Don’t Write Off Buyer Personas

Many marketers talk a lot about what they’re selling, but the most successful ones focus on who they’re selling to. Buyer personas are a useful tool for understanding who that is. When crafting a buyer persona, you’ll want to consider the following information about your target customer:

  • Orientation: Factors like salary range, age range, job responsibilities, tenure, and education level, among others.
  • Objectives: Factors like personal career goals, business goals, priorities, and success metrics.
  • Obstacles: Factors like external threats/challenges, internal threats/challenges or weaknesses, and job-related frustrations or pains.

It’s likely that you have several target customers, especially if the product or service you’re marketing is B2B, as there are typically multiple parties involved in the purchasing decision process. You’ll want to establish multiple buyer personas and think of which aspects of your product or service appeal to each one, as well as how your content or messaging could appeal to each individual and the buying committee as a whole.

2. Consider the Source

It helps to see how your buyer persona stacks up against real life prospects and customers. When gathering audience intelligence, it’s important to consider the source. There are three main sources of audience data:

  • First-Party Data: Information that you collect and own. Data includes website or mobile app behavior and purchase history, email engagement metrics, webinar signup information, as well as information from your organization’s sales or business development organization, among others.
  • Second-Party Data: Data gleaned from trusted partners. For example, data from a reliable source, such as a credit card company or a publisher whose website you reserve advertising space on.
  • Third-Party Data: Data aggregated from an outside source, not affiliated with your company or its specific customer base. Think industry surveys or marketing lists for purchase.

Each of the data types listed above can help you gain a more complete understanding of your clientele and contribute to the creation of more refined and impactful marketing strategies. However, first-party data yields the highest ROI if analyzed and used correctly.  

3. Make it Easy for People to Do What You Want Them to Do

First-party data yields the highest ROI because it is more cost-effective and profitable to convert prospects or retain existing customers than it is to attract new ones. The trick to collecting valuable first-party data is creating a customer experience (CX) that encourages members of your audience to exchange their data for content that is of value to them — and makes it easy for them to do so.

For example, if you’re a B2B company, you might write a white paper to educate your audience an important trend in their industry, as well as the specific steps they can take to capitalize on the opportunity at hand. You’ll want to ensure that the download process is smooth — that the white paper is easy to find on your website, is linked to from other sources across the site, and the download form only asks for the minimum necessary information, such as name, work email address, and possibly job title. Short, sweet interactions are more likely to keep your audience on your page and engaged.

Comprehensive audience research is integral to the success of any marketing campaign. In-depth buyer personas, an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of various types of data, and a focus on CX will set your company on the path to marketing success.

By Miles Hill and Alannah Dragonetti

These takeaways were compiled based on overlapping insights shared during several different 2022 B2B Marketing Exchange sessions. Speakers included:

  • Mark Bornstein, ON24
  • Marcus Sheridan, Marcus Sheridan International
  • Robert Peterson, Forrester
  • Chris Rack, Demand Science
  • Garrett Mehrguth, Directive
  • And others

Photo by Luis Quintero on Pexels


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