One of the most important parts of content marketing is being able to target a specific audience. In fact, I would argue that this is the most important part of content marketing.

Once, I went into a store where I don’t normally shop to get my dad a gift. The sales rep barked up a very wrong tree, trying to sell me items that I didn’t want or need. I wasn’t a member of that store’s target audience, so the rep’s time talking to me was wasted; I simply purchased my gift and headed to the nearest Charming Charlie, where the sales rep can sell me pretty much anything in the store.

So, let’s go over everything you need to know about targeting your audience to make content marketing work for your business.

What is your content goal?

Before you even start to think about your target audience, it is first important to define your content goal. If you think your goal is traffic or email list subscribers, you’re wrong. Yes, those things are great, but you can’t pay for groceries with pageviews. (Click to tweet this.)

Your content marketing goal needs to be something that will put food on the table. If you’re a business owner, this probably means that your goal is to sell more products. If your blog is your business, this might mean:

  • To sell more sponsored posts or ad space
  • To sell more affiliate products
  • To make more money with PPC ads (i.e. to get your readers clicking ads more often)
  • To get booked for more paying speaking gigs
  • To book more consulting gigs (and get paid more per hour for those gigs)

Or you might have a slightly different goal. But whatever your goal is, it should come back to making money in some way.

Got your goal in mind? Great! Let’s start talking about your audience:

Who is your audience?

Targeting your audience starts with understanding two things:

  1. Who your audience currently is
  2. Who you want your audience to be

In a perfect world, those two things are one and the same! But let’s go through both of them in order to better target your audience.

First, who is your audience right now? Are they primarily male or female? Why do they consume your content? What is their income level like? Where do they live in the world? What kind of struggles do they have? How active are they on social media sites? How comfortable are they with technology? Do they read their email regularly? What kind of content do they most like?

How should you figure out these stats about your audience? Some you might be able to figure out by looking at your stats, but beware of assuming too much. When in doubt, poll or survey your audience. Companies like SurveyMonkey and SurveyGizmo make it really easy to connect with your audience to learn more about them.

The above questions – and more – are all important, but the most basic question you want to answer is this: how does your audience relate to your product or service?

For example, let’s say that you are a hair stylist and your goal is to find more clients. After polling your audience, you find that your blog readers and list subscribers are typically females between the ages of 15 and 25 who live in English-speaking countries and love your DIY blog posts on how to style hair.

Great, so if you write more DIY styling blog posts for young women, you should see more traffic, right? Well, yes, but that kind of traffic doesn’t really help you make more money. Someone who is looking for DIY styling tips (not to mention who may live halfway around the world from you) probably isn’t going to book an appointment at your salon.

Who do you want your audience to be?

In our example, your research showed that you could easily grow your current audience, but that this audience wouldn’t be comprised of people who would help you reach your goals. So, who do you want your audience to be?

In other words, who are the people likely to help you reach your goal? As a hair stylist, that profile might look like this:

  • Local to your neighborhood
  • Female
  • Caucasian
  • Average income of $50,000+ per year
  • Not interested in DIY styling
  • 18 – 50 years old

I encourage you to actually write out fictional profiles for a few people in your target market. This is a trick I learned from Darren Rowse at Problogger. When you write a post, you want to write to a specific person.

Once you have your target audience defined and a few profiles written out, it’s time to think about their struggles.

What are the pain points for your target audience?

In our example, the pain points for your current audience are that they don’t know how to do their own hair. However, helping them isn’t really conducive to your goal. Instead, think about the pain points for the people you want in your audience. As a hair stylist, here are a few examples of problems your audience might have:

  • Not understanding the different types of hair color options
  • Feeling like they don’t get good service for their money
  • Not being able to accurately describe to their stylist what they want
  • Spending too much time trying to find a good stylist
  • Hating their current stylist, but not knowing how to find a new one

Your could brainstorm this list to be much longer. From there, you can start to brainstorm blog post, ebook, podcasting, video, and other content ideas. For example, let’s take just the first point, not understanding the different types of hair color options. From this idea, you could create:

  • A blog post talking about the different hair color brands
  • A free ebook outlining permanent versus semi permanent color options
  • A podcast where you interview a fellow stylist about options for highlights
  • A video about why you should choose professional color instead of DIY home products
  • An infographics about corrective hair color

Why are these good options? Because they all promote the reader to come to your salon for a consultation, rather than doing it themselves at home. Even better, for our specific example, would be to target locals by adding in some keywords that make sense for your neighborhood and talking about your salon by name.

Tracking Your Results

After making changes to your editorial calendar to start targeting the specific audience who will help you reach your goals, it’s important to track how the changes are affecting your bottom line. A great way to do this is to ask your customers where they’ve found you.

Don’t panic if you see your stats drop at first (if you are significantly changing your content). That teen you liked your prom hairstyles blog post may never read your blog again, but that’s okay–she was never going to come into your salon anyway. Traffic does matter (sales is always a numbers game), but it’s okay to lose some traffic/subscribers if it means getting found with people more likely to help you reach your goals.

Make sure you check out my entire Content Marketing 101 series here. I add new posts regularly!

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