One of the greatest advantages of the internet and the World Wide Web is that your target audience is always easily accessible. Billions of eyeballs are right there, ready to see what you have to offer, and some of them are even willing to spend their money on your products. But just because the audience is readily available, that doesn’t mean they will automatically give you their attention.

It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there where you have to fight for the attention of your audience with your competitors and, with the plethora of marketing strategies out there, it can feel a little overwhelming and difficult to find something that works.

The good news is that all of the marketing strategies out there have a few principles at their core. The most important of these, from which all of the others emanate, is to understand your audience.

Without having an intimate understanding of your audience you cannot come up with the right strategies to attract them to your products and convert them into paying customers.

It is therefore important to first master the understanding of your audience before you can convert them into customers.

“You cannot influence someone that you do not understand,” says Noam Shimon, chief marketing manager at BestEssayTips. “Once you know what makes your audience tick, you’re practically in business.”

That said, here are some practical tips you can follow to help you understand your all-important audience better.

1. Advance Research Advances You

“The first thing you need to do is your research; you can’t go anywhere without it,” says Shimon. You need to research your target market and the demographics of your target audience in particular. Are they the right kind of audience for your product and brand.

Luckily, there are a lot of tools to help you with this, some them entirely free. You can consult American FactFinder, for example, to find out key insights about different demographics. This tool uses the United States census to provide this information.

One of the problems marketers have is picking one demographic rather arbitrarily and sticking to that throughout their marketing campaign. However, to truly broaden your horizons, you should learn about niches related to your own and how much interest there is in your product from niches other than the one you’re targeting. By the time you’re done with your research, you should have enough information to draw some important conclusions about your target audience.

2. Don’t be blind to your Competitors

This can both be supplementary and alternative to market research. You can study your competitors as part of your market research. You can also study them as an alternative to market research, rather than do your own market research from scratch.

Looking at your competitors, especially those ones who share a target market with you can prove quite valuable. What is their brand and what voice does it have? What marketing strategies do they use? What kinds of messages do they promote in their advertising? What marketing techniques do they mostly use? Why do they phrase their marketing message a specific way? Why did they use a particular image?

“Don’t get it wrong, your competition doesn’t always know what they’re doing,” warns Shimon. “Sometimes they fail magnificently. However, it’s always better to learn from the experiences of others, rather than your own experiences.”

By watching your competition, you’ll get a practical view of what works and what doesn’t, and you will know what you can implement in your own marketing strategies.

3. Create a Profile of your Customer

A profile of your customer, also known as a customer persona, is a pretty effective way to understand your customer. Basically, you get your target demographics and you try to go beyond the statistics and the plain numbers. You try to conceptualize your target customer and build their profile from scratch based on the statistics and characteristics of your target demographics.

Basically, you will be creating a fictional character, as if it were for a movie. You will come up with little tidbits of information, such as their level of education, their family life, their career, and their income. You might even have a little fun with it and come up with some personality traits for them and even a name to give them.

“When you do this, you create a firm anchor on which to base your marketing,” says Shimon. You get to have a ‘conversation’ with your target consumer and use them as a tool to get your team up to speed on what to work with.

4. Know your Customers personally

This is a significant step and, understandably, it is only one you should take once you have some actual customers. When you’re working with your customers, you should try to know them a little beyond your business relationship.

Is there a way your customers talk that is markedly different from the way other customers talk? Are there some special concerns that they have? What is it that they like, and what is it that they are afraid of? What excites them?

Of course, you can’t ask these questions when your audience is too general. However, as you get to know your customers on an individual basis, you’ll start to note some patterns, which you can use to generalize to the entire population.

5. Monitor your Viewer’s Engagements

In case you’re using a social media or content marketing strategy, you shouldn’t ignore the importance of the comments and other engagements that your readers leave on your posts. You should be keen on this. How many people are responding to your posts? How are they responding? How often do they respond?

The more engagements you get, such as shares, likes, and comments, the better you can assume your campaign is doing. You can then use that information to figure out the kind of content that your audience values. Over time, you can use various metrics to pick out patterns in the way your audience engages with you.

6. Use Social Listening to your Advantage

Social listening is a valuable way to figure out what your audience likes and engages with. They don’t just read your content; they read other content too, so it is a good idea to see what else they are engaging with out there.

You should take part in forums and other social conversations that your audience has with other people, influencers, and brands, in order to figure out which topics are trending and which new angles you can use in your own campaign.

7. Survey your Audience

This is pretty much the most straightforward way you can understand your audience; simply ask them questions about what they like and what they don’t. You can ask your audience anything you want to know about them, quantify the results, and then mine them for insights.

The main catch here is that you may have to offer them some kind of reward in return for taking part in the survey since no one wants to take part in a survey for free.

8. Look at other Markets

While your product may be unique, it likely isn’t the only product that your target audience is using. They are likely interested in a whole range of products that other vendors, just like you, are trying to sell to them. Since all of these products share the same target consumer, you can try and learn about some of their marketing strategies and pick what works in a general sense. It just might prove useful to you.

9. Challenge your Assumptions

At every step as you grow to understand your target audience based on data you collect, you should go back to the assumptions you have about your target audience and challenge them. Is there anything that rings true no matter what kind of data you collect? Is there something that you can discard because it has been proven wrong by research? Always reevaluate your customer persona in light of new evidence and modify it accordingly.

10. Give yourself Room to grow

While every business is looking to fully understand their target audience, that can never actually be attained. As soon as you think you’ve got our target audience figured out they evolve and grow. You should, therefore, grow with them. Allow some room for your strategy to evolve and let it mold itself after your audience and not your assumptions about them.

Final Thoughts

Remember that the whole point is to constantly improve your strategy to evolve with your audience. You should therefore always consider what the data is telling you and challenge your assumptions with every new piece of information that comes to light. Ultimately, your business will prove to be as dynamic as your customer and will flourish no matter what.

Guest-blogger at Syncee. Peter Hill is a professional writer and journalist. He is a socially active person, engaged in the photo and video editing. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.