When I began blogging, I was told to write to a specific person in my life, as that would resonate with more readers. Stephen King calls this person his “ideal reader.” In business school, they called it your “target demographic,” which has been changed in recent years to be “target audience” — I’m not sure why, maybe for broader appeal.
They all mean pretty much the same thing, but there are many techniques for finding them. Here are a few that I’ve tried:
- Data-mining other people’s audiences: looking at the followers, frequent commenters, etc., of creators to me and see what they all have in common.
- Hashtag experiments on social media: after creating a “word cloud” of content ideas, post on social media with those as hashtags and see which ones are popular, then see who’s following.
- Audience templates: this is like King’s ideal reader — you make up the sort of person interested in a subject and create with that person in mind.
Honestly, this list can go on for an article all its own. There are many techniques out there, and I’ve tried many of them, but only one ever worked. Hint: it wasn’t any of the ones above.
Why speculative techniques don’t work
Most methods of coming up with a target audience net subpar results because you’re making up who this person is. You’re basically gambling with your results.
Do you feel lucky?
Let’s look at the audience template method for a second. For this method, you literally think about your product or content and come up with (invent from your own mind) the sort of person who would like it. Seriously, that’s how you start. Once you have this person in mind, you fine-tune them as your actual audience grows, if they ever do.
You don’t want to waste a year’s worth of work…marketing to the wrong crowd.
I know some people hit a home run or have their finger on the pulse of humanity and find that perfect person for the content they create or product they sell, but that was never me. Maybe I’m not as empathic as I think?
If you’re anything like me (and you probably are), you don’t want to waste a year’s worth of work, or longer, only to learn that there’s nothing wrong with what you are creating; you’re just marketing it to the wrong crowd.
Let’s not gamble our careers away
There’s a way to ensure that you will find the exact target audience for you, and it’s easier than you think. In fact, it’s so simple that you’ll dismiss it the moment you learn it. What’s the secret? Market to yourself.
That’s right. You are your target market. It sounds simple enough, but it’s really not so easy, I assure you.
There are thousands of people who are into at least three of the same things that you are.
We’ve all been brought up to think that we are not good enough, that we don’t know enough, and that we have to fake it until we make it. So, naturally, we wouldn’t want to cater to someone that broken…would we? Of course, we would.
I’m sorry to be the one to tell you, but you aren’t all that unique. There is nothing you have been through that another person hasn’t also been through. There’s also nothing you’re interested in that another person is not also interested in. In fact, you’re so non-unique that there are thousands of people who are into at least three of the same things that you are.
Don’t believe me? How many people do you know who like Marvel movies, nice cars, and fitness? Not just one or two; they have to like all three. I’ll bet you came up with one or two people. Hell, maybe you are even on that list. It doesn’t have to be an equal interest (I like all three, but nice cars are not as high on my list as the other two, for instance).
How to use this target audience to your advantage
Who do you know that understands your needs and desires — what will get you to make a purchase — better than you? No one. There might be people who know you so well that they come close, but they are not in your skin; they are not you.
So when you create for yourself and market in a way that would target yourself as an ideal reader, a target audience, then you’ll net the highest result every time.
There’s no guesswork in this. You know what you like. You’ll create for that; you’ll market for it. And when others who share your interests spot it, they’ll feel like you are talking to them.
The reason this technique works is the same reason why nothing is for everyone. Creative works are subjective because not everyone shares the same interests as the creator, who honestly poured their heart and soul into their project.
Create something that you’ll love, market it in a way that would catch your own attention, and you’ll find your target audience in no time.
Now, go get ‘em!
Follow me for more like this, Ryan M. Danks.