Originally posted on the AMA blog.
It doesn’t matter if you’re developing content to represent your brand, giving a keynote presentation or attempting to cheer up your child’s little league team, no matter the communication channel or reason, it’s vitally important to understand your target audience.
We’re all marketers so this is the least groundbreaking statement of all time.
So what do we, as marketers, do? When we have budget and time, we rely on market research to enlighten us. But what do we do if we don’t have that kind of capital? What if we can’t spend our time sorting through analytics? What if we’re looking for a simple, repeatable process that will provide the insights we need?
While the following is not scientific, it is a clear framework that encourages good conversations. Without further ado, we present the five key questions to understanding your target audience.
Question 1: Step back and ask ‘what are my objectives?’
When approaching content, clear, concise objectives must be established. And by objectives, we don’t mean a laundry list of hopes and dreams but rather simple, practical goals that can be directly linked to the specific content you are producing.
In order to organize objectives, we find it helpful to group them into three categories:
High Level Corporate Objectives – The overall corporate goals (like, “increase sales”).
Project or Campaign Objectives – The goals of the marketing campaign that the content or communication will live in (like, “appealing to a younger demo to diversify our customer base”).
Content Objectives – These objectives are the specific purpose for the specific piece of content you are producing (like, “gain exposure for our new spokesperson… who will appeal to a younger generation and in turn increase sales”).
It’s important as marketers to take a step back, look at the big picture and fully evaluate what we’re trying to achieve from the top down.
Question 2: ‘Who is your market segment?’
Now is the time to start defining you target audience. Most people think of target audiences in one of two ways: as a demographic breakdown (gender/age/location) or high level as a blanket statement (ie. “everyone”).
As we motioned in the post’s preamble, if you lack the empirical data required to use demographics to determine your target audience we are forced to eliminate that approach. And the thought of simply using blanket statements makes me shudder.
A better way to break down it down is to use market segments. Market segmentation is a strategy that breaks your audience into groups that share common goals, pain points or needs. This will help you determine who your primary target audience is (those you are specifically targeting with your content). Next, you are able to determine your secondary target (those who you may hit with the content but are not your primary target). And lastly, there’s everyone else. While this final group, ‘everyone else’, often represent a huge group that is tempting to go after, we always need to remember they’re not actually our targets.
This strategy becomes especially valuable when you begin to consider the next question within our list.
Question 3: ‘What are your audience’s motivations?’
The simple truth is that you can’t develop targeted content if you are targeting different groups with different motivations. That’s why it’s important to segment your audience.
So how do you know if your target audiences have conflicting interests? You have to take the time to think through the pains, interests, and motivations of each group.
You most likely have a clear idea of what your motivations are and what you want to communicate but what you really need to know is what your targets want to hear.
If you find that your target groups have competing interests, the solution is difficult but simple. You simply can’t effectively speak to two competing groups and you need to cut a target. This is often hard but the only other option is to compromise your content, which will lead to unfocused, watered-down, confusing messaging.
Question 4: ‘What is my target audience’s mindset?’
Every person within a given target audience brings with them baggage, biases, and preconceived notions. So you need to ask yourself if your content, messaging or claims will be met with a fandom or hostility. The mindset of your audience will help determine how you shape your content.
Question 5: ‘Where will my audience engage with this content?’
Distribution strategy is often thought of as the last step in a marketing campaign but it actually plays a huge role in what type of content you create. For example, a video that is created for a social network will have different strategy and an overall look and feel when compared to a video that is meant for a tradeshow or website.
In order to develop a targeted distribution strategy you need to understand where you audience will be looking for your content. Once you understand this you can determine how your audience wants to be communicated with. This will factor in content’s creative, messaging, and voice.
All of these key components will be baked into your final content so it’s opportune to think through distribution before you start.