Almond Tree in Full Bloom | Woodruff

Agile Research Methods Can Quickly Deepen Understanding of Niche Audiences

Bridging the gap — when information on your niche audience isn’t widely available — how going direct to the source (audience) itself is worth the investment.

In the U.S. there are approximately 7,600 almond growers and just under 100 almond handlers. Together, these groups grow and process about 3 billion pounds of almonds, making these growers the world’s largest source of almonds. In fact, 90 percent of the world’s almond crop comes from California.1 Not only is that impressive for U.S. agriculture, it is one of the best examples of a super-niche audience.

What’s the best way to establish an accurate and intuitive understanding of almond growers when, as a super-niche audience, in-depth information about them (as customers) may not be widely available? As a marketing agency driven to see our clients succeed in super-niche markets, we need to go directly to the source.

And we’re OK with that. In fact, we thrive on getting close to our audiences — understanding their unmet needs and their challenges. How their communities and personal values influence the business decisions they make. What they hold dear in their daily lives. Because to know them is to understand them, and to understand them is to build a relationship with them, which, in turn, helps bring a laser focus to what causes them to buy certain products and, more importantly, why they are buying.

At Woodruff, we use a variety of qualitative research techniques that support a more agile way of gaining perspectives to get in front of these super-niche groups. Each technique applied in a vacuum may not always get to the cause, but through a series of small efforts, we can paint a bigger picture. Today, bridging the gap from what we don’t know to what we do know is easier than ever, meaning that reaching niche customers and gaining a greater understanding and perspective from their point of view is also easier than ever.

Firsthand Knowledge through Advisory Councils

Ever-evolving technology has created ways to reach people in ways we’d never imagined even five years ago. Using cloud-based tools and online formats to reach audiences for deeper perspective has consistently improved the experience for both agencies and the end-user to get better information faster.

But with all of the technology at our disposal, real conversations are still the meat on the bone. To truly understand the meaning behind someone’s action, it is always valuable to talk directly to that someone. Woodruff creates advisory councils made up of individuals who are specialists in any given field or market, and they provide direct access for discussion, provide opinions and help our teams by walking through a decision-making thought process. They are our subject-matter experts who fill knowledge gaps. The bonds made through personal relationships from advisory councils become invaluable. And to see them advocate on issues and challenges is something that can be missed if we only conduct secondary research or data collection.

Woodruff creates advisory councils to develop relationships with niche audiences first: to listen to the audience firsthand and learn about their families, their businesses and how their communities and professional organizations play an influencing role in the key decisions they make day in and day out.

When we listen to their considerations for making purchases, we directly inform the strategies we develop, leaving an authentic imprint. The big picture and the small picture come together, and our results become much more meaningful. Measures of success touch areas that weren’t in our marketing tactics playbook before. 

Often, marketing teams use customer journeys and personas to find those answers. But those journeys and personas can become generalized if not managed in a sustained way, and that includes a step to gut check with the most authentic source that delivers a rich perspective that only someone in the field can give.

Marketers are increasingly managing journeys as they would any product. Journeys are thus becoming central to the customer’s experience of a brand — and as important as the products themselves in providing competitive advantage.

David C. Edelman and Marc Singer
 “Competing on Customer Journeys,” Harvard Business Review

In-Market Surveys

Woodruff distributes surveys directly in-market where we need to reach super-niche audiences. Taking the almond grower example, traditional primary research can be expensive with such a small yet highly specialized group.

By using the right platform to reach this super niche, we can get their opinions through sprint-style approaches and online surveys for low-cost efforts with quick turns.

Recently, Woodruff distributed a survey to almond growers to get specifics around information channel preferences. Even with such a small group, or perhaps because of it, the survey helped us directly follow the respondents’ thinking and gain deeper perspectives on the “what” and the “why.”

“YouTube is my go-to source for what helps me the most in my job. Finding videos on equipment repairs usually saves me time and money in the long run.”
—California Almond Producer

 

Illustration of an Almond Surrounded by Messaging and Social Media Logos | Woodruff

Woodruff goes direct in-market to find unique perspectives that secondary research doesn’t always provide.

Have a niche audience you need to reach? Contact us to discover your roadmap for your audience to achieve a better brand experience and greater outcomes.

The Roadmap to Understanding the Super Niche

There is still a role for secondary research, and there is a lot of useful information that is either free or low-cost. Combining secondary research with firsthand experiences and point-of-views adds that filter or lens that helps us differentiate brands. 

For the ongoing management of a customer journey, start with a persona. Personas should not be one-and-done but a living cycle of further exploration, development and understanding.

At Woodruff, using advisory councils, in-market surveys, and audience behavior and engagement in different channels add personalization to the persona and become an essential component of further knowledge and data collection and refinement.

 

Woodruff Persona Experience Workflow Chart | Woodruff

We’ll Help You Find Your Niche

How about your niche audience? If you have gaps in your information and understanding, digging deep and going direct to the source can help develop a perspective that you may not have known, offering solutions never thought of before that your company’s product or service can fulfill.

 

Footnote 1 2019 Almond Almanac
https://www.almonds.com/sites/default/files/2020-04/2019_Almanac.pdf
[Quoted source if needed to reference: Competing on Customer Journeys, HBR,
https://hbr.org/2015/11/competing-on-customer-journeys ]