Know Your Audience

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This is the most important rule of content marketing marketing. If you don’t know who you’re talking to, how do you know what to say?

Every week, I hear from entrepreneurs who want to know how to reach their audience. Of course, the first question I ask in return is: “Who is your audience?”

You’d be surprised at how many falter while trying to answer this.

You define your target audience through a mix of primary research (asking your customers or friends who might become customers), secondary research (look online for details, especially at research reports — I find census reports particularly useful — and first person accounts such as on blogs and social media posts), and fit with your business (Who do you want to focus on? Whose problems are you solving the best?).

Sketch out your target audience as thoroughly as you can. It might help to have a list of questions and try to answer as many of them as you can.

Here is a start:

  • Where do they live? What country or region or cities should you focus on?
  • What do they do? Especially relevant in case of B-to-B products.
  • How old are they?
  • What is their income? This is especially relevant in case of say, high-end consumer goods. For a B-to-B product, you might not care.
  • What are their interests?
  • Where do they hang out online?

The last two are the most important, but I’ll come back to that later.

I recently spoke to a couple of entrepreneurs who had developed a CRM app: let’s take that as an example. Now who is your audience?

Your first answer might be, businesses. Say, medium-sized businesses with revenues of $10-$100 million.

But when you’re marketing, you’re speaking to people. You need to make a connection. So who’s your typical audience member?

Your product might appeal to several decision-makers within the company: the CEO who wants more effective sales efforts; the VP of Sales who wants his people to spend more time selling and less on administrative tasks; the VP of Marketing who wants to ensure leads that are handed over to Sales are followed up on effectively; the VP of IT who wants a system that fits in with the rest of the organization’s systems; the VP of Finance who wants a cheaper system because the current one is way too expensive.

Now, pick one. Pick the one whose problem your product solves best. If your product’s USP (= unique selling proposition = most remarkable and useful attribute) is that it’s far more easy to use than anything else in the market, pick the VP of Sales and make the case that you’re going to save her salespeople time. If it’s the cheapest, pick the VP of Finance.

And yes, pick just one.

Now answer the questions on your list, especially these last two.

  • What are their interests?
  • Where do they hang out online?

Consider the VP of IT. All VPs of IT are unlikely to have similar personal interests, but arguably most of them are interested in technology. Maybe they are drawn to sites and blogs like TechCrunch, Gizmodo, and AllThingsD. Maybe they prefer Quora to Facebook. (I have no idea if this is true — do your research!)

Whether you’re focusing on content marketing or plain-old-traditional marketing or even selling, knowing your target audience is essential (as indeed, any good sales person will tell you). You need to know them enough to know what they are passionate about and what keeps them up at night. You need to be able to speak to them in their language, talking to the CMO about visibility and campaign management and to the CEO about ROI.

And when you are creating content, you need to be creating it for them. You need to promote that content where they are likely to see it.

How well do you know your audience?

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