Are you truly speaking to your desired audiences?

You’ve got a great product. And you’ve created some amazing content to tell everyone how great it is. So, you post that amazing content about your great product to the most popular social media channels. And wait. And … nothing happens. Minimal engagement, no new contact submissions, and no bump in sales. What the heck?

Ask the right questions

The truth is that even the most well-crafted content touting the most useful product or service the world has to offer can fall flat if the right people aren’t reading it. Much like the tenets of good journalism, successful marketing relies on honestly answering the who, what, when, where, and why questions:

  • Who should you market to?
  • What do they want or need to hear?
  • When are they most likely to see your content?
  • Where should you post it?
  • Why are you making the effort?

The answers to each of these questions are important, but figuring out the first one will help you answer the rest and also establish a strong foundation for the rest of your content strategy. This week, we’ll tackle the first of those two crucial building blocks.

Who should you be talking to?

When you decided to open your business or market your services, you probably dreamed about all the people who would buy what you’re selling. Every business in town could use a commercial cleaning service! All the families within a 100-mile radius will visit my gourmet yogurt shop! Every person on earth needs this bamboo toothbrush! That’s millions — perhaps billions — of sales!

But let’s be honest. Not every business has a brick-and-mortar facility to clean and others are small enough for the staff to tidy up. Some people are lactose-intolerant or prefer a carton of Ben and Jerry’s on the couch to driving for a scoop of your fancy fro-yo. And even though toothbrushing is a fairly common activity (we hope), some folks like to use electric brushes or the plastic version they get after a visit to the dentist, even if your version does help to save the planet.

Identifying your target audience goes well beyond their perceived needs and preferences. You also need to know who can afford to buy your products and services. They might be interested in reading about all the features of your tricked-out bass boat, but due to its $85,000 price tag, they aren’t actually potential customers.

You also have to consider who actually makes purchasing decisions within a business or household. A human resources manager may be dazzled by what your vending machine can offer to her employees, but it’s the CFO who has to be convinced of its benefits. Likewise, most every member of a family uses some form of hand soap, but it’s usually up to a parent to decide which brand they buy. 

Picture your buyer

Rarely will your product or service apply to or appeal to a wide-ranging audience. It’s more likely that your target audience — those who should be on the receiving end of your marketing messages, videos, visuals, and written content — is much more narrow and precisely defined. The best way to figure out who you should be talking to is to create a buyer persona.

A buyer persona is a detailed description of your ideal customer, including everything from demographic information to likely lifestyle choices. Your persona should be so detailed, in fact, that it includes an image of what the person looks like and even a name that it succinctly illustrates the description you’ve created, like “Harried Housewife Harriett” or “Rich and Retired Ralph.” Your goal is to have this particular person in mind when you create your marketing content.

Let’s say you sell high-end pet cages — they’re the Yeti of cat and canine containers. One of the uses of your cages is to comfortably and securely transport dogs on hunting trips. To build a persona for this purpose, you have to picture the dog’s owner (and potential pet cage buyer):

Demographics (gender, age, income, education, profession, marital status, etc.):

Hunter Harvey is a 45-year-old white CPA. Harvey graduated from Auburn University and built a successful accounting firm, from which he enjoys an income of over $250,000 from his business plus passive income from sound investments. Harvey is married to a part-time nurse and has two kids in high school. He leases three late-model vehicles, including Harvey’s Ford SuperDuty F250 King Ranch truck. He lives in a large brick house in a gated suburban community with a spacious fenced backyard where his beloved German shorthaired pointer Maeve has plenty of room to roam.

Lifestyle (interests, hobbies, activities, etc.):

Harvey loves his alma mater and supports its sports programs — especially football. He is also a hands-on dad who spends time at his kids’ extracurricular activities. Harvey appreciates quality, and doesn’t mind spending money on something that’s well-made (preferably in the USA) and will last. He worked hard to build his business from the ground up, and now that it’s doing well and his teenagers are self-sufficient he feels justified in taking long weekends and annual vacations for his favorite activity: Hunting.

You can continue to flesh out Harvey’s persona with even more detail if you’d like, even down to characteristics like what he reads and where he shops (brick-and-mortar or online). The more thorough, the better. Of course, Hunter Harvey probably isn’t your only target customer, so feel free to build several profiles like these for every persona you believe will be looking for what you offer.

In our next lesson we’ll put these personas to work as we answer a few more of these “who, what, when, why, and how” questions!