When it comes to web content, one of the biggest secrets to potential success isn’t really a secret. In fact, it’s a pretty common piece of advice. The problem is, most content marketers either don’t take it seriously, or they don’t understand how to act on the advice in a meaningful way.
What’s the advice? Write for a specific target audience. On the surface, this seems self-evident and straightforward, but if you think about it: Are you certain your content is tailored to one audience specifically? Or could it just as easily be applied to everyone?
The Problem With “Everyone”
Writing for “everyone” broadens your audience in theory, but it also tends to lower your overall relevance. If you want to achieve the greatest possible relevance, you need to use specific strategies that laser-focus your message to your intended demographic.
1. Do thorough research to understand your target demographics better. You can’t write for a demographic you don’t thoroughly understand. Audience analysis should be your highest priority and your first goal in the process. Remember the buyers are your highest priority here; don’t just focus on a group of people who might be interested in your products, but focus on the people who are most likely to buy. What are their ages? What are their interests? What are their values? How do they think, talk, and act? Do thorough market research and conduct surveys that will get you complete answers.
2. Select your mediums and channels to suit your demographics. Don’t publish in the places that are most obvious or most convenient for you. Instead, hunt down the platforms, channels, and mediums that your target audience uses most actively. Transform your strategy to get in front of them and suit their needs. For example, Taco Bell knows its audience of youngsters are probably using social media actively, so it targets them there.
3. Decide on a level of vocabulary. Next you’ll need to decide on a general “level” of vocabulary. This will mostly depend on the levels of education and industry familiarity your audience possesses. If you speak with too high a vocabulary, you’ll turn your audience away; on the other hand if you employ a vocabulary that’s too casual or vulgar, you’ll probably come across as unprofessional. For example, the New England Journal of Medicine uses a much different vocabulary from the one WebMD employs.
4. Choose your subject matter carefully. This should also go without saying, but one of your biggest priorities in the planning phase should be choosing your topics with great care. You’ll want to find subject matter that appeals to buyers in your demographics, and within a certain frame of your buy cycle — which of course is easier said than done. With a good topic as a start, you’ll do a better job of both attracting and retaining the readers you want.
1. Call out your audiences by name. This is such an obvious tactic, it’s too often overlooked. Instead of using subverted tactics to appeal to a target audience, simply announce the audience you’re targeting in each piece of content (or section of your site) you produce. This is ideal for companies with multiple target audiences. Take Sandata as an example, which calls out its three main audiences of payers, providers, and participants on its homepage. If you include even a handful of keywords in the right location, you can clue people in to the audience you’re really writing for, filter out uninterested leads, and further attract the people who will be most interested in your products.
2. Create a character for your brand. It’s hard to develop a “voice” that’s different from your own, but if you want to appeal to a target audience, that’s what you’ll likely need to do. One of the best exercises for this is to create a separate “character” for your brand. Think of your brand as a person, or fictional character. What type of person would that be? How would he or she look, dress, and behave in public? Sketch out as many details as you can, then try to enter the mind of this person. How would this character talk to a member of your target demographics? Use this mental positioning to guide your voice when you write.
3. Gather and incorporate feedback. This is by far the most important piece of advice. No matter how sure of your strategy you are, always make the effort to gather and act on feedback from your audience, and remember that feedback can come in many forms, from many places. Your audience’s reception, whether as comments, shares, or likes, are all forms of feedback, as are responses to surveys you implement or basic questions you pose to your existing customer base.
Find out what angles you’ve worked that really hit home, and which strategies just aren’t panning out, and modify your efforts accordingly.
These strategies serve to identify, with specificity, the key ways your web content can speak more directly to a target audience. With practice, this will all become more natural to you, but in the meantime, use these exercises and directives with deliberate care.
It’s both an art and a science to write to a specific audience — it requires both a smooth touch and objective data analysis — but the end result will be worth the effort.