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7 Ways to Listen to Your Brand’s Transformational Consumers

Transformational consumers are shaking up the marketing world like never before. This massive, global population consists of people who meet the following criteria:

  • They see life as a continual sequence of personal disruption initiatives in all aspects of their lives, including health, personal and professional development, and prosperity (such as real estate or entrepreneurship).
  • They constantly take big and small actions to drive the changes that they seek.
  • They constantly and excitedly engage with companies in their search for the tools, content, and community they need to change their behaviors and execute their personal disruption campaigns.

The companies that serve this group well—including my own company MyFitnessPal (now part of Under Armour Connected Fitness)—have lifelong, two-way love affairs with their users. And this relationship is not only measured by brand love and loyalty, but also by word-of-mouth referrals, repeat engagement, purchases, and much, much more. Make no mistake: Serving them well played no small role in growing MyFitnessPal from 45 million to 80 million users in the past 18 months.

Although transformational consumers have their own definitive characteristics, your product’s or company’s transformational consumers may be a subset of this overarching group. And as such, they probably have their own special quirks, values, priorities, content cravings, up-at-night fears, hopes, dreams, and vocabulary.

To create products that appeal to them and send them the Bat Signal that this (i.e. your product/blog/etc) is for them (e.g. the nine-to-five-er trying to start a small business/do the Paleo diet/practice Crossfit) you have to listen to them, think like them, communicate in their natural language, and be present in their natural habitats—both online and off.

One of my first hires to build out the marketing team at MyFitnessPal was a market research and user insights manager. This person’s job is to mine user data, conduct primary research, and give our audience a direct line of communication to our product and marketing teams. If you don’t have the luxury of such resources, though, here are seven rough and dirty ways you can listen, deeply, to what your transformational consumer audience wants, needs, and cares about:

1. Read comments. These can be blog post comments or Facebook comments, and they don’t even have to be from your blog or social media accounts. Read comments on competitors’ blogs or on media outlet articles related to your subject matter.

2. Check reviews. What are they reading and buying? Read the reviews of those books and products. Amazon and Goodreads are your friends. But any e-commerce channel that they frequent—especially your own and your competitors’—are potentially rich fodder for reviews. Mine them to determine what needs haven’t been met. This will, in turn, surface opportunities for you to serve and engage with them.

3. Ask questions. Conduct a survey. If you have your own user base, awesome. Send them a Survey Monkey poll, or just ask them a question on Facebook (like we did here). If you don’t have a user base, or your target audience and your current audience are not the same, take a look at services such as Survey Monkey Audience, Google Consumer Surveys, and Qualtrics Panels, which get answers from people who meet your specifications at varying costs.

4. Review content performance. What posts perform well on your blog and social media channels? What about on your competitors’ or other outlets’? For example, sites like The New York Times’ blog Well, PopSugar, and MindBodyGreen all show the number of shares (both via social media and email) for each post. Use that as directional insight into what your users want to read.

5. Search trends. Learn to love, use, and frequent Google Trends. Bruce Clay does a great job of explaining how to use Google Trends to understand your market and audience here.

6. Leverage your sales team. I got into this business as a real estate broker. I kept spotting patterns in my customers’ questions, fears, and dreams. Paying close attention to these patterns and identifying the content that solved their issues was the fuel I used to publish the most-read, single-authored real estate blog in the world for years and then plunge into marketing whole-hog with Ask Tara @ Trulia.

Salespeople know what customers care about at a more intimate level than most other employees. They know what objections they get, which concerns they hear over and over again, what problems people come to your company to solve, and what life events trigger people to need your offerings (or even stop needing them). So, tap them as a resource. If your company doesn’t have salespeople, find subject matter experts who deal directly with your target audience for a living and hire one to consult.

7. Listen in. Discussion boards might seem passé, but they’re alive and well. This is especially true when it comes to subject matter around health and career/lifestyle design. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the forums on MyFitnessPal, Bodybuilding.com, the Fitness Subreddits. The list goes on. Your audience is there talking to each other. They might even be talking about your product or brand. So listen.

No, seriously. LISTEN. 

About the author:

Tara-Nicholle Nelson is the VP, marketing for MyFitnessPal, a nutrition tracker and healthy living platform with more than 80 million users worldwide that is now part of Under Armour Connected Fitness. In this role, she leads the user growth, engagement, brand and user insight strategies that fuel the company’s vision of a world in which healthy living is the norm. Nelson blogs about marketing, health, leadership, and transformational consumers at taranicholle.com.

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