If you’re a regular reader of the blog, you’ll know we emphasize the importance of understanding your target audience. Skip that step and you’re likely not getting the leads, conversions, and closed/won deals you need to stay in business or keep your job.
So, you create your buyer persona. But do you know where your audience is hanging out on the web? Are they on Twitter or Instagram? Pinterest or YouTube? Are they regular subscribers to a particular industry publication? Or is the path the reach them via podcast or blog posts?
Rand Fishkin aims to help you find out. Rand is the CEO and founder of SparkToro. You may have heard of him via his role founding and leading Moz, an SEO tool. Or you’ve seen him speak at one of your favorite marketing conferences.
We had him on the Rethink Marketing podcast this past summer. He talked about his work building Moz, his new Lost and Founder book, the current state of search engine optimization, and about the growing trend of Google and the other search engines to keep more and more of that search traffic to themselves.
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We also talked about SparkToro and the importance of finding your audience. You can read the excerpt of our conversation below.
Rand’s a smart guy and the tools they are building will be great. But you likely already have access to some tools right now that can help you better understand your audience and where they may be hanging out.
You can use the audience demographics in Google Analytics to learn more about your audience and their habits. CoSchedule has developed a free custom dashboard you can add to your Google Analytics, check it out.
You can also use insights that Facebook and other social platforms share with you about your friends and followers.
You can survey your current customers, either group or cherry pick your 10-best closed/won deals this year and the 10 that you lost and call them up and ask.
This transcript has been edited for length. To get the full measure, listen to the podcast.
Rand’s Path to SparkToro
Nathan Isaacs: Rand, can you give us a short bio of yourself and your new company, SparkToro?
Rand Fishkin: Absolutely. First off, thanks for having me, Nathan. Thanks to everyone at Act-On. Looking forward to this. I dropped out of college in 2001 and started working with my mom, Gillian, on a company that became SEOmoz, which was a consulting business focused on search engine optimization. And for a few years we struggled and went deeply into debt. And then we sort of found our footing, got some good clients, were able to turn things around.
In 2007, we raised $1.1 million and I became the CEO. We switched from consulting to software. And over the next seven years we grew to $30 million in revenue, many tens of thousands of customers, and hundreds of employees.
I stepped down as CEO, was at Moz for another four years as an individual contributor, and just left that company to start this new firm, SparkToro, which is focused on identifying the sources and channels and publications that influence a given audience, something we’re calling audience intelligence.
SparkToro has been going for a few months now, which has been pretty exciting. We raised a very unusual round of funding and open sourced our investment docs on that. We’ve launched a couple of free tools. And we’re having a great time building this new thing, which is probably still six to nine months away from having a real product. But it’s been a fun experience.
Why is it important to know where your target audience is?
Nathan: And you talk about finding that audience intelligence. Can you just help connect the dots on the importance of finding your target audiences and where they’re at on the web for companies? In many ways that’s marketing 101, but why is it important to know where your audience is?
Rand: I think everyone, whether they’re an entrepreneur or a marketer or developer, they grasp the importance of marketing to their audience in the places where their audience actually pays attention.
I think the frustrating problem is that we don’t know where your audience is paying attention, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the field, and you’re going into it for the first time, or you’re trying to learn, or you’re trying to identify what new sources might have popped up since you last paid close attention.
And so let’s say, Nathan, you and I go and we start an architecture company or a lighting design company. We’re making new fancy lights for corporate offices and rich people’s houses. And we’ve got crazy cool designs.
Except, I have no idea where to identify, where to find, where to market to interior designers, interior decorators, who are most of the people who are going to buy from us.
I mean, maybe they read Architectural Digest and I don’t know, what else, Dwell magazine?
But I don’t know what blogs they visit. I don’t know what podcasts they listen to. I don’t know who they might follow on Twitter or LinkedIn or Instagram. I don’t know if there’s a super popular event that they all go to. And identifying those is literally days and sometimes weeks of work for an entrepreneur or a marketer. Which is why a lot of folks will outsource it to a PR agency or another form of web marketing agency. And they’ll pay $10,000, up to $50,000 just for a list.
Oh, these are the podcasts that they listen to. And here’s the YouTube channels they subscribe. Here’s the events that they go to. Here’s the magazines they read. Here’s the blogs they subscribe to. All that kind of stuff. And we thought this was really frustrating. And really weird. Didn’t make sense to us that there was no great tool for doing this. It felt like how SEO felt 15 years ago, where it’s just not automated, everything’s manual. And so that’s what is SparkToro.
Nathan: Rand, I really appreciate your time today. How do I learn more about you and SparkToro?
Rand: So, www.sparktoro.com is the best place to go. If you want to get in touch, I am most active on Twitter, where I’m @randfish.