Know Your Audience

Congratulations! You’re on the path to discovering the joy of making authentic connections with the people who are essential to your success. 

You have a clear goal in mind and you’ve established your marketing objectives. This is terrific news, and I’m really excited for you!

What’s the next step? It’s to specifically identify who you want to share this content with. It’s targeting your audience by developing personas. Personas are fictional narratives you create that reflect what you understand about the people you want to attract. While this does require some research, it does not require hiring a research firm, although you can if you want to (and there are times when I would recommend you do.)

In this case, the good news is that you can use secondary research. This is research that is already published and easily found online, and for these same reasons, I recommend you be selective about it, curating research from reliable sources only.

So what is this secondary research you might be wondering? It’s data, key findings, stats, news articles, leadership team bios and the like. Add to this research your own qualitative insights about your audience(s) or what you know about their hopes and fears. Your current and former clients can help you here. Then synthesize your findings with your insights to write a representative profile, or persona.

The story you craft will help you better understand and relate to the person you want to engage.

Here’s a quick example between a traditional "target" and a persona --

A target says we want to attract someone who is typically:

Runs a company headquartered in New Jersey
Is between 45-60 years old

A persona, tells us about someone. Let’s call him “Chuck”:          

Chuck is CEO of an engineering company located outside of Trenton, New Jersey. He resides in affluent Somerset County where the 2013 median household income exceeds $150,000. This is the third company he’s founded over the last 35 years. His current company is on the Fortune 500 List and was voted as NJ’s Best Places to Work for the past two years. He’s a sought-after speaker at industry trade associations and was interviewed by the Wall Street Journal for his philanthropic work in developing our nation’s next generation of students who want to pursue STEM careers (science, technology, engineering and mathematics.)

Now you know a lot about Chuck as someone who represents a target market. You might even have a picture in your mind about what Chuck looks like. If you do, find a free to use (with permission) or low-cost stock photo and add it to your persona. All of this is going to make it much easier to create content that resonates, or even captivates, people who are like Chuck.

Getting started is easy.

The personas you write should be specific to your market and your goals. That said, I want to share this short list of secondary research sources that are more general in nature but will also spark your own ideas for sources that will be most helpful to you. (You can also reach out to me, and I’m happy to noodle some with you.)

  • National databases, such as the US Census. If you’re in the K-12 education market, try the National Center for Education Statistics

  • Commercial data providers, such as Dun and Bradstreet

  • News and Magazines – look for annual statistical reports, many of which are free, or whitepapers and case studies available through organizations like the Harvard Business Review   (note: some of HBR’s content is monetized.)

  • Industry Associations – these organizations offer news, research, and in-depth articles on some of the trends, legislation, and issues affecting their members.

Social media is a good source for anecdotal information that helps to round out your understanding of the people you want to attract. Look for trending topics, top influencers, and the content being shared. What you discover may be news to you or even point you in the direction of more sources for secondary research, just remember to vet your sources.

Your marketing content should be targeted to a specific group of people. Developing personas puts you one step closer to resonating with those individuals which is mission-critical when you want to motivate someone or influence behavior.

Does this mean your content can drive behavior? Yes it does! And, it sounds like a great topic for our next blog post. See you then! In the meantime, go forth and research, and have some fun with it!