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The Big Book of Ecommerce Marketing Chapter 1: Ecommerce Marketing Essentials

Lesson 2:

Know Your Customers To Grow Your Customers

The success of all your marketing, including the success of email marketing, will depend on how well you understand your audience and how well you can speak their language. 

Chances were, when you started creating your products; you already knew who they were for. You had an idea of your “ideal customer” in mind. Now it’s time to refine that understanding and create a concrete and detailed “ideal customer profile.” 


Why You Need an ICP

It’s no secret that the competition out there is tough. Even if you don’t have direct competitors who are doing the same thing as you, you still have indirect competitors in the form of other choices your target customers can make to solve the problems in their life. 

Knowing who your customers help you find them easier (read: cheaper traffic) and talk to them more effectively (read: higher conversions). 

And the more narrow and niche you’re starting out, the easier it will be. If you’re producing healthy snack bars, which audience do you think it’ll be easier to talk to and convince to give your product a try:

  1. “Healthy” adults (health-concerned adults)
  2. First-time moms
  3. First-time working moms living in large metropolitan areas 

The answer is C. The more narrowly you define your audience, the more unique their needs will be. The more voice you give to those needs (and solutions you offer), the more they’ll pay attention because they’ll feel like you’re talking directly to them (which you ARE doing!).

Also, the more narrow the group is, the more you can tailor your language to them, down to the exact words you use that resonate strongly with them. For example, the general “healthy adults” audience might or might not care about a snack being “fast” (but healthy). For first-time working moms living in big cities, it’s highly important. You also know they’re busy, sleep-deprived, and exhausted. You can then go to mom blogs and mom groups on Facebook, read some threads, and learn how they describe themselves. Those specific words will prove invaluable when communicating your products’ benefits and building a relationship with your audience. 

Finally, the more narrowly defined your audience is, the easier they are to target through ads, and potentially, the less competition there’s there. 

You might feel hesitant to go too narrow with your audience because, eventually, you want to reach a much larger market. Once you establish a powerful voice and connection with your initial smaller audience, you’ll find ways to expand that and broaden your reach without losing the power of your brand. If you start too broad, the risks are much higher because you’ll end up speaking to everyone and no one at the same time.

Remember, Amazon started with just selling books to book lovers. It didn’t prevent them from becoming a behemoth selling everything to everybody today. 

Customer Knowledge and New Products

Another benefit of finding, defining, and learning about your audience is that this level of customer knowledge is a great foundation for developing other products that perfectly satisfy your customer needs. If you know your customers well and know their needs, it gives you an unfair advantage of creating products they’ll love. 

After your initial business growth, continued growth will come from creating and launching new products, and it’s so much easier to do that knowing who you’re creating them for. 

What Should I Know About My Audience?

Now that we’ve covered the reasons WHY knowing your audience is important, let’s talk about what that actually means. Is there a checklist? What are the things I should know? 

Let’s start with the basics and somewhat easier stuff: demographics. You want to know your target audience’s: 

  • Gender
  • Age 
  • Location 
  • Income level 

But this is just a start. What’s going to make a real difference is whether you have an actual understanding of your people’s lives—what they go through on a daily basis, what purchasing choices they make and why, what are the biggest pains in the lives—especially related to your space, and how they currently solve them. You should have a good idea of the following things:

  • Generally, what does their life look like—what do they do and why? What do they value? Who do they follow on social media, what causes or topics do they support? 
  • What’s the problem or quest in their life they’re trying to solve that led (or will lead) them to your brand? What words do they use to describe that problem? 
  • If they’ve tried other solutions to solve this problem (not just competitors, but solutions in general), why did they fail them? 
  • What is the most important thing for the shopper as they’re trying to make the purchasing decision? What do they value the most in your type of products? 
  • What hesitations do they have as they’re considering buying your products? What words do THEY use to describe those hesitations? 

If you actually know answers to these questions, imagine how easy it’ll be to create your welcome email series! All you need is to address their needs and pains - show that you understand them and then educate them about your products, highlighting aspects and benefits that are especially important to them. Then support that with customer reviews that highlight answers to their biggest hesitations. 

How Do I Learn About My Audience? 

At this point, you might be asking—how do I actually learn all this stuff about my audience? That’s the right question to ask! 

1. Customer Support 

First, your customer support people are your biggest friends in this. Because they have to deal with customers' questions all the time, they have an insight about what they ask about most often what they tend to inquire about all time, regardless of how much education you provide about that on the website. All of those things are signals of what’s most important to your audience and what bothers them the most. 

2. Surveys 

If your audience is large enough (a couple of thousand subscribers or more), do a survey! Make it short, use a user-friendly form builder like Typeform, and ask questions you need answers to the most. I recommend keeping it to 10-15 questions and offering an incentive (like a discount) for filling out the survey. Oh, and make sure you have plenty of text-response questions (vs. multiple choice). Yes, it'll take a real effort to actually read and organize those, but these types of answers will be the ones you learn from the most. 

3. Customer Interviews 

Finally, do customer interviews! Do be afraid to do things that don't scale. You'll learn SO much from connecting with your customers on the phone. Make sure you have clear hypotheses or objectives for those calls and take scrupulous notes. We recommend creating segments within Drip of:

  1. People who tried your product once
  2. People who’ve bought repeatedly, and 
  3. People who’ve been on the list for 2+ months but haven’t bought anything. 

Then create a script for yourself, including the exact questions you'll ask. Besides learning what we discussed about these people, you want to learn what defines and differentiates people who come back and repurchase from you (you want to attract and engage more people like that!) from those who only bought once (what's stopping them from coming back?) from those who've been lurking but haven't pulled the trigger yet (make sure you're not selling to them on the call, but genuinely try to learn their thought process, and then decide if you need to change things in the way you communicate about your products and brand, OR simply go after a different audience). 

Your Brand’s Voice, Tone, and Visual Identity

In the next section, we're going to talk in-depth about your brand's voice and tone. Of course, as a founder or a member of a founding team, there's a particular voice & tone you want to inject into your brand. There are also likely specific visual choices you'd make for your brand. 

As you do that, keep your target audience in mind. Modern consumers, and especially DTC ecommerce customers, want to feel like a brand aligns with their life and idea of who they are. They're looking for solutions to their needs and problems, but they're also looking for brands with shared values. So as you develop your brand's guidelines, think about how your audience will relate to your brand. What visual elements would connect well with them? What voice and tone will not only help you stand apart from others but also create a special connection and bond with your people. 

It might be helpful to outline your brand's voice, tone, and visual identity first. Then, as a separate exercise, describe your target audience, their values, and lifestyle. Then take the two and find points of connection. See if you have potential areas of conflict, too, and decide how you can solve for that. 

Final Thoughts

Throughout your marketing, and especially in the middle and down of your marketing funnel (where email & SMS channels play the biggest role), the success of your efforts will depend on how well you can address your shoppers' needs and pains and whether you word it in exact ways that they word it in their heads. If you do, they'll think, "this is  what I was looking for." Or, "this looks so cool and aligned with my life that I want to try it." 

All aspects of your email, including content, product highlights, voice and tone, and the timing of your messages work together to create that type of response. When you send an email, and the recipient responds with, "this is so cool that I need to get it right now," your job is done. But it starts with knowing your audience thoroughly and never ceasing to continue to learn more about them.