Michael Gray says we should stop using analogies in our blog headlines. Well, Michael, feel free to skip this entry so that your head doesn’t explode. Also, if you could stop talking about your dirty underwear, the rest of the Internet could maybe stop vomiting. Thanks.
Whether you’re doing keyword research, trying to come up with a great link bait idea or just working towards becoming an authoritative online resource, one of the first pieces of advice you’ll get from bloggers and search marketers is to “know your audience”. It’s decent advice but what does that even mean? How are you supposed to know your audience?
I’ve been a new employee at We Build Pages for a little over 3 weeks now. And part of taking on a new job is learning how to be successful in your new office and interacting with your new coworkers. That means doing a lot of digging around to find out who you need on your side, whom to hang out with for maximum gossip updates, and which office male to make googly eyes at so they bring you donuts every morning. (That would be Rita, Ninja Jen and Pat Sexton, respectively.) And while I continue to fight for acceptance in my new home, I’ve been noticing some great parallels between understanding the habits of your new coworkers and understanding those of your visitors.
Here’s what you need to know to be successful in both arenas:
Know What Makes Them Tick: When you enter a new office, you need to quickly learn just how much you can get away with before you’re sent home carrying a box of your belongings. For me, this means testing how many times I can call Christine old before she hops over her desk and attacks me with a letter opener, and how many pairs of crazy over the knee socks I can wear before people just flat out stop talking to me. I’ll let you know when I get my answers.
On your Web site, knowing what makes your customers tick is equally important. In order to keep people on your site and headed down a good path, you have to know where their specific sensitivities lie. How much text and reading can they handle before their eyes glaze over and they leave? How much can you charge for your services before your competitor looks like a better deal? What kind of copy and/or sales pitch do they respond to best? What tone or style grabs their attention? All of this information will help you to address their needs better.
What Are Their Routines: As hard as it is for me to believe, We Build Pages and all the great people who work here existed long before I became an employee (Of course it existed. Look how old Christine is!). That means they all have relationships with one another. They have routines that set where they go for lunch, what they do after hours (today’s Trivia Wednesday!), how they get set up in the morning, etc. In order to blend in and become a functioning member of this company, I have to learn and respect everyone’s work rituals.
In order to truly understand your customers and how to best target them, you have to learn their specific routines. This information will often allow you to shine the biggest spotlight on who your customers really are because you get to see them in their natural habitat. You may not be able to believe everything they say, but you can believe what they do. Where do your customers go when they’re on your Web site? Which pages do they land on? What kind of conversion path have they created for themselves? Is it the same one you laid out for them? What were they looking at before they landed on your site? Where do they go when they leave? This type of information will allow you to create a comprehensive profile for who your visitors really are. Armed with this information you’ll be much better suited to actually target them.
Who Reports to Whom?: In order to survive whatever employment situation you’ve found yourself in, you need to know that company’s secret internal hierarchy. That means talking to people to uncover who’s really in control of operations. Who should you be aligning yourself with to get what you want and need out of your job? Is it management or is it someone else? Is Jim really the boss at We Build Pages just because his name is on the door? Maybe he is and maybe he’s not. This dedicated ninja will never tell.
Similarly, you need to learn who your visitors really report to. Who’s whispering in their ear and telling them to act or not to act? Are they more influenced by their friends and family or by bloggers and thought leaders in their space? If you can find out who they look to for guidance, you’ve just found a way to their heart (and their wallet).
What Are They Interested In?: Part of being successful at your job is finding common ground with the people that you work with. Even if you don’t care what they did last weekend, you still have to ask. And you can’t walk away until they’re finished spewing it all at you. I’m not saying you have to be best friends with everyone you work with, but people are more productive when they feel a connection to the folks they’re working with. It’s why companies spend thousands of dollars a year on team building exercises. It’s why I’d be trying to form connections with the We Build Pages staff even if I didn’t really like them (luckily I do. Even grandmother Christine. I’m so dead.).
The same logic applies to your visitors. Knowing what your visitors are interested in can help you to target them better. Also, the more interest you show in them, the happier they’ll be because they’ll feel like you really care (even if you don’t). People want to align themselves with companies who make an effort to get to know them. So, fake an interest if you have to and find out where they came from. Why they came to your site. What they’re spending the most time looking at.
The truth is, the more you know about your visitors and the actions they’re taking on the Web, the more you’ll be able to make yourself relevant to their needs. Like starting out a new office, it’s all about forming relationships.