6 Ways to Understand Your Target Audience

14 Feb 2023


All great writing starts with understanding the target audience. Marketing guru David Ogilvy once remarked: “Don’t just create content to get credit for being clever. Create content that will be helpful, insightful, or interesting for your target audience.”

Ogilvy was right.

Reaching one’s target audience is about delivering useful and relevant content. Content creators trying to sound smart often alienate their target audience by delivering content disconnected from the target audience’s interests.

Hitting the mark requires careful attention to the target audience’s interests, needs, background, education level, and aims; in short, everything. Reaching target audiences is an exercise in discovery. That is why this discussion focuses on six ways authors can reach their intended audience.

Importance of Understanding the Target Audience

Connecting with a target audience catapults effective writing to the next level.

Striking a chord with audiences allows authors to get their message to the right readers. Nevertheless, the importance of reaching the target goes beyond understanding how they tick.

Here are four key reasons why understanding the target audience is crucial to successful writing.

Identify unmet needs.

Getting inside the target audience’s minds allows authors and content creators to spot unaddressed or under-addressed areas.

For instance, specific audiences may be craving to read about a trending topic. This knowledge allows content creators to focus on delivering what the intended audience truly wants. In doing so, authors can kickstart their financial incentives while boosting the content’s visibility.

Capture the audience’s attention.

There is nothing more counterproductive than publishing lackluster content. Please bear in mind the issue does not lie in the content itself. Unfortunately, top-quality content may fall flat since it does not reach the right audience. That is why understanding the target audience’s thoughts is crucial in capturing their attention. When content hits the mark, it resonates with the audiences in a deeply meaningful way.

For example, a personal narrative about surviving a serious illness can easily resonate with other survivors and their family members. The narrative must, therefore, contain language, information, and insights relevant to the readers.

Establish audience segments.

A common mistake is to paint with a broad brush. While some publications may have mass appeal, most nonfiction materials cater to specific market niches. Therefore, understanding the target audience allows content creators and publishers to cater to the proper segments.

For instance, a sports publication covering a wide range of sports divides its content into specific sports. In doing so, fans of certain sports know what content to consume. This segmentation allows audiences to consume the content and information that is truly relevant to them.

Allocate resources.

Resources are scarce. Staff writing time, publishing space, and audience attention are examples of key considerations for resource allocation. Gaining useful insights into the target audience allows content creators to focus their resources on what truly matters.

For instance, a gardening magazine focuses on producing content related to growing vegetables indoors during winter. This decision allows content creators and publishers to allocate publishing space to material readers want to consume at that point in time.

Ultimately, understanding the nuts and bolts of a target audience is crucial. However, the question remains: “How can content creators and publishers get to know their target audience?”

The answer to that question is broken up into six parts.

6 Ways to Understand the Target Audience

The following strategies can greatly enhance authors’ and publishers’ understanding of their target audience.

1. Using Market Research to Gain Insights Into the Target Audience

Market research is a staple of the advertising industry. Advertisers rely heavily on market research to design campaigns that click with their target audience. After all, advertisers want to sell products and services.

It makes sense, therefore, to focus on gaining insights into what makes the intended audience click.

Market research includes a number of tools, such as demographic information, income distribution, geographical location, and consumption patterns.

These information types are generally available via government statistics and academic research. Using them can greatly enhance a publication’s success.

Consider this situation:

A newspaper wants to know who reads print newspapers nowadays. The data shows that older demographics purchase print newspapers in predominantly urban areas. These folks have an above-average income level and financial position.

The big question now is: “What content do readers want to consume?”

There is a highly effective way of gaining this knowledge: surveys.

Authors and publishers can conduct surveys to boost their understanding of the target audience. However, a good rule of thumb is to find out if survey information is already available. Purchasing survey data can facilitate getting to know the target audience.

2. Identifying Target Audience Wants and Needs

Spotting what the target audience wants boils down to knowing what content they want to consume. Fortunately, finding out what the target audience wants and needs is much easier than one might believe.

The most effective way is to identify what the target audience is asking.

While surveys are effective, they can take time and become costly. A solid alternative to surveys is social media. Content creators and publishers have increasingly turned to social media as a way to connect with the target audience.

Social media allows content creators to ask their target audience, simply, what content they want. Please remember to pay attention to the details. Readers are more than willing to voice their opinions and concerns when given the opportunity. As a result, paying attention to detail can reveal a plethora of useful insights.

For instance, an online fashion publication frequently conducts opinion polls on social media to collect information for upcoming issues. The polls are short but allow users to include any details they wish. To sweeten the deal, participants enter sweepstakes for prizes and rewards.

3. Designing Tailor-Made Campaigns

One of the outcomes of understanding the target audience is designing tailor-made campaigns. Nevertheless, custom campaigns can also help provide more insight into the target audience’s thoughts.

There is a key component to this approach: collecting feedback.

Feedback allows content creators to visualize what worked and what did not. Doing so provides first-hand data on what the audience wants and how they want it delivered.

Consider this example:

A print magazine plans to move to a predominantly digital format. However, the publisher wants to know if this move will resonate with their readers. So, the magazine runs a series of ads in their print publication offering a free three-month digital subscription. Readers are enticed to sign up to get the promotion and receive access to bonus online content.

The publisher plans to measure the campaign’s success by measuring the number of newly registered users and how many continue their subscriptions following the three-month trial.

Upon renewal, subscribers are asked to provide feedback indicating specifically why they decided to renew their subscription.

Similarly, subscribers deciding to opt out are asked to provide feedback regarding their decision.

The publisher takes the data to determine if moving to a fully digital approach is feasible. Moreover, the publisher can determine what content has worked best.

Please remember that using tailor-made campaigns can provide a great deal of insight into the target audience. Customized actions serve testing purposes. At the end of the day, authors and publishers can pinpoint what works and what does not.

4. Creating Specialized Campaigns

Using customized campaigns for testing purposes is a highly effective way of obtaining highly relevant data. However, some campaigns may be too broad, particularly when dealing with specific market segments.

Niche publications, those catering to very specific audiences, may need to resort to specialized campaigns.

A specialized campaign focuses on individual market segments. These segments may be quite small but highly profitable. Therefore, it pays to get a deeper appreciation of what makes these segments tick.

Consider this situation:

A trade publication targets C-suite executives in the tech sector. This highly specialized niche segment represents a lucrative opportunity. So, the publication wants to test a new bulletin service aimed at delivering breaking news and analysis.

The publisher plans a blanket approach among C-suite executives within the industry. Executives get a free one-month trial and then a discounted rate for a one-year subscription renewal.

Like the previous campaign example, the publisher wants to know how many executives sign up beyond the trial period. Moreover, the publisher asks for feedback on the bulletin service.

Now, here is an interesting twist to this approach.

The publication asks executives if they would be willing to provide a testimonial. The publisher intends to post the testimonials on its social media handles.

Overall, specialized campaigns intend to home in on highly specific segments. They can help test new products while learning more about what drives the target audience.

5. Knowing Where to Find the Target Audience

One of the most important aspects of understanding the target audience is knowing where to find them. This proposition goes beyond geographic location. It involves identifying their online and offline presence, consumer behavior, and preferred media.

So, the question becomes: “Where can one find the target audience?”

Finding the target audience depends largely on demographics. For instance, older demographics, predominantly, prefer print materials over digital media. In contrast, younger demographics are predominantly digital-based.

A good place to start searching for the right audience is social media.

Nowadays, the number of social media users encompasses a significant chunk of the total population.

Thus, reaching out to audiences on social media allows content creators to spot their targets.

Please bear in mind that physical locations are still highly relevant. Public places such as bars, restaurants, shopping malls, and places of learning can provide opportunities to reach the right audience.

Consider this unconventional approach:

An online sports betting site offers a subscription service. Bettors sign up for the service to access insider information. The site’s publisher launched a campaign in sports bars. The campaign was simple. The publisher placed QR codes on tables so users could scan the codes to get access to betting information. From there, users could choose to subscribe or merely access free content.

This example highlights how looking in the right places can facilitate finding the right audience. More often than not, it takes thinking outside the box to reach the right folks.

6. Building Materials for the Target Audience

The previous points have pinpointed figuring out the target audience’s inner workings. Unfortunately, all of that hard work can be unsuccessful if the content itself does not meet the target audience’s expectations.

Consider this situation:

An insurance company uses a corporate blog to provide product and service information. Each blog post aims to present a scenario in which insurance is highly useful. Consequently, the material must match the target audience’s expectations.

The target audience comprises working-age adults, mostly parents, who want to protect their assets and families. They mainly work full-time jobs plus have family responsibilities at home. As a result, they do not have much time to spare. So, the insurer runs a series of short-form blog posts, between 500 and 1,000 words, to provide specific information. At the end of each post, readers are prompted to contact a service representative for more information.

This approach works well, considering the target audience’s specific circumstances. In contrast, going with a long-form blog, with posts upwards of 3,000 words, may become too long for busy people to read.

Ultimately, designing the right materials for the right audience can become an unbeatable combination. Above all, feedback allows content creators and publishers to refine ideas to meet their audiences’ expectations continually.


The Final Word

Understanding the target audience is a critical task successful content creators and publishers take seriously. But there’s one extremely important consideration: Audiences change with time. Understanding the target audience also involves understanding how their thoughts, needs, and wants can change.

Consequently, ongoing research into understanding the target audience provides critical intelligence on how to proceed moving forward. Staying on top of shifting interests and ideas significantly contributes to successful content and materials.

Undoubtedly, understanding the target audience is an ongoing endeavor content creators must strive to perfect in order to maximize the impact of their content marketing campaigns.

Zach Richter 

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