Have you thought about starting a blog, a podcast, a video series, or maybe even publishing a book? If you have an important message you’d like to share with the universe, you probably know that you’ve got to get with the content craze and start producing some.
But before you start creating any content, there’s one thing you should do: Get to know your audience as well as you know a good friend.
Too many people—from aspiring authors to college professors to policy experts—rush into publishing blog posts, podcasts, and video content before they’ve deeply considered specific demographic and psychographic information about their target audience.
It’s not enough to simply say you want to reach “college students” or “Christian women” or even “baby goat enthusiasts,” as niche (and cute) as that sounds. You need to know your audience as well as you know a good friend. What are their dreams? What keeps them up at night? How do they spend their free time? Marketers call this creating a customer persona.
Before you create any content, create an in-depth audience profile by answering these questions. (Note: If you already have a following audience, you may have a good idea of how to answer most of these questions. If not, give it your best guess. But if you’re just starting out, answer these questions based on the audience you want to reach.)
- Predominantly male or female?
- Average age:
- Where do they live?
- Income level:
- Education level:
- Relationship status:
- Hobbies and interests:
- What motivates them?
- What are their dreams?
- What are the obstacles they face in reaching those dreams?
- What are their biggest pain points?
- What makes them happy?
After you’ve answered these questions the best you can, read over the answers a few times and give your audience a nickname that you think best describes them. Stressed-out Steve. Whimsical Wilma. Midlife-crisis Martin.
This is a pro-tip I learned from a successful author that helps personify an audience, reminding you to always think of them as one close friend rather than a faceless mass of many. Write down the name you’ve given your audience on a sticky note and place it near your computer or wherever you are when you’re creating content to remind yourself exactly who you are speaking to.
But Elise, I want to reach as many people as possible. Not just one person. How is this approach going to help me share my message with the world?
The trick here is that you need to start small to go big.
The world’s most successful authors, politicians, brands, and businesses start with a small and narrow scope. Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook as a social media website just for Harvard students. Today, people of all ages from all over the world use Facebook. Another great example is Anthropologie, a retail brand that knows exactly who their customer is:
30 to 45 years old, college or post-graduate education, married with kids or in a committed relationship, professional or ex-professional, annual household income of $150,000 to $200,000. [...] She’s well-read and well-traveled. She is very aware—she gets our references, whether it’s to a town in Europe or to a book or a movie. She’s urban minded. She’s into cooking, gardening, and wine. She has a natural curiosity about the world. She’s relatively fit.
Anthropologie’s customer description goes on and on, but there are plenty of women who shop at Anthropologie who don’t fit that description perfectly. In other words, if you aim for the headpin, you’ll knock the rest of the bowling pins down.
That is what I mean by starting small to go big. Anthropologie is an extremely successful company that doesn’t spend a penny on traditional advertising, and it’s because they treat their mass of customers as one, unique friend. Do you know your audience as well as Anthropologie knows their well-traveled, curious customer?
If not, the best way to get to know your audience is to interact with them on a regular basis, whether online or in person. Host a webinar and take note of who attends and what kind of questions you receive. Go on Facebook Live and ask your audience what information they want to learn from you. Take note of who is following you on social media and who is signing up for your email list. If you attend conferences or have the opportunity to speak at events, engage with individuals you believe are a part of your audience base. Take note of their unique characteristics and pain points. You may be surprised by what you learn.
It’s also a good idea to re-evaluate your audience a few times each year as you learn more and more about them and adjust your content based on what you learn.
Before you create any content, make sure you know your audience as well as you know a good friend.
In my next post, I’ll share more tips on speaking effectively to your audience that you should know before publishing your next piece of content.