Defining your target audience is one of the most critical pieces in your content marketing strategy. Before you even start the content creation process, you have to know who you’re making the content for. Are you writing this blog post for the business owner down the street? For the guy who walks your dog? For the old woman at the grocery store? The way you approach a piece of content will be very different depending on who you’re talking to. Just like Super Bowl ads are created specifically for the group of consumers who watch NFL football, you should only be creating marketing content for the group of people who would be interested in your goods or services.

Creating high-quality content takes a lot of time and effort, and you need to know exactly who you’re writing for so you don’t waste your valuable time creating content for people who aren’t your target market. Instead, focus your energy on the areas where you’ll be most productive and get the most return on your investment.

But there’s one big question.

How exactly do you figure out who your target audience is?

Start by asking questions

The first step to finding your target market is examining who your company exists for. You probably started your business because you identified a gap in the market that you knew you could fill. You exist to serve a specific group of people who are searching for your product or service as a solution to their problems, but who exactly are they? Ask yourself a few preliminary questions to get a feel for who your ideal customer is:

  • Who are my current customers? What demographics do they fit into and what do they have in common? If you’re not sure about this, your business and website analytics can probably help. Keep in mind that you might have a few different “types” of customers. You can segment your customers up by need, location, demographics, etc. to get a better idea of who they are.
  • What problem or need does my business solve? And, who are the people who have this problem to begin with?
  • Who are my competitors? What need do their products meet?
  • Why do my customers choose my business over my competitors? What do I offer that nobody else offers? What things do I do better than my competitors?

Once you’ve asked yourself these questions, write down all of your answers to get a clearer picture of who your customers actually are. Think through who your business actually serves, what their problems are, and how your business uniquely solves them.

Next, talk to your customers. A lot of them. You can conduct audience interviews in forums, over social media, in focus groups, on the phone, or in person over coffee. Ask them directly what their problems are and why they choose you over someone else. What are their biggest pain points and how would they be solved in an ideal world? Get into the minds of your customers and establish deep empathy for what their needs actually are, not what you think they are.

You want to develop deep empathy for who these people are. Once you have talked with enough of your customers and tried to feel the specific frustrations and motivations they feel on a day-to-day basis, you’ll be much more prepared to create products and marketing content that better serves those needs and improves the lives of the real people who your business interacts with.

Other ways to find your target audience

In addition to conducting face-to-face customer interviews, here are a few more ways to get a clearer idea of who your target customer is:

  1. Conduct Regular User Surveys
  2. Use Google Analytics
  3. Use Facebook Insights to find your target audience
  4. Use your Twitter Dashboard to find your target audience
  5. Run an annual audience survey
  6. Monitor your social media engagement
  7. Monitor your best and worst content to see what your customers are actually searching for
  8. Ask for audience feedback with email marketing
  9. Analyze your competition’s twitter followers
  10. Ask your social followers for feedback
  11. Analyze customer data
  12. Use Social Listening Tools

This process of talking with your customers should not be a one-time thing. You should always be having ongoing conversations with your audience to be sure you’re still meeting their needs and providing them with solutions that work.

Next, create a buyer persona

There are three types of people who will likely be part of the audience (or audiences) you identified during the questioning stage: the people who actually pay for your goods and services, the people who influence the people that pay for your goods and services, and your brand supporters

All of these audiences are important to your business and should play into your marketing strategy, but the main focus of your content marketing should be the person who is actually buying your product – because after all, they’re the person who determines the success of your business in the long run.

Now, using the information you gleaned from your customer interviews, create an extremely detailed description of who this person is, or a “buyer persona.”

Writing your buyer persona

Open a new document (ideally one that can be shared by your entire organization) and begin writing a profile of who your ideal customer is. Write as if this was an actual person you were describing. You should be including things like:

  • Their name (if this is a real person, use their name. If not, use a name that would fit this fictional person you are describing.)
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Profession
  • Where they live
  • Whether they have a family
  • What they do in their spare time
  • Problems they encounter
  • How they found your business
  • How frequently they interact with your business

Go into as much detail as possible. Discuss how many children they have, whether they have pets, what type of home they live in, what they do on a typical Friday night. You want to know exactly who you are creating content for, so the more detail you include in this description, the easier it will be for you to tailor-make your content to meet their needs and convince them that your company is the only one that can meet those needs. When you’ve finished writing an initial description of them, find a photo that fits this persona. If it’s a real person, use their photo. If not, use a stock photo that fits who you’ve written about.

Next, describe their main motivations. What drives them to get out of bed in the morning? What motivates them at work? Why do they need your product and what persuades them to go get it? Working on this motivation piece of your buyer persona will be much easier after you’ve learned more about who they are through writing their bio – at this stage, you’re more able to get inside their head and decipher what drives them and why they’re seeking out your business. This is a critical piece of the buyer persona puzzle because if you know what motivates your customer and the pain points they have, you’re more able to provide them solutions that fit into those motivations.

Finally, now that you’ve finished the biography and motivation pieces of the puzzle, the last step is to identify your potential opportunities. Out of the pain points and motivations, you wrote down, where does your business intersect with those needs? This is where your content comes in and what you’ll focus all of your content marketing strategy around.

Start creating content for your target audience

Now you know exactly who you’re creating content for, and now you can get to work. This ideal customer persona should be the focus of all of the content you create, and it should be kept somewhere easily accessible by your entire content team so you can refer back to it frequently. If you ever feel like you’re getting off-track in your content strategy, come back to your buyer persona to ensure that you’re still focused on meeting their needs.

Use your content as an opportunity to talk about what your audience cares about, not about yourself or what you care about. You want them to view you as a resource and a source of authority that they’ll keep coming back to. Focus on creating high-quality content and not just about sticking to your content calendar or pushing blog posts out the door.

And remember, at the end of every piece of content you create should be a “call to action” where you ask your audience to take a step to solve their pain point by buying your product, signing up for a consultation, starting a free trial, or whatever the next step in buyer journey is. Good content builds trust among your readers, and once they trust you, it’s not hard to convince them to convert.

Want more expert help nailing down your content marketing strategy? Sign up for a free consultation with a Big Leap content expert and learn how much further you could be going with smart content marketing.

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