How to Find Your Target Audience for Content Marketing

What is a target audience? A target audience is a set of consumers within a market chosen as recipients for an advertisement or message.

When it comes to marketing strategy, trying to please everybody means you will end up pleasing nobody. You want to sell your product or service to as many people as you can but it’s not possible to try to create a marketing campaign for everyone. What does that mean for you?

It means you have to be realistic and understand who your people are. Who is already buying your product/service and why they are spending their money on it? One way to find out more is through competition research. A tool such as SEMrush is where you will want to start because understanding your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses will ultimately help you with your own.

Knowing your “who” and “why” should then help you discover your “how” – as in – how do keep them coming back and how do you find more people like them? If you have really analyzed your “what” – your good or service – you have your full picture.

Years ago I edited and wrote for a new (at the time) local magazine. Their progression when trying to sell advertising was: Step 1 – try to sell to everyone. Step 2 – realize that ad sales are hard. Step 3 – only go for high-end businesses assuming that selling 4-5 big ads would be easier than selling 20-30 smaller ones.

Step 3 was a failure. Why? Because the publisher ignored that our content wasn’t appealing to the customers of those businesses. If their target audience was unlikely to pick up our magazine and see their ad what was the point?

They already knew who was walking in their door and who they wanted walking in their door. And it was a lesson we could have learned.


What is a target audience?

A target audience is a set of consumers within a specific market chosen as recipients for an advertisement or message. Basically, knowing who your people are so you can reach them.

Most businesses get started because they saw a niche that needed to be filled or by having a product or service they felt could be delivered better. Those businesses tend to start with a pretty good idea of who their customers will be.

Since we came with the approach of “we have a magazine, now what should we do with it?” who was our target audience? They could be whoever we wanted them to be. Now, what would have been the smart way to go about it?

First, take a look at what we were offering editorially and then what else would fit within the format and publishing schedule. What would be our “elevator pitch”? How would we describe it in a few sentences to a reader, contributor, or advertiser?

Second, we should have found out who was already reading and enjoying it. It was a free magazine so getting detailed demographic information would have been difficult but not impossible. There was information available to us, such as distribution points and key demographics for advertisers.

Now we needed to understand our competition to see how we fit within the market. We will talk more about this a little later.

You want to gather as much information on demographics, interests, behaviors, etc. of your audience as possible. The more you have the better and this will also come in handy further down.


How do you find your target audience?

Now that you have a target in mind, how do you find them? There are plenty of tools, some of them free, that you can use to find your audience depending on the platforms you use.

The first place to go is Google Analytics, because no matter what, Google is going to be a part of your business life. Fortunately, we have a terrific article about GA which you can find here. Google can be your best friend or your worst enemy, so using this as a starting point is smart.

In a nutshell, GA is a free web tool that gives you information about visitors to your website, such as where they came from, how long they stayed on the page, etc. All you have to do is register and put the appropriate code on your site and the program does the rest.

There are other tools available such as Facebook audience insights. If you have a business account and run ads on Facebook, there is a host of information to be found within this tool.

A good thing about the ad manager is that it allows you to set pretty specific targets and the audience insights tool helps you narrow down your target audience to manageable levels. After all, there are over 2 billion people using Facebook and you want to make sure your money is being spent wisely.

Just about every social media platform has a similar service, so depending on where you are and where you do your advertising, make sure to utilize the tools available to you. It may take a few minutes to set up or learn how to use but it is definitely worth the time and effort.


Why is it important to know who your target audience is?

The next step for us would have been to create a reader (customer) profile based on the information that we had gathered. Identifying our target audience would have helped us to develop appropriate strategies for communicating to them.

What would that mean for a free magazine – why should it matter? Because we still had to serve an audience, even if they were a bit of a mystery to us.

If we could get them interested in our articles, the more likely they would be to take the magazine home. The longer they had the magazine, the more likely they are to really see the ads.

So, who were they? Distribution told us that people who frequent small businesses such as local pizza places, pubs, or independent clothing shops, for example, were picking it up. That, however, doesn’t tell us much about who they are.

Since we didn’t know for sure who they were, we had to go with “who do we want them to be?” or the “build it and they will come” approach.

Let’s say we were hoping that they were on the young side, 22-40. College educated. Professional. Disposable income. Single or recently married. Active. Involved. City-minded.

Understanding the needs and wants of that target audience would help us tailor our message. And the more we got to know them the better we could gear our content toward them. The better focused we could be with our message, our look, and our marketing efforts.


How does knowing your audience help you create better content?

You create better content when you are addressing the wants and needs of your audience. You will need to do some research and analysis of your current customer base to understand what those wants and needs are. Naturally, some will be obvious depending on your product or service.

To get more detailed information you often have to ask for it, though. This can be through focus groups, interviews, or online polling. Once you have that first-hand information, you can use a trove of secondary information from sources such as government reports from the U.S. Census Bureau or commercial reports from research agencies like Forrester to help fill out your ideas for content.

I proposed a target audience for the magazine earlier. Now, what would someone like that want to read in this format? Some ideas could include bar and restaurant reviews, fun things to do in or around the city, interviews with local personalities, and features on local businesses and business owners.

These topics would be good until we knew more and could further define our target audience. Through letters to the editor or a reader’s poll, for example, we could have learned that adding things like proposed weekend trips or fashion advice would be beneficial to our audience.

The more we knew what our audience wanted the better we could find advertisers to match. Do all that often enough in a fun, informative, and well-written manner and you are a resource, an authority. People will not only pick up and read but they will remember it when frequenting those advertisers.


What is a buyer persona?

The next thing is to segment your audience. How do you do that? By creating buyer personas. I had mentioned before that gathering information on demographics and whatnot would be important and here is why.

A target audience is a summary of the data that you have available and a buyer persona is a specific manifestation of that data – an ideal customer – and there is usually more than one.

For example:

Persona Name: Robert Reader

Background: Auditing clerk, married, no kids

Demographics: male, 31, $40,000

Goals: To start his own business

Outside interests: Plays pick up basketball every week. Goes on a long hiking trip at least once a month.

This is just the beginning of the information you can (should) compile. Once again, there are tools available online to help you with this, such as through Hootsuite, which offers a free template.

The main reason to do this is so you think of them as a real person and not just data points. This allows you to better craft messages to them. Your language will be more concrete. Your goals will be more specific.


How do you reach your audience with your content?

You’ve done your research, answered the questions, and have an audience in mind. You have a terrific product or service that fills a need or solves a problem. Whether it is B2B or B2C, the next step is getting the content out into the wild.

Now you have to find out where your people are, “because that’s where the money is” to give the quote attributed to infamous bank robber “Slick” Willie Sutton.

Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to be on every social network. Instead, you need to invest (time, money) in the platforms where your customers are most likely to be. How do you know where that is? You find out the demographics of each platform and compare that to where your target customer is most likely to be.

Once you are armed with that information, you can learn the type of content most likely to succeed on each platform so you will know not just where to be but how to be there. A blog post? A video? A graphic? It is even possible to tailor the same content to better fit with each platform since it’s unlikely all your audience will be in the same place.

It’s not just about being out there because that’s not enough. it’s about being visible and relevant and helpful. Our magazine was available at the pizza place where you were having lunch, that didn’t mean you were going to pick it up. And if you did, that you were going to like it.

Reaching our audience would have been actually having something worth their time.


Summing Up

When it comes to content marketing taking the, “throw it against the wall and see what sticks” approach rarely – if ever – works. You need to know who your audience is, where your audience is, what they want to see, and how they want to see it. Put all that together and you will find the right mix for your business.

And if anyone asks, I have a pretty good idea for a new magazine.

  • 17 June 2019

See all articles by Derrek Carriveau

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