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How to make informed content decisions by understanding your audience

How to make informed content decisions by understanding your audience

8 minute read

How to make informed content decisions by understanding your audience

8 minute read

How to make informed content decisions by understanding your audience

Robert Mills

Founder, Fourth Wall Content

The important difference between ‘knowing’ and ‘understanding’ your audience

Einstein said, “Any fool can know. The point is to understand.” 

Having previously worked in audience research for the BBC, I have experienced first-hand the difference between ‘knowing’ and ‘understanding’.

The latter is essential to make informed decisions about the content that can help you target your audience(s) effectively.

It's a continual process. You need to keep:

  • Learning about your existing audience
  • Serving them the content they need, when they need it
  • Attracting more of the same audience
  • Reaching new audiences
  • Learning, reviewing and understanding

In the context of audiences, knowing your audience is really focused around data and top-level stats. 

For example, you may already know:

  • The number of followers you have on social channels
  • How many people subscribe to your newsletter
  • The number of unique visitors your blog gets each month
  • How many people are trialling your product right now

That's essential information to know - and it can often be linked to measures of success and business goals - but as a content strategist, in order to get the graph line to keep moving upwards right, I know that I need to understand my audience.

So, I need to know that we have 19,500 Twitter followers, but that number alone does not in any way help me make informed decisions around the content I plan, produce and publish. It tells me nothing of the key elements that I need to be privy to that will move me from ‘knowing’ to ‘understanding’.

To understand your audience, you need to really dig beneath the numbers and learn about them in relation to their:

  • Motivations
  • Needs
  • Behaviours
  • Challenges
  • Pain points
  • Goals

And that audience can be existing customers/users, prospective groups, your client's customers, past customers.


"These insights form the building blocks of any solid strategy (or story). Finding these so-called “human truths” lies in knowing what to look for – gathering, analyzing and interpreting the right data to make sure it’s actionable – one of the most important skills for marketers (and storytellers of any kind) today."
Lorna Keane
Associate Director Content Marketing, GWI

Why it’s important to understand what your audience wants and needs

Understanding your audience unlocks many business benefits. It means that you’re more able to:

  • Better position your marketing and content; increasing the likelihood of it reaching your intended audience
  • Form a vocabulary that will resonate with your customers
  • Have the ‘know-how’ to create meaningful content
  • Talk to customers in an authentic voice and tone; one that supports your brand identity

‘Understanding’ also offers benefits to your customers/users:

  • They get the content they need, when and where they need it
  • They are spoken to in a manner that appeals to them
  • Their user experience is better because all the content decisions behind it have been informed content decisions
Good to know: Check out this on-demand webinar where you’ll find Content Design London’s Sarah Winters explaining how to find out what your customers/users actually want from you.

Of course, it's not a smooth road to this level of understanding. As with all processes, there are likely to be obstacles and challenges every step of the way.

Common challenges of audience research

Here are some of the common challenges people face internally when thinking about audience research:

  • “Our audience is everyone (one big group)”
  • “We have so many segments (lots of smaller groups)”
  • “There is no resource for audience research”
  • “It's not my job to do audience research”
  • “I can't piece all the data together to make it meaningful”


Let's address some of these challenges.

Your audience is not everyone. Creating content for everyone is creating content for no one

If you find yourself in that situation, then prioritise. There will be groups within the umbrella of 'everyone' and you can segment those; perhaps by location, agency or in-house, or if they are a past/current/potential customer. 

But, don't go too far and have so many groups that it becomes overwhelming to try and target them all. It's ok to keep it simple!

If you find yourself with many of these segments, then work to prioritise those too. It may be that the bigger the segment, the more important it is, but don't just assume that. Your prioritisation criteria will be determined by the information available to you and your business goals.

An iceberg illustration where above the surface it states 33,000 email subscribers and below the surface on the iceberg are individual stats and insights about that large audience in more detail such as 46% are customers and they prefer how to content.
This iceberg diagram is a good way to think about how much variety you need to understand about your audience segments, even among just one of your marketing channels.

If you’re planning to undertake a large audience research project involving focus groups, interviews, and surveys, then you will need to invest time, people and money. But you can also start small (more on that later in this post). 

Those ‘quick wins’ may yield results that can help you get the buy-in you need for more resources, so that you can really ramp up your audience research activities (and, if it doesn't, you're still in a better position than you were).

Good to know: Need to understand internal stakeholders and their needs as well? This is a group that often needs to be taken into account before you begin any audience research. Try using our Stakeholder interview Matrix template template if you need a steer on what to ask.

Get your colleagues involved in audience research

Everyone within an organisation can do some form of audience research. And it’s a good way of generating new insight from all the different parts of the organisation; particularly those dealing with specific stages of the customer journey and managing the interactions with your product/service too. 

You can embed simple techniques into your day job so you don't get distracted by research but are still continually making gains towards understanding your audience. 

Remember that, even when you've completed the research phase, you still face some challenges. 

A common one is simply making sense of all the information you have; information that has come from several different sources. We'll come back to this shortly, but for now, don't give up. You've got as far as getting the data so you're almost there.

What to consider before you begin your research project

Next, we’ll look at how you can move from just knowing your audience to really understanding your audience, but before you start any research project, big or small, you need to be clear on your 5 x ‘W's’ and 1 x ‘H’:

  • Who needs to be involved?
  • What do you want to find out?
  • Where will the information come from?
  • When do you need this to happen?
  • Why are you doing the research?
  • How will you do it?

By answering these questions, you're already starting to frame your research and ensure that you'll get the most from any time you invest in it. 

Treat it as you would any other project:

  • Write a brief
  • Consider the potential resources needed
  • Get stakeholders on board
  • Put a realistic timeline in place
  • Outline a post-research plan to ensure investment isn't wasted

Write user stories to help you understand your audience

If some of what we’ve covered above seems a little overkill (and it's ok to admit that it might be, especially if the plan is to start small!) then why not try writing user stories to keep your research activity meaningful?

      Use “As a... I want to... So that…”


Here's an example for context:

As a content strategist providing how-to articles, I want to know how people describe their content production process, so that I can understand the common pains that content teams experience.”

Good to know: For some practical advice on how user stories can be used for content creation, watch this Turning user stories into content webinar recording, presented by Content Design London’s Sarah Winters.

By now, you will have a solid foundation to start doing the actual research. 

It’s then time to decide whether you commit to:

  • Conducting a large research project (resource intensive)
  • Activating ‘little and often’ research tasks across the team 
  • Starting big and then continuing small

Whichever way you choose, you will still need to determine:

  • What kind of information already exists
  • What you will need to commission/obtain
  • The tools that can help you manage the project to completion
  • The resource that is required

How to identify your audience research ‘toolbox’

Hopefully, you don't need to start from scratch as there may be an abundance of data to be gathered within the tools and systems already available to you. This is a good time to do a familiar content strategy task - an audit.

Audit all the internal tools currently being used to collect data. This includes analytics tools, social tools, and other systems your organisation may use (Intercom, Drip, Kissmetrics, BuzzSumo, HubSpot, a shared mailbox are just a handful of examples)

Create an inventory in a spreadsheet and note:

  • All tools currently being used
  • The cost of that tool (if applicable)
  • The type of data it collects
  • The frequency it collects and reports data
  • Who is responsible for managing it
  • Why it is relevant

You then have a good view of the current state of play and can identify any gaps that need filling - and perhaps even some tools that can be removed. 

If this data can be mapped to a customer journey at this stage, then do so, and rearrange them into the related narrative. This also helps reveal any shortcomings in the data and information currently being gathered.

How to assemble your audience research team

It's common practice to scale up or crew up teams for big projects (website redesigns, for example). This can also be true of audience research projects, and if that's the situation you find yourself in, enjoy the additional resource - but remember that, at some point, the team will be scaled back again. 

In those instances, carefully consider who will be responsible for what (collecting/analysing/disseminating data) once the main project is complete. The earlier you plan for post-project working, the less impact the reduced resource will have on what you’re trying to ultimately achieve. 

This is why embedding 'little and often' research techniques (mentioned earlier) can be beneficial, as there is a consistent commitment and resource needed.

Select the right audience research methods

So... don't commit to any method without investigating it further. If it helps, list the methods - along with any pros and cons associated with them.

A table outlining audience research methods pros and cons
You might find yourself balancing multiple audience research methods to gain the benefits from each and counteract the constraints. Use a pros-and-cons table to figure out which methods are best for you.

Ensure the method you choose helps you focus on the right things too.

For example, at GatherContent, it wasn't important for us to focus on demographics, income, home life or media consumption when creating customer profiles (they are common elements to such research outputs).

Instead, we were more focused on the major responsibilities of our customers, their pains, solutions, and common objections.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to audience research.

Talking to your users/customers: Your (not so) secret weapon

One method available to all which requires very little in the way of resources is one many people don't make the most of. Yet, is it so simple and obvious!

You can keep this process relatively simple; begin by committing to speak to between three and five customers a week. Get everyone in the team on board with this too, as, depending on their role, they may be in a position to collect different types of insight and intel. 

All of this might mean that you end up gaining an even better understanding of the entire customer journey.

You could then, for example, forward all feedback to a shared mailbox; appointing someone within the team to identify any themes and trends within the responses (we do this at GatherContent and it's very effective). 

A word of caution: ensure you have a plan and a purpose prepared before you speak to people. What do you want to find out? (This is a good time to write a purposeful research statement!)

Good to know: As you start collecting this type of qualitative data and insight, you might find using Customer Journey Maps helpful. Read about how to use one in this article by Content Strategist Lauren Pope.

How to avoid audience research pitfalls

There are a few common ‘traps’ to be mindful of... 

We’ve listed these below, to help you more easily spot them (and therefore put an end to them) before they derail your research:

  • You don't have enough data
  • Personal bias
  • ‘What people say’ vs. ‘what people do’
  • It’s tricky to collate data from different sources 


Let's tackle these one at a time.

You don't have enough data

Decide what is an acceptable sample size for your data and strive to achieve that. You need enough to be able to identify themes and insights, but not so much that you just can't delve into it all. 

I remember conducting a survey where I received 288 responses; more than ample to validate some existing assumptions and find common thoughts on certain issues. A dozen or so responses would have been interesting, but I would have been less confident acting on those.

Cognitive bias

What is cognitive bias?

A cognitive bias is a systematic and unconscious error in mental processing. It refers to the irrational nature of how we reason, predict, evaluate, and remember things in favor of our own perspectives despite the rational arguments at hand. - Source: SocialBakers


Try not to let cognitive (aka ‘personal’) bias influence any responses. This is especially important when you’re including the use of focus groups and interviews in your audience research process. 

If you can, get an experienced and independent facilitator who can act impartially on your organisation’s behalf.

‘What people say’ vs. ‘what people do’

Sometimes, what someone says they do or want, and what they actually do or want can be two different things - frustratingly so. 

This is where data to support and evidence things can be useful. Always ensure you’re validating any claims against the data you have, and just be aware when talking to people not to guide their response with loaded questions. 

It’s tricky to collate data from different sources

You may end up with so much information that it can be hard to work out how to put it all together to derive what your findings are. 

Again, keep it simple. You can always start small and build things up. 

Auditing your tools in advance (mentioned earlier) will help here too, as you can be sure of what information is coming from what source, and which of those sources will answer one of your purposeful research statements or research project hypotheses.

Ensuring your research output is useful

Congratulations. You have reached the end of the ‘gathering data’ stage. But there is still work to do... 

Next, you must make sure the data you collect is delivered in relevant formats. 

This could include:

  • Personas/customer profiles
  • Research decks and reports
  • Graphs and charts
  • User journeys

Whatever the result of your research, make sure it is:

  • Purposeful
  • Relevant
  • Useful

Whatever you gain from your audience research, you can be sure it will be time well spent. It might end up confirming whatever you already understand or suspect. This is good because at least you can be sure you're making decisions based on accurate information. 

Perhaps you’ll find that the opposite is true and the research discounts your assumptions - but at least that means you can focus on the actual situation, and won't be making decisions based on a ‘hunch’.

Finally, you may learn something you didn’t expect and gain some new insight. That's an exciting position to be in, so embrace those findings and be inspired to use them to your advantage in the decisions you make around your content. Having some evidence means you can be more confident about making those decisions, too.

How to share your audience research results

Don't keep the information to yourself; share your research results with everyone in the organisation. 

Even if they don't directly come into contact with customers/users, it is still important for them to understand who the customers are.

You need to get the information to the people that matter, deliver it in an appropriate way, and make sure the information is then used. It may have felt like a long road, but don't fall at the last hurdle and keep the information hidden away, or so complex that it just collects dust on a shelf or is hidden away in desk drawers!

To effectively give out the information you should:

  • Decide who needs what information
  • Choose the best method to share the results with them (workshop, guide document, slide deck)
  • Include only data and info that is relevant to them
  • Engage them as early as possible
  • Follow-up and offer takeaways to keep the conversation going

Remember: Audience research was conducted for a reason, and the results should be useful and helpful to people across the org - but you still need to make it easy for them to act on. 

At GatherContent, the results of our own research have been used to inform:

  • Future product development
  • Editorial decisions
  • Marketing messaging and copy
  • Our language and vocabulary
  • And much more!

Time to invest in a better understanding of your audience?

It's never too late to invest in being able to understand your audience - or helping your clients' understand theirs. 

The upshot is that the better you understand your audience, the more relevant, useful and targeted your content will be. 

Start small, speak to customers often, and never stop striving to understand them.

The important difference between ‘knowing’ and ‘understanding’ your audience

Einstein said, “Any fool can know. The point is to understand.” 

Having previously worked in audience research for the BBC, I have experienced first-hand the difference between ‘knowing’ and ‘understanding’.

The latter is essential to make informed decisions about the content that can help you target your audience(s) effectively.

It's a continual process. You need to keep:

  • Learning about your existing audience
  • Serving them the content they need, when they need it
  • Attracting more of the same audience
  • Reaching new audiences
  • Learning, reviewing and understanding

In the context of audiences, knowing your audience is really focused around data and top-level stats. 

For example, you may already know:

  • The number of followers you have on social channels
  • How many people subscribe to your newsletter
  • The number of unique visitors your blog gets each month
  • How many people are trialling your product right now

That's essential information to know - and it can often be linked to measures of success and business goals - but as a content strategist, in order to get the graph line to keep moving upwards right, I know that I need to understand my audience.

So, I need to know that we have 19,500 Twitter followers, but that number alone does not in any way help me make informed decisions around the content I plan, produce and publish. It tells me nothing of the key elements that I need to be privy to that will move me from ‘knowing’ to ‘understanding’.

To understand your audience, you need to really dig beneath the numbers and learn about them in relation to their:

  • Motivations
  • Needs
  • Behaviours
  • Challenges
  • Pain points
  • Goals

And that audience can be existing customers/users, prospective groups, your client's customers, past customers.


"These insights form the building blocks of any solid strategy (or story). Finding these so-called “human truths” lies in knowing what to look for – gathering, analyzing and interpreting the right data to make sure it’s actionable – one of the most important skills for marketers (and storytellers of any kind) today."
Lorna Keane
Associate Director Content Marketing, GWI

Why it’s important to understand what your audience wants and needs

Understanding your audience unlocks many business benefits. It means that you’re more able to:

  • Better position your marketing and content; increasing the likelihood of it reaching your intended audience
  • Form a vocabulary that will resonate with your customers
  • Have the ‘know-how’ to create meaningful content
  • Talk to customers in an authentic voice and tone; one that supports your brand identity

‘Understanding’ also offers benefits to your customers/users:

  • They get the content they need, when and where they need it
  • They are spoken to in a manner that appeals to them
  • Their user experience is better because all the content decisions behind it have been informed content decisions
Good to know: Check out this on-demand webinar where you’ll find Content Design London’s Sarah Winters explaining how to find out what your customers/users actually want from you.

Of course, it's not a smooth road to this level of understanding. As with all processes, there are likely to be obstacles and challenges every step of the way.

Common challenges of audience research

Here are some of the common challenges people face internally when thinking about audience research:

  • “Our audience is everyone (one big group)”
  • “We have so many segments (lots of smaller groups)”
  • “There is no resource for audience research”
  • “It's not my job to do audience research”
  • “I can't piece all the data together to make it meaningful”


Let's address some of these challenges.

Your audience is not everyone. Creating content for everyone is creating content for no one

If you find yourself in that situation, then prioritise. There will be groups within the umbrella of 'everyone' and you can segment those; perhaps by location, agency or in-house, or if they are a past/current/potential customer. 

But, don't go too far and have so many groups that it becomes overwhelming to try and target them all. It's ok to keep it simple!

If you find yourself with many of these segments, then work to prioritise those too. It may be that the bigger the segment, the more important it is, but don't just assume that. Your prioritisation criteria will be determined by the information available to you and your business goals.

An iceberg illustration where above the surface it states 33,000 email subscribers and below the surface on the iceberg are individual stats and insights about that large audience in more detail such as 46% are customers and they prefer how to content.
This iceberg diagram is a good way to think about how much variety you need to understand about your audience segments, even among just one of your marketing channels.

If you’re planning to undertake a large audience research project involving focus groups, interviews, and surveys, then you will need to invest time, people and money. But you can also start small (more on that later in this post). 

Those ‘quick wins’ may yield results that can help you get the buy-in you need for more resources, so that you can really ramp up your audience research activities (and, if it doesn't, you're still in a better position than you were).

Good to know: Need to understand internal stakeholders and their needs as well? This is a group that often needs to be taken into account before you begin any audience research. Try using our Stakeholder interview Matrix template template if you need a steer on what to ask.

Get your colleagues involved in audience research

Everyone within an organisation can do some form of audience research. And it’s a good way of generating new insight from all the different parts of the organisation; particularly those dealing with specific stages of the customer journey and managing the interactions with your product/service too. 

You can embed simple techniques into your day job so you don't get distracted by research but are still continually making gains towards understanding your audience. 

Remember that, even when you've completed the research phase, you still face some challenges. 

A common one is simply making sense of all the information you have; information that has come from several different sources. We'll come back to this shortly, but for now, don't give up. You've got as far as getting the data so you're almost there.

What to consider before you begin your research project

Next, we’ll look at how you can move from just knowing your audience to really understanding your audience, but before you start any research project, big or small, you need to be clear on your 5 x ‘W's’ and 1 x ‘H’:

  • Who needs to be involved?
  • What do you want to find out?
  • Where will the information come from?
  • When do you need this to happen?
  • Why are you doing the research?
  • How will you do it?

By answering these questions, you're already starting to frame your research and ensure that you'll get the most from any time you invest in it. 

Treat it as you would any other project:

  • Write a brief
  • Consider the potential resources needed
  • Get stakeholders on board
  • Put a realistic timeline in place
  • Outline a post-research plan to ensure investment isn't wasted

Write user stories to help you understand your audience

If some of what we’ve covered above seems a little overkill (and it's ok to admit that it might be, especially if the plan is to start small!) then why not try writing user stories to keep your research activity meaningful?

      Use “As a... I want to... So that…”


Here's an example for context:

As a content strategist providing how-to articles, I want to know how people describe their content production process, so that I can understand the common pains that content teams experience.”

Good to know: For some practical advice on how user stories can be used for content creation, watch this Turning user stories into content webinar recording, presented by Content Design London’s Sarah Winters.

By now, you will have a solid foundation to start doing the actual research. 

It’s then time to decide whether you commit to:

  • Conducting a large research project (resource intensive)
  • Activating ‘little and often’ research tasks across the team 
  • Starting big and then continuing small

Whichever way you choose, you will still need to determine:

  • What kind of information already exists
  • What you will need to commission/obtain
  • The tools that can help you manage the project to completion
  • The resource that is required

How to identify your audience research ‘toolbox’

Hopefully, you don't need to start from scratch as there may be an abundance of data to be gathered within the tools and systems already available to you. This is a good time to do a familiar content strategy task - an audit.

Audit all the internal tools currently being used to collect data. This includes analytics tools, social tools, and other systems your organisation may use (Intercom, Drip, Kissmetrics, BuzzSumo, HubSpot, a shared mailbox are just a handful of examples)

Create an inventory in a spreadsheet and note:

  • All tools currently being used
  • The cost of that tool (if applicable)
  • The type of data it collects
  • The frequency it collects and reports data
  • Who is responsible for managing it
  • Why it is relevant

You then have a good view of the current state of play and can identify any gaps that need filling - and perhaps even some tools that can be removed. 

If this data can be mapped to a customer journey at this stage, then do so, and rearrange them into the related narrative. This also helps reveal any shortcomings in the data and information currently being gathered.

How to assemble your audience research team

It's common practice to scale up or crew up teams for big projects (website redesigns, for example). This can also be true of audience research projects, and if that's the situation you find yourself in, enjoy the additional resource - but remember that, at some point, the team will be scaled back again. 

In those instances, carefully consider who will be responsible for what (collecting/analysing/disseminating data) once the main project is complete. The earlier you plan for post-project working, the less impact the reduced resource will have on what you’re trying to ultimately achieve. 

This is why embedding 'little and often' research techniques (mentioned earlier) can be beneficial, as there is a consistent commitment and resource needed.

Select the right audience research methods

So... don't commit to any method without investigating it further. If it helps, list the methods - along with any pros and cons associated with them.

A table outlining audience research methods pros and cons
You might find yourself balancing multiple audience research methods to gain the benefits from each and counteract the constraints. Use a pros-and-cons table to figure out which methods are best for you.

Ensure the method you choose helps you focus on the right things too.

For example, at GatherContent, it wasn't important for us to focus on demographics, income, home life or media consumption when creating customer profiles (they are common elements to such research outputs).

Instead, we were more focused on the major responsibilities of our customers, their pains, solutions, and common objections.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to audience research.

Talking to your users/customers: Your (not so) secret weapon

One method available to all which requires very little in the way of resources is one many people don't make the most of. Yet, is it so simple and obvious!

You can keep this process relatively simple; begin by committing to speak to between three and five customers a week. Get everyone in the team on board with this too, as, depending on their role, they may be in a position to collect different types of insight and intel. 

All of this might mean that you end up gaining an even better understanding of the entire customer journey.

You could then, for example, forward all feedback to a shared mailbox; appointing someone within the team to identify any themes and trends within the responses (we do this at GatherContent and it's very effective). 

A word of caution: ensure you have a plan and a purpose prepared before you speak to people. What do you want to find out? (This is a good time to write a purposeful research statement!)

Good to know: As you start collecting this type of qualitative data and insight, you might find using Customer Journey Maps helpful. Read about how to use one in this article by Content Strategist Lauren Pope.

How to avoid audience research pitfalls

There are a few common ‘traps’ to be mindful of... 

We’ve listed these below, to help you more easily spot them (and therefore put an end to them) before they derail your research:

  • You don't have enough data
  • Personal bias
  • ‘What people say’ vs. ‘what people do’
  • It’s tricky to collate data from different sources 


Let's tackle these one at a time.

You don't have enough data

Decide what is an acceptable sample size for your data and strive to achieve that. You need enough to be able to identify themes and insights, but not so much that you just can't delve into it all. 

I remember conducting a survey where I received 288 responses; more than ample to validate some existing assumptions and find common thoughts on certain issues. A dozen or so responses would have been interesting, but I would have been less confident acting on those.

Cognitive bias

What is cognitive bias?

A cognitive bias is a systematic and unconscious error in mental processing. It refers to the irrational nature of how we reason, predict, evaluate, and remember things in favor of our own perspectives despite the rational arguments at hand. - Source: SocialBakers


Try not to let cognitive (aka ‘personal’) bias influence any responses. This is especially important when you’re including the use of focus groups and interviews in your audience research process. 

If you can, get an experienced and independent facilitator who can act impartially on your organisation’s behalf.

‘What people say’ vs. ‘what people do’

Sometimes, what someone says they do or want, and what they actually do or want can be two different things - frustratingly so. 

This is where data to support and evidence things can be useful. Always ensure you’re validating any claims against the data you have, and just be aware when talking to people not to guide their response with loaded questions. 

It’s tricky to collate data from different sources

You may end up with so much information that it can be hard to work out how to put it all together to derive what your findings are. 

Again, keep it simple. You can always start small and build things up. 

Auditing your tools in advance (mentioned earlier) will help here too, as you can be sure of what information is coming from what source, and which of those sources will answer one of your purposeful research statements or research project hypotheses.

Ensuring your research output is useful

Congratulations. You have reached the end of the ‘gathering data’ stage. But there is still work to do... 

Next, you must make sure the data you collect is delivered in relevant formats. 

This could include:

  • Personas/customer profiles
  • Research decks and reports
  • Graphs and charts
  • User journeys

Whatever the result of your research, make sure it is:

  • Purposeful
  • Relevant
  • Useful

Whatever you gain from your audience research, you can be sure it will be time well spent. It might end up confirming whatever you already understand or suspect. This is good because at least you can be sure you're making decisions based on accurate information. 

Perhaps you’ll find that the opposite is true and the research discounts your assumptions - but at least that means you can focus on the actual situation, and won't be making decisions based on a ‘hunch’.

Finally, you may learn something you didn’t expect and gain some new insight. That's an exciting position to be in, so embrace those findings and be inspired to use them to your advantage in the decisions you make around your content. Having some evidence means you can be more confident about making those decisions, too.

How to share your audience research results

Don't keep the information to yourself; share your research results with everyone in the organisation. 

Even if they don't directly come into contact with customers/users, it is still important for them to understand who the customers are.

You need to get the information to the people that matter, deliver it in an appropriate way, and make sure the information is then used. It may have felt like a long road, but don't fall at the last hurdle and keep the information hidden away, or so complex that it just collects dust on a shelf or is hidden away in desk drawers!

To effectively give out the information you should:

  • Decide who needs what information
  • Choose the best method to share the results with them (workshop, guide document, slide deck)
  • Include only data and info that is relevant to them
  • Engage them as early as possible
  • Follow-up and offer takeaways to keep the conversation going

Remember: Audience research was conducted for a reason, and the results should be useful and helpful to people across the org - but you still need to make it easy for them to act on. 

At GatherContent, the results of our own research have been used to inform:

  • Future product development
  • Editorial decisions
  • Marketing messaging and copy
  • Our language and vocabulary
  • And much more!

Time to invest in a better understanding of your audience?

It's never too late to invest in being able to understand your audience - or helping your clients' understand theirs. 

The upshot is that the better you understand your audience, the more relevant, useful and targeted your content will be. 

Start small, speak to customers often, and never stop striving to understand them.

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About the author

Robert Mills

Rob is Founder of Fourth Wall Content working with clients on content strategy, creation and marketing. Previously, in his role as Head of Content at GatherContent he managed all of the organisation's content output and content operations.

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