Stay in Focus: Remembering Your Audience and Message

01 Nov 2009


When you’re in the middle of a copywriting job, there’s an age-old marketing maxim that can be hard to remember – and it can sometimes be hard to convey to clients: You can’t be all things to all people.

Good copy does two things: It speaks to a specific, targeted audience AND it has a specific, focused message. The two go hand in hand. If you try to talk to several target audiences at once, or if your message is too broad, you’ll end up with copy that’s the equivalent of lukewarm, watery coffee.

No one wants that.


How to Find Your Target Audience:

A target audience can still be fairly broad, but it needs to be identified. Sometimes it’s just a matter of asking your client. Sometimes, they might not know. A few ways to sort and identify target audiences is by:

1. Gender
2. Age
3. Profession
4. Interest/Hobby
5. Income

You may find that, more often than not, your target audience falls in between several of those categories. For instance, I would guess that video game companies traditionally target young men under 30 with time and cash to spare.

Another way to identify your target audience is to ask questions such as Who is buying your product or service? and Who do you want to pay attention to you?

When you don’t have a defined audience, you can’t have defined copy. You can’t, for instance, write a marketing piece that’s aimed at national advertisers, local businesses, customers, and teenagers. That’s because these group have no common links – they each have their own needs, their own perspective. You’d be better off creating marketing materials for each group, because trying to write a single piece directed to all of them is going to be a jumbled, generic disaster.


How to Choose a Specific Message:

Your message always comes AFTER you identify your target audience. That’s because you can’t start crafting a message until you know who you’re talking to, who’s going to be interested in this product or service, or why they need it.

Now, all copy needs to be persuasive, well-written, and focused on identifying differentiators and benefits. Once again, you can’t be all things to all people.

Your message should do two things:

1. It should identify a problem that your target market faces.
2. It should offer a solution to that problem.

Once you’ve identified both the problem and the solution, start crafting single sentence theses. This won’t necessarily be your company’s slogan or new campaign, but it will help keep your thoughts organized as you develop your marketing materials. And it will help you identify different angles and avenues for your marketing campaign.

For example, a new energy drink could take many different routes with an email advertising campaign. Here are some examples of marketing messages (not slogans) that the company could take:

DrinkX gives you the energy you need without the jitters you get from caffeine or the crash you get from sugary drinks.

Five great flavors means you won’t only get the energy you need from DrinkX – you’ll actually enjoy drinking it.

The first message focuses on the fact that DrinkX doesn’t contain caffeine or sugar. The second message is all about taste (literally). Either message may work, as long as it correctly addresses a problem that the target audience perceives concerning energy drinks (either, a problem with energy drinks causing jitters, or a problem with energy drinks tasting terrible).

Now, if the message you use is the wrong one, you may end up wasting a lot of cash. But, if you can’t decide between the messages, you’ll have the same problem: spending a lot of money going back and forth, trying to target different audiences.

Applying the Message:

Where do you go from there? Well, there are a couple of options. For small campaigns, keep things simple: try two targeted landing pages on your website. Draw traffic with pay-per-click ads and measure the results. Which one does better? That’s the correct message; stick with it.

If you’re launching a massive marketing campaign with print, radio, web, and TV ads, you have a few options. You can run complete campaigns in different regions and see which one does better (lots of cash required for this option). A more affordable route is to do some basic surveys on your own – via email or phone – to find out what your target audience really cares about.

In Review:

There’s a process to it all, a method to the copywriting madness. And it goes like this:
1. Identify your target audience
2. Identify your message
3. THEN start writing …


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