You’ve probably never read some of the best literature ever written. Most people, for instance, are certainly aware of the landmark writing done by acclaimed authors like Proust, Joyce and Tolstoy. They just aren’t interested in reading it. That helps explain why many content marketers fail. Even artfully-written, compelling content is useless unless it’s read or viewed by the right audience: people interested in the content’s topic who need (or want) the featured product or brand. How do you ensure that your content will connect with prospective buyers? It’s a two-step process. First, you properly define and understand your target audience, and then you write directly to that audience.
Here’s a deeper look.
What Is a Target Audience?
Quite simply, your target audience is the group of people most likely to be interested in your content. The term “target market” is often used interchangeably with “target audience,” but there’s a subtle difference. A target market includes all of the people who might be interested in a subject. A target audience is a subset of the target market – the specific people who would be interested. For instance, the target market for a company that makes sports equipment might be active males between the ages of 18 and 30. That information greatly informs and shapes a company’s branding efforts.
When it comes to determining the target audience for content, large companies will normally have a built-in advantage. They’re likely to have already done extensive marketing research; they may even have a dedicated research team in-house. That puts the data and insights required to define target audiences right at their fingertips. Most marketers and content creators, however, don’t have existing research to rely on, so they have to gather the information on their own. Thankfully, some of the work is intuitive, and there are many tools which can help with the data.
Defining Your Target Audience
Here’s the simple way to get started. Open a new text file or take out a sheet of paper, and answer these questions:
What goals do I want to accomplish?
You may your content to help sell a product or service; you may want to build trust in your brand; you may want to attract web traffic so you can display advertising; you may want to create an authority website to bolster your reputation as a social media influencer. Understanding the reasons you’re creating the content helps you define and shape it.
What value do I want my content to provide?
If you’re trying to sell products or services, you’ll want to describe how your offerings meet the needs of potential clients. If you’re building a brand, you’ll be best served by creating an emotional bond with readers and viewers. If you’re building an authority site, you’ll likely need to concentrate on entertaining, expert content. In any event, your content must provide value to your target audience – or it will go unread or unseen.
Who do I want to read or watch my content?
This is the money question. The first two tell you what you’re going to use as content, but this one tells you who it should be created for. The market research we’ve discussed would come in very handy here, since it will tell you exactly who your target audience is. Otherwise, you may have to combine several of these methods to answer the question.
- Analytics tools: Setting up goals in Google Analytics or examining Insights for your Facebook page will show you important information about who visits your site, blog posts and/or Facebook page, how long they’re there, and the types of content they spend their time on. You can also gather information by looking at the demographics of your competitors’ websites in an Ad Planner or advanced SEO tool.
- Surveys or focus groups: It costs money to do a scientifically valid survey or focus group, but they might be worth the expense if you’re dealing with big revenue numbers. Otherwise, emailed or on-site survey forms are essential free ways to gather information from visitors or previous customers (although you might have to offer a cheap goodie in return for participation). Just be sure you’re obeying anti-spam laws and asking questions which will provide relevant information.
- Interactions with followers and customers on social media: This feedback is extremely valuable, and you may find important clues to their preferences and needs by checking their feeds to get a feel for what else they’re talking about.
- Collective brain power: Chances are good that you, some of the people in your company, or other people you know, are in your target market. Pick their brains to figure out their level of interest in your content, product or service, so you can refine your concept of the target audience. Also find out what features, pricing or other factors might lead them to buy – and what types of content they’d be interested in viewing.
With all of this information, you can put together your target audience profile. In a nutshell, the profile will give you a clear picture of WHAT the content is intended to do, WHO it’s aimed at, and the ACTION you want it to encourage. Now, you’re ready to create the content itself.
Connecting With Your Target Audience
Whether your content is an article or blog post, an infographic or video, or created in another format, the best content marketing attracts and maintains the attention of the target audience. A diverse content strategy is the best way to attract the most eyeballs, as long as delivery is on the platforms favoured by your target audience.
For example, you’ll find millennial audiences congregate on social platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, and women are the primary audience on Pinterest. Serious business people are frequent users of LinkedIn, while older audiences are more prone to consume content on authority blogs. As you’d probably expect, younger demographic groups prefer mobile device content, while Gen X prefers laptop-delivered content and Baby Boomers love their desktop machines.
The types of content you choose are crucial as well. A study by Fractl and BuzzStream reports, for example, that all age groups favour blog posts, images and eBooks, but millennials prefer social media and audiobooks, GenX members are more likely to watch digital video, and Baby Boomers look for longer content and product reviews. The proper ways to choose topics for content marketing is a subject that deserves its own article. You can start, though, by determining the type of information your target audience is searching for.
An easy way to do it is with a tool like Google Keyword Planner. When you type in a keyword, the tool will display the terms surfers use most often to search for information on the topic. Pay careful attention to search terms that are expressed in question form, such as “What’s The Best Camera Under $200?” or “How Do You Shop For A Car?” Those give you a clear vision of the questions your target audience wants answered. Answering those questions provides real value to your audience.
Two final tips for creating content that connects with your target audience:
- Don’t assume they know who you are. It’s important to establish your bona fides as an expert in the subject they’re interested in, because that builds trust. Once you’ve built that trust they’ll be more likely to become regular blog readers or social media followers, and they’ll be more likely to purchase the products or services you offer.
- Don’t “write from your gut,” because your target audience may not be looking for the same information or content that you’d be interested in. Rely instead on the research you’ve done, which will give you a clear picture of the information they’re seeking. Compelling and valuable content that delivers what your audience wants and needs forms a solid connection with your target audience, and will pay lasting dividends.
- And lastly Don’t Panic…
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