How To Find Your Target Audience And Create The Best Content That ConnectsClick To Tweet
- How to define your target audience and understand your target market to create a clear picture of exactly who you are (and aren't) writing for.
- Pick up tips, tactics, and strategies for gathering audience data.
- Use your improved knowledge of your audience to create content that connects with their needs and interests.
Why Define Your Target Audience?Content marketers often apply "the Field of Dreams" approach to their work.
- Connect your content to your product.
- Buy your product because of your content.
How To Understand Your Target MarketStart by asking yourself some simple questions. These can include:
- What problems does my company's product or service solve? If you've been in business for any length of time, you should have some understanding of why your product or service exists. Your content should be related to that purpose, too (that means resisting the urge to share irrelevant memes just because they're funny—if it's not connected to your mission, it doesn't belong in your content marketing).
- Who are our current customers? If you're not sure who buys your product or service, someone in your organization almost certainly does. Consider asking your company's executives or sales teams for this information. It may also be necessary to segment your types of customers. For example, you may categorize customers based on location, budget, or needs. HubSpot has created a fantastic introductory guide to this process.
- Who is my competition? It's likely you know who your obvious competitors are. However, some quick searches on Google and social media (particularly on Facebook and Twitter) can often reveal upstart competition you may not have been aware of. Try searching a keyword or two that are related to your industry. See which businesses come up. Browse their "About Us" pages and feature descriptions. This is an easy way to develop an idea of who your competition is and fast.
- What do customers stand to gain from choosing us (instead of a competitor)? What features do you offer that no one else does? Is there something you can do better than anyone else?
- Why your content deserves to exist.
- Who is going to read it.
- What your competition is doing (and how you can do it better).
- Why your audience should choose your content (and product) instead of your competition.
Creating Your Target Audience DefinitionBefore you can create content that resonates, it helps to know your intended audience (as well as who they are not). An audience definition should ideally connect these three things:
- Your product or service
- Your main audience demographic
- Your content's mission
The Method CoSchedule Uses To Create The Right Content For The Right AudienceLet's take a look at two additional methods we use here at CoSchedule for understanding our own target audience. We're pretty zealous about understanding our audience because we want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to help our readers. We look at it in two ways:
- As we build our product, we want to make sure that we build features our customers will actually use. This requires that we understand their problems and frustrations, particularly ones that we can solve.
- As we create content, we want to make sure that we create content that our audience will truly find useful. We don't just want clicks, shares, and page views. Rather, we strive to be a trusted resource readers can count on.
Finding Your Content CoreThe purpose of the content core exercise is to understand the difference between what you do, and what you need to talk about. One of the big mistakes that early content marketers make is to talk about themselves and their product, rather than the things that their users really care about. This is a huge misunderstanding of what it means to find your target audience.
Talk about what your audiences cares about (not yourself).Click To Tweet
- Providing a single interface for planning and executing content marketing efforts.
- Displaying an upcoming publishing schedule on a visualized monthly calendar.
- Allowing users to reschedule content via simple drag-and-drop.
- Facilitating team communication and an effective workflow.
- Providing a tool that helps them save time and grow their blog traffic.
Find what your audience (really) wants to hear about to improve #ContentMarketing effectivenessClick To Tweet
13 Tactics To Find Your Target AudienceBefore CoSchedule ever launched, we began trying to understand who our target audience was. Here are some of the tools and tactics we continue to use to keep our understanding sharp.
1. Create Reader PersonasIn an early planning meeting, we came up with a few Lean UX-type user personas that were designed to help us solve problems our CoSchedule users actually needed to solve. This was conducted as a team exercise and was tremendously useful in our process. Looking back, we weren't always right about what our users cared about, but it was a solid place to build from. Now, we frequently advocate the development of reader personas for your own blog.
The more detail you can provide, the better 'picture' you will create of a member of your marketing target audienceClick To Tweet
- Family life
- Job title
- Job function
- Pain points
Are you building effective audience personas?Click To Tweet
- Plan to develop your audience personas so you can picture your audience as you write for them. This doesn't have to be robust; it serves as a tool to help you focus your content on the right messaging.
- Grab a sheet of paper and write down the who, what, etc. of your marketing target audience. Go to a stock image website or Pinterest and find a photo of the persona you are writing for. Having a visual of who you are writing for will help you to "speak" through your content as if you are talking directly to them.
- When your audience feels as if you are speaking to them and their problems, you are more likely to convert readers into customers.
2. Conduct User Surveys RegularlyWe use a free product called Survey.io to conduct users surveys about our product on a regular basis. Everyone who creates a CoSchedule account will be asked to participate in the survey. This has been a great tool to help us maintain a constant pulse on what our users are thinking. From this, we can translate that feedback into a deeper understanding of our target audience. A survey is only as good as the insights you gain from it. Here are a few tips to make yours as useful as possible:
- Know what you want to learn from each question.
- Make questions short and easy to answer. This can help improve the odds that people will complete it.
- Think hard about whether or not to offer a giveaway for taking a survey. They may help increase participation. However, some folks might only respond to get a prize.
3. Use Google AnalyticsGoogle Analytics has a ton of data about your audience if you know how to find it. Julie Neidlinger breaks this down wonderfully in this post. She also developed a handy dashboard that anyone can add to their Google Analytics account instantly to get these stats.
Unlock audience insights with Google Analytics. Learn how:Click To Tweet
4. Find Your Target Audience On Facebook With Facebook InsightsFacebook provides every Page owner with a powerful set of insights (analytics) that are free for you to use anytime you want. From here, you can quickly determine the demographic of your most active users and determine the topics that they share in common. Start by visiting your Facebook page. Click the Insights tab:
5. Find Your Target Audience On Twitter By Connecting To Your Twitter Followers DashboardTwitter also provides an excellent followers dashboard that you can access if you sign up for a Twitter Ads account. This dashboard does an excellent job of telling you what your followers are interested in—specifically listing common topics and other Twitter accounts that your followers have in common. This is powerful information that goes way beyond basic demographic details.
6. Run An Annual Audience SurveyEach year, blogger Michael Hyatt conducts a survey of his blog readers as a way to keep tabs on who they are, and what they want to hear about on his blog. Once the survey results are compiled, Michael shares his insights with his readers, which always results in a great discussion that serves to both confirm and/or refute his assumptions. This is a highly proactive way to understand your target audience. It's so good, in fact, that we follow a similar approach for our own annual Better Marketer Survey.
7. Monitor Your Social ActivityWhich social networks do your readers share your content on the most? This little tidbit of information can actually tell you a lot about what they like and want to hear about. In fact, when we analyzed nearly 1 million headlines in the CoSchedule system, we found that the tone and topics covered on each network varied wildly. These simple hints provide clues about who you are writing for and will help you find your target audience. This process can be as simple as monitoring your social accounts daily and making note of who's interacting with your content. Pay attention to their bios. This can tell you a lot about who you're currently reaching (and whether those folks are the right folks to reach).
8. Monitor Your Best (And Worst) ContentLooking back to Google Analytics, it should be easy for you to find your best and worst posts for each week or month. At CoSchedule, we compile a traffic report at the conclusion of the month that does just this. We use both total shares and pageviews as a way to determine a blog post's overall popularity. By comparing the content that did well versus the content that performed poorly, we can get better insight into what our readers really want to be hearing about.
9. Ask for Audience Feedback With An Automated EmailWhen users subscribe to one of our email mailing lists, they are automatically added to an email queue that will ping them about 30 days after they sign up to see if they are enjoying our content. The purpose of this email is to solicit a response that usually generates meaningful conversation if the reader has something to share. We also use this tactic frequently with the users of our application. By engaging with your audience personally, you can develop a relationship and an open channel for communication and feedback. Here's how to set up such an email using several of top email marketing platforms:
10. Talk To Your Social FollowersYou can learn a lot by being an active member in your own community on social media. Follow these tips:
- Make an effort to respond to every comment and message you receive. Every interaction with your audience is an opportunity to learn more about them.
- Find relevant Facebook and LinkedIn groups and participate. Getting involved in discussions related to your niche or industry can provide incredible insight into what's important to your audience.
- Create posts occasionally asking your audience what they're interested in. What are their top problems? What do they do outside the office? What products or features do they wish they had? These are a just a few topical ideas you can easily turn into Twitter polls.
11. Analyze Your Competitions' Twitter FollowersThis one is simple enough using Followerwonk, a great freemium Twitter analysis tool from Moz.
- Find Twitter bios based on keywords.
- Compare your followers against up to two other competitors.
- Analyze who any account follows (and is followed by).
- Track follower growth for any Twitter profile.
- Sort followers on any given profile based on the number of tweets, followers, the length of the time the profile was live, and social authority (a metric determining the level an account has).
12. Analyze Your Customer DataIt's possible that your current content consumers (social followers, blog readers, email subscribers, etc.) may not be the same people who are buying your product or service. This could be due to creating content that's pulling in the wrong audience. It's also possible your product or service appeals to more groups of people than your current content is targeting. This is where analyzing actual customer data (and not just content marketing data) can he helpful. The team at KISSmetrics have put together an excellent guide on where to find this data and how to analyze it properly. You just might find a breakthrough that helps you create content that soars.
What content is your customer data telling you to create?Click To Tweet
13. Use Social Listening ToolsSocial listening is essential for understanding what your audience is talking about on social media. Our friends at Mention wrote this great post on social listening showing how and why to use these types of tools.
How To Find Your Audience's Most Important Problems, Interests, And ConcernsOne stressful aspect of identifying a target audience is demographic analysis. These insights frequently include the age, sex, and location of your target audience. While these statistics are valuable, they are often very difficult to quantify in terms of what you should or should not be writing about on your blog.
Don't focus on who your audience is. Focus on what they are struggling with.Click To Tweet
- What do they want to do better?
- What actually motivates them to be better?
- What keeps them awake at night?
3 Tactics For Identifying What Your Audience Wants To Read
1. Get Out Of The BuildingOne of the early lessons that we learned here at CoSchedule was that it simply isn't enough to ask our readers a question or two via a survey. That method can be mechanical and too far removed from what people really want to say, missing the deep emotional information you need. So, in addition to all of these other methods, it is also helpful (and necessary) to "get out of the building." In other words—talk to your readers face-to-face.
It's super important to get out and talk to your readers face-to-face.Click To Tweet
2. Use Ubersuggest And Google's Keyword Planner ToolWhen people need to know something, the first thing they often do is turn to Google. Here's a quick way to learn a lot about your audience, fast. Enter a topic or keyword into Ubersuggest. Start with a keyword that's core to your business:
- Keywords related to issues, interests, and concerns you've learned about your audience using tactics mentioned prior in this post.
- Keywords that also have a decent level of search volume.
3. Analyze Your Competitors' Top Performing ContentBefore creating content around a given keyword or topic, try searching it with BuzzSumo. While a paid account is necessary to get the most from this tool, it offers enough power for free to be useful. This video offers a great overview of what it can do:
Use Data To Avoid Making Assumptions About Your Audience
4 Common Audience Assumptions To AvoidAssumptions are easy to make. They're shortcuts to critical thinking that allow us to feel like we can assess an individual or situation quickly and easily. However, when you make an assumption about your audience that is incorrect, you run the risk of creating content that alienates them. Two reactions happen in a reader when faced with a false assumption:
- "You're saying I'm stupid. I'm leaving."
- "Oh, this article isn't for me. It's for other people who know this stuff."
Avoid making assumptions about your audience. Guide your content with data instead.Click To Tweet
Assumption #1: Your Audience Is Just Like YouIt's likely your audience bears a lot of similarities to you. They may have similar interests or concerns, or fall into roughly the same demographic. They're not the same person as you, though. They may or may not care about the same things you do. In fact, their personalities and priorities could be wildly different from your own. This is especially true if you work in a niche you aren't directly passionate about (for example, you could be passionate about creating content while serving an audience in an industry you're not familiar with). Let data and experience guide your perception of your audience.
Assumption #2: They Know The Same Things You KnowYour audience and you do not know the same things. Sometimes they know more. Sometimes they know less. Sometimes you both simply know different things. In a lot of cases, they'll be coming to your content because they have a gap in their knowledge. Follow these two tips to ensure your writing doesn't go over their head:
- Think like a journalist by writing in a way that anyone can understand. News organizations are often required to write for a broad audience that may not be experts on a given topic. They typically use clear, simple sentence structures and strive to avoid ambiguity. Following these principles can help you create content that's clear and easy to read.
- Err on the side of providing too much detail, rather than not enough. Read a political news story and you'll likely read a sentence describing a political party's candidate as "[INSERT PARTY]'s presumptive presidential nominee [INSERT CANDIDATE'S NAME]." You might read this and think, "Doesn't everyone know this person is running for office already?" The answer is maybe not. Being thorough and consistent when it comes to including detail ensures that your reader leaves with an accurate understanding of what you're trying to communicate.
Think like a journalist in a way that anyone can understand your content. #ContentMarketingClick To Tweet
Assumption #3: They Care About Your BrandMost of your audience cares more about their family, friends, and themselves. No one is dying to spend an evening bonding with a brand on social media. A study found that 77% care about real people in their lives, not brands. Participants felt that relationships were reserved for family, friends, and acquaintances or colleagues. If you're honest with yourself, you would likely agree.
Make your marketing personal so your audience will trust you. #MarketingTipClick To Tweet
Assumption #4: They Know Your Industry JargonThe AP Style guide has a good practice of identifying, in full, what something is before referring to it in acronym form. I'm guilty of forgetting to do this. I assume everyone knows what CTA or SEO means, that the audience for this blog has surely learned that. But we have readers who are both new and experts who are reading this blog, and they may stumble upon a blog post (through search) out of the order we might have written them in. I need to assume that this is the first time the reader has seen the term, and identify that call to action (CTA) and search engine optimization (SEO) are what I'm talking about the first time I use it before I can use the acronym for the rest of the post.
Don't assume that everyone knows what the jargon in your niche means. Explain yourself.Click To Tweet
Now, Use This Knowledge To Create Content That Connects With Your Audience
4 Tips For Creating Content That Will Convert Your Audience
Tip #1: Focus Your Content On Your Audience's Needs
Know your audience: How does this blog meet a need or address a pain point for my followers?Click To Tweet
- Focus on questions you know your audience commonly asks. Put together a list of all those questions (these can be gathered from social media and email responses you receive from readers and followers). Then, organize them from newbie to expert-level inquiries. These questions can easily be turned into compelling content ideas (after all, if your audience has questions, it's your job to answer them).
- Show you care about your audience and their needs. Brainstorm every reason your product or service exists. These may be answers to the questions you just organized.
- Communicate to build trust. Trust is essential for converting website visitors into new clients. Give away advice freely to build that trust.
- Bonus: If your business has a sales funnel, map your list of questions and answers from takeaways 1 and 2 on this list to the customer journey your sales team developed. As you create your content, figure out the best ways to use it or repurpose it for sales enablement.
Tip #2: Share Benefits, Not Features
Never confuse features with benefits again. Here's how. #ContentMarketingClick To Tweet
People buy into an idea that a product or service will make their life better. #marketingClick To Tweet
- Saving money on gas.
- Environmental benefits.
- Less frequent trips to the gas station.
- Focus on your audience's needs before you focus on your selling needs. Content that helps your audience do something better—even without your help—focuses on the benefits your product or service could provide... if your readers simply converted into being your customers. Don't be afraid of giving away too much information or company secrets—if you figured it out, so can someone else. Your advice, however, can position you as the expert on the topic, and therefore, position your business as a powerful solution.
- In the list of questions that you developed in step 1, identify the best questions to answer with why' posts. As you plan that content, keep in mind how you'll distribute it and repurpose it to design it appropriately for each channel and get the most out of your hard work.
- Use emotional words, to create emotional experiences with your content and brand. Communicate clearly with your audience to get your points across effectively.
Tip #3: Create Urgency
Create urgency so your content does not get pushed to the back burner and forgotten.Click To Tweet
- Use the informercial model to help you write in a more urgent manner. You don't have to be ridiculous like the commercials trying to convince you that you need yet another organization tool for your kitchen, though. Think of countdown timers on landing pages before an offer runs out and growth hacks to boost the work you're already doing.
- Use words like right now, today, immediately, limited time only, imperative, and essential.
- Conclude the piece with how not finding a solution today will impact the life or work of your market target audience.
Tip #4: Tell Them What To Do (Make Your Call To Action Clear)
A clear call to action (CTA) will improve conversions dramatically. #marketingClick To Tweet
- “Call today for a consultation.”
- “Email us for a quote now.”
- “Share with your network.”
- “Sign up for email newsletters.”
- “Follow us on social media.”
- “Subscribe to stay current on the latest news.”
6 Actionable Articles For Executing Excellent ContentGetting into the nuts and bolts of content creation is outside the scope of this post (after all, you're here to learn about finding your audience). When you're ready to take the next step toward applying your understanding of your audience to expert content creation, we recommend starting with these posts.
Now Get Out There And Delight Your AudienceThere's an entire audience of soon-to-be fans out there waiting for your content. It's up to you to help solve their problems and serve up all the information they're looking for. Fortunately, after reading this post, you're up to the task. Go forth and do your best work!
Great #content starts with understanding your audience. #contentmarketingClick To Tweet