POST WRITTEN BY: Victoria Zambito
Senior Vice President at Vector Solutions, a fast-growing eLearning company, leading corporate communications and brand development.
Connecting with your audience on a deeper level is one of the best ways to achieve your business objectives. Whether your goal is to attract loyal customers, build your personal brand or amplify an important message, understanding what’s important to your audience, and how and when to best engage them, is key to authentically connecting.
1. Profile your audience.
Take a moment to define your audience. Who are they? Are they thriving entrepreneurs or suburban stay-at-home parents? You need to be able to describe your audience so you can relate to their journey.
One way to do this is to create a buyer persona, or a semi-fictional representation of a member of your audience. This concept is not new; it has a long history tied to branding and marketing best practices. To get started, create a character, and give them a name, age and profession. You can even document salary, likes, dislikes, challenges and goals.
To expand your understanding even further, create an index of other critical factors, from lifestyle choices to personal values. Are they single or married? Do they care about money? Or maybe it’s their family. People are motivated by different things. Find out what they value and how to tie into that story.
Our audience cares deeply about safety. From teachers to engineers to firefighters, these are the everyday heroes that help keep our world safe. Whether they are responding to emergencies, taking care of our children or building a safe and strong infrastructure, they value doing their jobs better and minimizing risks in the world around them. They understand how learning and performance tools and technologies can help them in this endeavor, and that’s the story we tell: “We serve everyday heroes.” Our brand serves these people in the same way they serve others.
2. Tell stories.
Take a cue from the multibillion-dollar movie industry: People love a good story. Toss out the canned presentations or overused elevator pitch, and start with a story. It’s the oldest form of communication in the world – and it works. Storytelling can lead to a better understanding of your content and longer retention of your messages. Brands have long used this tactic to connect with audiences.
But unlike the movie industry, or most Fortune 500 companies, you don’t need a seven-figure budget to bring a story to life. Start with an enemy and a hero. For example, what are your client’s challenges? Cost controls? Increased accidents? Then, add in the conflict: Your client’s insurance claims have gone up due to an increase in worksite accidents. Are you the hero who can help them with this problem? Now, nix any overused corporate jargon to remain authentic. And finally, add some engaging visuals including real people and real scenes. Then, use it on your blog, in videos, in advertising – wherever you can connect with your audiences.
Recently, storytelling has even been leveraged in e-learning to help convey the severity of complex topics such as bullying, sexual harassment prevention and child abuse detection. This tactic helps learners engage with the content, internalize critical messages and develop the skills and knowledge they need to increase awareness or change behavior.
People remember stories because they can relate to them. They evoke emotions and memories that resonate with listeners.
3. Use available tools.
You’ve developed content specifically for your audience based on their interests and values. Now you need to deliver your story how and where they want it.
With some research you can determine things such as: Where does your audience spend their time? Do they watch CNN? Or do they spend all their spare time browsing Facebook? Identify the sources they rely on, and implement a strategy that collaborates with and leverages those channels to deliver your message and strengthen your viability.
The good news is that it shouldn’t be too hard to figure this out, given nearly 43% of Americans go online for their news and two-thirds of Americans get their news from social media. This means you can easily leverage analytic tools to find out exactly where they spend their time and what’s on their minds. For website traffic, Google Analytics is a great tool for gaining insight into what pages, content and communication paths interest your audience the most. And nearly every social platform attaches analytics to help you learn more about your audience. You can also link accounts to social listening tools such as Hootsuite to monitor trends and mentions in real time.
Another way to determine where and when to best engage your audience is to ask them directly using an online survey. Easy-to-use tools like SurveyMonkey and Typeform make it quick and simple for just about anyone to construct and deliver a survey.
Understanding where your audience turns when they need information will help define what PR, advertising or influencer strategies you put in place to deliver your carefully crafted message.
4. Leave your office.
This last one is simple. There is no better way to connect with your audience than to get outside and meet them. Silence your phone, shut down your email and go have face-to-face conversations with your audience. You can truly discover all kinds of things. What do they like, and what don’t they like? What are their challenges? How can your company improve to meet these gaps and resolve their problems?
At Vector Solutions, we meet regularly with our client advisory boards to facilitate open dialogue. We bring them together at our three-day annual summit to dive even deeper into their needs and connect with them on a more meaningful level.
The key through all of this is to authentically respond to your audience’s needs. Take the time to find out who they are and what’s important to them. Listen and engage. Then, take the facts and translate them into an effective, data-backed marketing campaign that tells a story, speaks to your audience and creates value in their lives.