Who’s in your audience? When you “tell your story” through your marketing materials, email messages, or blog, who do you “see” reading your words? If you’re lucky, some of your audience will like what you have to say so much that they’ll contact you … in the form of a sale, reply, or comment.
Having an interested business prospect contact you is similar to what happens when a child writes a fan letter to the author of a book she’s enjoyed. It reassures you that your message (story) is targeted correctly, and that you did a good job of making them care about what you had to say.
This issue covers one of the most important things you need to consider when telling a story: figuring out who your audience is and what they’re looking for.
Sonia Simone, Chief Marketing Officer and co-founder of Copyblogger Media, puts it this way: “Content needs to match the preferences and desires of the audience … period.”
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About 15 years ago, I took a class in Children’s Literature. I was toying with the idea of becoming a teacher and had always enjoyed reading to children, which this class required us to do. I had to visit a variety of classrooms and other learning environments in order to log in some “reading aloud time” with children of different ages.
I split my time between a preschool, a kindergarten class, and a 2nd grade class. Each visit, I made sure I had books with me that I knew would appeal to each age group. For the younger kids, I used more picture books. For the 2nd graders, easy readers and other books with more words, less pictures.
Being around the children on a regular basis made it easy to figure out what they liked and what their comprehension levels were.
Understanding the interests, desires, and needs of your company’s potential clients has a lot in common with my experience in the classroom. Your “meeting places” may look a little different, though.
Do You Really Know Your Audience?
Can you name at least five things about your audience that set them apart from other audiences? What’s the age range, gender, level of education, and marital status of your typical (or ideal) client? What are they passionate about? What do they fear? Where do they like to hang out?
Your answers will help you shape the stories you tell and could even help you come up with ideas for solutions to meet the needs of your particular audience.
3 Ways to Understand Your Audience Better
Here are three methods to help you learn what your audience either needs or wants:
- Conduct a survey (print, email, or both).
- Use Google Analytics. Search Engine People has a helpful article on using a Keyword Profiling tool to find the “real questions your visitors ask.”
- Connect through social media. LinkedIn allows you to deepen social connections by participating in forums and answering questions others have posted. You could also try making a list of things you wish you knew about your audience, then start discussions on them at your favorite social media sites. (Facebook business pages are great for this.) And Twitter can be used to direct people’s attention to your website or Facebook page.
Give Your Audience What It Wants
Once you figure out your target audience’s strongest areas of need, you can start working on ways to deliver solutions.
For instance …
… If you’re a dog groomer who caters to pet owners who are often out of town on business, you could offer discount coupons in the community section of your local newspaper, or expand the hours you’re available for appointments.
… If you’re a tax accountant, you could offer free advice to callers through a weekly spot at a local radio station.
Don’t be afraid to try something different! Be open to suggestions, especially when they come from current (and SATISFIED) customers.
More Than One Audience?
Chances are, your website – and business – attract more than one type of audience. If that’s you, here are some suggestions:
- Create a separate website for each niche/target audience.
- Create separate pages within your website to appeal to different niches. For example, the official website for Dr. Seuss has a page for Educators, another for Parents, and a Games & Activities page for kids!
- Send out different versions of press releases, each focusing on a different niche. (For instance, a health club could promote its dance classes and high-intensity fitness training to attract a younger crowd, but also advertise its “family-friendly” environment by promoting fun programs and activities for children.)
- Use videos on your website, especially if one of your target audiences is at the younger end of the age spectrum.
Think Like a Publisher
Publishers these days are not just those who produce hard copies of books. ANYONE with a website or who connects with customers through social media is a publisher. And, in order to survive, publishers HAVE to understand their audience!
David Meerman Scott, a PR and marketing guru who focuses on social media, says: “When you understand your audience, those people who will become your buyers …, you can craft an editorial and content strategy just for them. What works is a focus on your buyers and their problems. What fails is an egocentric display of your products and services.”
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Need help figuring out who your own target audience is? How about ideas on ways to offer solutions to their problems? If so, take a look at the resources I’ve listed below.
Web Site Marketing Makeover (by Marcia Yudkin) Pages 5-8 address the topic of “Identifying Your Audiences” in great detail, featuring several different types of businesses and how they dealt with this issue.
The New Rules of Marketing & PR (by David Meerman Scott) Pages 31-34 address the marketer as publisher, but the entire book can help any business owner figure out the best ways to reach their audiences through social media.
This post originally ran as an article in the March 2012 issue of The Write Stuff.