In order to create content that gets a good reaction from your audience, you first need to know who you’re speaking to. Let’s take a look at how to define your target audience and why it’s so important to do this as part of your targeted content marketing strategy.
Why it’s so important to define your target audience
What’s the ultimate aim of your company?
Lots of likes on social media?
High website traffic?
A blog with tons of comments?
Those are all nice to have – and probably good signs that you’re moving in the right direction – but a business can’t exist on likes alone. You need to be making money somehow.
And where will that money come from? Your clients or customers.
The big mistake many businesses make
The problem is, many companies assume that the more people they can reach, the more money they will make. This is not always the case, especially for small businesses and startups.
You can have thousands of people subscribed to your blog or liking your posts, but if they have no interest whatsoever in your products or services, you’re not going to make much money from them.
You’ve probably heard it said before that you must be as specific as possible in identifying your target audience. But no matter how hard this message is drummed in, many business owners are wary of narrowing down their target market for fear of losing out on other potential customers.
And yes, you may have to let go of some business in order to gain more elsewhere. But look at it this way: there are over 3.7 billion internet users worldwide. Even if you can reach a fraction of one percent of those, you’ll be doing pretty well.
Ultimately, levels of traffic and social signals aren’t everything; it’s the number of visitors who convert to paying customers that really matters.
The most effective way to get people to convert is to speak to them directly with a message that really hits home, and how can you do that if you aren’t really sure who you’re speaking to?
Defining your target audience – and being really specific about it – will help you no end when it comes to shaping your content marketing strategy and creating website content. We’re talking content that attracts people who are willing to hand over their hard-earned cash for whatever you’re selling.
How to define your target audience
The road to effective, targeted content marketing looks something like this:
Now let’s go through each of these steps in some more detail. If you’re starting a new business from scratch you may have limited information to feed into steps 1 and 2 at the moment. Do as much as you can for now and you can always re-visit the process later.
Step 1: Research your existing audience
You can find out a lot about the kinds of people who are interested in your business just by analysing your existing audience and previous customers.
Use tools like Google Analytics and Facebook Insights to examine statistics on your traffic and followers. However, remember that not everyone who likes or follows you on social media is a potential customer. It’s more valuable to know all about the people who have already made a purchase.
Another way to find out more about the people who are engaged with your brand is to run surveys via email or Facebook. Be selective about what you ask, because people are giving up their time to answer and you’re likely to get better results if you keep it short.
At this stage you should also consider your secondary audience of influencers and supporters. These people may not purchase from you directly but if you can get them on board sharing your content you will be able to reach a wider segment of your target audience.
Having your content shared by authority brands and figures will, in turn, increase the credibility of your own site. So it’s worth putting some effort into identifying possible influencers in your industry and then creating content that will appeal to them (while still being relevant to your core audience).
Step 2: Identify their problems and needs
Once you have an idea of your target audience you need to work out how to connect with them and hold their attention. One very effective way to do this is to offer a solution to a problem they have.
There are a few tools you can use to help identify the problems your customers face, and many of these hinge on knowing the types of information your customers are searching for.
- Google Search Console can show you the search terms for which your site is appearing in search results
- Google’s Keyword planner can help you delve deeper into related search terms
- Google Analytics can show you which of your content is getting the most views
- Your customer service emails and any comments left on blog posts or social media pages may reveal recurring themes that your audience wants to know more about
However, by far the most effective way to understand the problems and struggles faced by your target audience is to ask people directly.
And do be as direct as possible. Face-to-face is ideal, phone or video call is the next best thing, and social listening and surveys should be a last resort. You’d be surprised how much people are willing to open up if they know you’re listening to what they say.
The kinds of things you should ask during this process are:
- What pressures do they experience day-to-day?
- What frustrates them about their current situation and the tools they have to deal with it?
- How do they want others to view them?
- What would make their lives easier?
- What do they aspire to?
- What do they have to lose by not dealing with their issues?
Once you know their problems, it’s time to work on the solutions.
Step 3: Work out how you can help
Now you need to identify exactly what your business does that directly addresses the problems you identified in step 2. What are you offering that’s of real value to your customers?
Note down all the ways that your company directly addresses the needs and struggles of your target audience.
Step 4: Find your unique position
Now, which of the things you listed in step 3 makes your company unique? What sets you apart from your competition? If nothing comes to mind, it could be time to re-assess your business model.
Because if there’s nothing special about your company, what reason do people have to buy from you rather than one of your competitors?
Here are some possibilities for things you could offer as your unique selling point (USP):
- standard of service
- speed of service
- combination of services
- price (product or service)
- quality (product or service)
- after-sales care
At Stuff With Words, one of our USPs is that we provide both content writing services and proofreading services. Many companies have one person creating content and another proofreading it (or don’t bother with proofreading at all), but we wrap both elements up in one package to become a one-stop shop for content.
Step 5: Discard any segments that don’t align with 3 & 4
This is the part that’s difficult for so many business owners.
Look at the problems you can solve and your unique ability to address them, and then discard any segments of your audience that don’t align with these. This doesn’t mean those customers won’t still buy from you; it just means you’re not specifically targeting them with your content marketing efforts.
Imagine you sell premium car tyres that last 20% longer than the leading brand. You could say that your target market is anyone who owns a car, but really that’s not the case.
If you think about it, the people who are most likely to buy your product are those who care about quality and are time-poor. For them, it’s worth paying the extra money if it means fewer trips to the garage. So you might target busy professionals and car rental companies, for example. Cash-strapped students may still buy your tyres, but they’re not going to be your core market.
Step 6: Create audience personas
Personas are profiles of people who typify your customers. They bring your target audience to life and help people in all areas of your business understand who you are working with.
I’m not going to dwell on this point; instead I’m going to direct you to this comprehensive guide to creating marketing personas from Buffer.
This article explains how to create your customer personas and the kind of information you should include. There are also some good examples which show the level of detail some companies go into to know who their customers are.
Step 7: Develop a targeted content marketing plan
With your audience personas in place, it’s time to feed them into your content marketing strategy. Then you can start producing awesome content to spread awareness of your company and tell potential target customers why they should choose you.
The content you produce should offer value to your readers with the aim of keeping them engaged over the long term.
You’ll find the work you did in steps 2, 3 & 4 very useful here. Writing content that addresses your customers’ specific questions and needs is a great way to show you understand what they want and have the knowledge they seek.
Pay particular attention to any long-tail keywords you identified from Google’s Search Console and Keyword planner. These are often in the form of questions (‘How do you…?’, ‘What’s the difference between…?’, ‘How does … work?’, etc.) which you can directly address in a blog post or other form of content.
If you’re stuck for ideas when it comes to targeted content – or just don’t have time to create it yourself – our content writing services could be just what you need.
Assumptions to avoid when creating content for your target audience
As you go through this process and define your target audience, there are a few assumptions you should avoid making:
- Don’t assume your audience is the same as you. There may be some overlap with your demographics, skills, and interests, but you should reach that conclusion through research rather than guesswork.
- Don’t assume they have the same knowledge base as you. Even if you’re targeting professionals in a particular industry, they may be new to it so you shouldn’t assume they know as much as you do. You want your brand to sound knowledgeable and authoritative, but not by making your customers feel stupid. Acronyms are a great example of this. You may know what SEO and ROI are, but your readers may not. It’s good practice to write terms in full before using abbreviations – just as I did in step 4 above with ‘USP’.
- Don’t assume they know and understand your brand. The people reading your content may be long-term followers of your brand, but equally they may have just stumbled across your website while searching for information. If anything, start by assuming they don’t care about you and then find a way to earn their trust and respect. Writing about things they care about is a great way to do this.
It’ll take some time to follow all these steps thoroughly and build up a full picture of the people you’re targeting. However, without knowing who your ideal customers are it’s very difficult to connect with them on a level that will encourage meaningful engagement with your brand.
You’ll also find it much easier to brief your content writers and enable them to produce great work if you can tell them exactly whom you want to target with the content.
Finally, it’s worth repeating this process at regular intervals, especially if your company moves in a different direction or starts offering new products or services. Your ideal customer will change over time, so don’t lose touch of what they want and how you can help them.