Figuring out your target audience (reader, consumer, patient…) will tell you how to design the message around your product and service.
When I first slid into the world of content marketing, I heard the term “targeted audience” on every corner. This fictive audience made the world go round.
“I was talking to one of the writers about our target audience, and he was insulted that I used that term. But if you’re given $60 million to make a film, you’d better know who your target audience is. That’s who’s going to pay back the bills you run up.” — Michael Bay
The idea is simple. But technical parts of how to create a persona can spin your head to oblivion. How can you figure out anyone from the comfort of your living room? I knew 40 people in total, back when I first heard the term. And I had 7 friends. The idea of reaching some mysterious audience that will buy stuff I sell sounded like a premise to a David Lynch movie.
Fast-forward seven years into the future, and I’m writing about it. I’ve met thousands of people, noticed patterns, sold a bunch of stuff, became an author, and flew over a hundred times across the world.
Let’s imagine you have a product to promote (I had a bunch before I figured out this step.) Even better, let’s imagine you don’t have a product and you want to create one. The product can very well be your next novel, or fishing rods, or a specialized yoga course. The sky's the limit.
One more note before we dive into it — you can be your own targeted audience. Producing stuff for yourself is okay. If your story makes you smile, that’s a win. Help others by helping yourself.
15 questions for your avatar (target audience):
Research as much as you can to answer these questions. Talk to real people. If you’re planning to rock the Amazon self-publishing market with a new sci-fi thriller, it’s good to know people who’re buying that genre.
Channel your inner buyer. (Visualize them or draw a sketch of how they look if that helps.) Answer the following questions.
- What keeps them awake at night with eyes wide open?
- What are they afraid of?
- What makes them angry?
- What is their biggest frustration?
- What trends are going to affect them?
- What is their secret desire, one they wouldn’t even tell their therapist?
- Do they have a built-in bias? (Are they inclined to deny the science or believe in it religiously? What about political affiliation?)
- Do they have their own jargon? (“Wassup, my man.”)
- What magazines they’d buy?
- Do they usually read newspapers?
- What websites do they spend the most time on?
- How does their day look like?
- What is the underlying emotion of the market? (Yoga mats and happiness. Sci-fi thriller and surprise.)
- What is the one thing they’d crave above anything else?
- Would I buy this product? Or read this blog? Or pre-order this book?
Bring out a piece of paper and write every question down. Answer them one by one. Don’t worry if it takes time. Good things in life take time. Try to connect with other consumers. Engage yourself in online discussions around the problems. Ask these questions on Reddit, Quora, or Facebook to get second opinions.
Take a walk in your customer’s shoes for a day. Do what you think they would do for one afternoon. Feel what they’d feel. Ultimately, invite them for a cup of coffee and talk about cats.
The goal is to create a road map for your buyer. You’ll be ready to sell or create a product when you reach your ideal consumer. If you want to make money, someone has to spend money. I know that talking about this stuff might feel dirty, but if you wish to make money, you’ll have to invest your time in learning the game.
Take the afternoon off and figure out your consumer. Then you’ll know exactly how to provide value and where to advertise your product.
The target avatar
If you’re still confused with the concept, I don’t blame you. How the hell are you going to meet a fictive human?
The idea is to create an avatar. Building an avatar is like a method-acting of marketing. You’ll imagine your consumer the same way actors get into their characters. You’ll invite them for a coffee. Don’t worry, it’s not a real gathering. You don’t have to change your pajamas or anything. But you can fix yourself a coffee (or three).
“I‘m so happy ’cause today I found my friends. They’re in my head” — Nirvana
If you’re an extra creative soul, grab a sheet of paper and draw out your guy. I usually skip this step, but it might help you get into the whole deal faster.
Now, let’s imagine you’re selling a yoga course online. (I just bought one last week, and I love how it helps my back feel better after long writing sessions.)
Now, let’s answer the questions and imagine our costumer.
Marie Lars (entirely made up name)
- She’s a single social media manager. Marie lives in a one-bedroom rented apartment with her two cats, Coco and Alaska. She works from the comfort of her living room. She’s a vegan with occasional drunken relapses at McDonald’s that she barely remembers.
- She wears comfortable clothes and doesn’t really care about the latest fashion trends, but she’s always extremely organized and diligent.
- Marie has changed a few jobs since she graduated in finance in 2016. She started as a PA for Robert Moore, a commodity trader. But soon she realized that she can use her skills to live a free life of her own.
- She’s skillful with organizing calendars and following deadlines. She used this skill to push through three years of university — even though she was never that interested in the subjects of finance.
- Like most millennials, she’s keener on spending money on experiences, but she can’t escape online shopping.
- Her late-night Amazon binges got her in a bit of a financial pinch. Marie amassed a credit card debt of $7,000. Even though she makes enough money, she always ends up living month-to-month.
- She already made a backpacking trip through India and spontaneously overstayed her visa by renting a place in Goa. You can find Marie at Burning Man every year. She already has a burners family — even though she’d never mention it in casual conversations.
- She spends most of her time behind a computer managing 20 or so clients. She’s tech-savvy, but out of her depth when it comes to more technical IT terms. She works from home on most days, but sometimes that routine is killing her creativity. She decides to go out for a few glasses of wine at the back of a quiet restaurant on those days. She loves red wine and thinks that ordering a few Chardonnays is the best kind of office rent.
- She sometimes struggles with working hours, as she’s self-employed. She can’t really leave her work at work. And some days, she ends up going over client requests well deep into the night. On other days, she’ll hit the gym in the late afternoon. Her back hurt from always being crunched over a computer. She tried different chairs, stand-up tables, and Pilates ball. But nothing really did the trick. Her mother tells her to hire a chiropractor, but Marie has been thinking about something else. Something more in tune with her personality.
- Marie is always glued to her phone, continually texting and tweeting. She gets most of her news through social media links and YouTube. She’s a fan of The Daily Show and Trevor Noah. She calls her friends “besties” and thinks the term “woke” is overused and quite ironic. She’s also a supporter of the #meetoo movement and believes all victims should be heard. Maria follows a great deal of Instagram influencers, and she has a history of buying products they recommend.
- Maria is not really a fan of online subscriptions, even though she has a Netflix account. Her first option is to try to find something for free online. She sees any new or recurring monthly bill as massive stress for her financial state. (Even though a yearly subscription of an online service is 3X less expensive than that Fendy backpack she got last week.)
Can you imagine Maria? Is she someone you already know? Would you invite Maria to your living room and have a coffee with her?
What does Maria need? Where does it hurt? What makes her anxious? How can you help?
Maria would greatly appreciate something for her back. And your online yoga course is in tune with her personality. She’d very much support the cause.
Once you imagine your avatar, you’re ready for the next step. Now you have to figure out how to create and send your message to Maria.
Takeaways from creating a target audience
Carpet marketing is more of a gamble than an actual marketing strategy. I won’t even mention the cost of sending out pamphlets, billboards, YouTube videos, Google ads, and Instagram influencers.
If you don’t run a Fortune 500 company, carpet bombing your message is a gamble. Gambling is not a good strategy. You can only hope to score before your money runs out.
Figuring out your target audience (reader, consumer, or client) will tell you how to design your message. It will also hint at optimal promotion channels. Marie probably would never buy something advertised on TV or in the local print newspapers, but has a preference for social media.
Also, her personality tells you how to price your product. You might sell Maria one time-unlimited deal that she might be more comfortable with.
Every aspect above (marketing channels, message, price, etc…) is another hill to climb on your marketing journey.
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