Do You Know Your Audience? It’s Probably Not Your Colleagues.

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Do you wonder why your blog or magazine doesn’t drive sales? Are you about to start a new one and want to determine what to write about? In the end, it all comes down to your audience.

If you are blogging to establish your personal brand or if you are dealing with a multi-faceted magazine of a multi-national corporation – if you get your audience wrong, none of your efforts will prevail.

I am dragged along by a strange new force. Desire and reason are pulling in different directions. I see the right way and approve it, but follow the wrong. Ovid, Metamorphoses

I read magazines for a living, and while many of them amass a significant amount of readers, they often appear to be the wrong ones: those who read, but never buy. Those who read, but never really care. Plenty of writers (and corporations) make the mistake of writing for their colleagues or, even worse, an elusive audience that might care even less.

Your colleagues aren’t your audience

You’ve probably seen this a lot: Developers write about developing. Manufacturers write about manufacturing. Even marketers – who should know better – write about marketing.

There is nothing inherently wrong with writing about what you do. But you’ll always need a potential buyer on the receiving end who cares about what you do. And that shouldn’t only be your colleagues because they won’t buy your products or services. They’ll likely want to enrich themselves in terms of knowledge, but they don’t bother what you have to offer.

Especially companies think they’re going down the safe route when writing about what they do and how they do it. After all, that’s what they know best, isn’t it? But they often don’t realize for years that they’re not going down the safe route, they’re just going down.

In most cases, customers aren’t interested in how your processes work, what you’ve found out that’s relevant in your field, how you came to your conclusions, what’s new in your industry. These are all topics that your colleagues will likely be curious about, but usually none or few of your customers. If they found your industry interesting, they’d be in it themselves.

When your colleagues are your customers

There are exceptions, however. Not all marketers who write for other marketers are bad at their job. For example, some marketers offer tools or training for other people in their industry, which makes their colleagues their customers as well.

In this case, there is not much to worry about (except for the trillions of other marketing blogs that probably write about the same topics and will be hard to beat by imitation).

But don’t confuse highly skilled and sophisticated customers with your colleagues. If you’re deep into data analysis and your customers are huge corporations, you might expect their leaders to know a thing or two about big data as well. And they probably do. But that doesn’t mean that they’re interested in your models or theories. They hire you to deal with this subject, so they won’t need to.

Believing your customers are just as interested in your job as you are is the biggest mistake you can make when drawing up the concept for a magazine or blog.

Spare the jargon

Not everyone will admit it publicly, but most people enjoy an easy read. We regularly face challenges by discerning texts we have to read to stay on top of our own game – every day. To get better instead of stuck in our status quo, these materials will eventually become harder and harder to grasp, demanding more and more of our attention and intelligence.

When we’re reading magazines, we don’t need this all over again. Even if we’re B2B shopping, we couldn’t care less about jargon and wordy sentences. Because, still, we are not your colleagues, we are your customers. You do the thinking; we buy the results.

If you can’t write clear and easily understandable sentences, you’ll either have to learn it or find somebody else to write for you. Lengthy explanations and fancy words won’t make your brand look more sophisticated, just more cumbersome.

Expunge burning questions

After you’ve identified who your actual audience (your customer) is, you’ll need to find out what’s on his or her mind. What problems are they dealing with? What keeps them from being worry-free? What are their burning questions?

It is crucial that you get these questions right. If you provide answers to non-existing questions, your audience might not stick with you. Also, the easy problems have already been solved by everyone else. If you want your magazine to thrive and survive, you can’t just copy what everyone else is doing.

The good thing is that everyone else probably doesn’t get the real problems of their customers. They often don’t even know what they’re hired for. Your customers might buy your cars, but they’re not interested in cars, they’re interested in freedom, independence, maybe status.

Figure out how your customers think, and your magazine will improve significantly.

Everyone is a platitude, not an audience

That is also an excellent way to attract the customers you want to serve. Do you often have to deal with customers who don’t get what you are offering or who aren’t able or willing to pay the price? Chances are you’ve attracted them by sending the wrong signals. Your magazine is a unique opportunity to exclude those you don’t want to serve and attract customers who’d be glad to hear what you have to offer.

It’s common advice that if you intend to serve everyone, you’ll end up serving no one. But why is it that so many brands still fear they could lock out this one desirable customer, hidden amongst the masses, by being too exclusive? They won’t buy just because you open your gates a little wider.

If you write for everyone, you’ll lose focus. And if you lose focus, your readers won’t know what they’ll get. Since time is precious, they’ll look somewhere else where the intention is more apparent.

Magazines are experiments, opinions don’t matter

You can’t possibly measure the success of content marketing before you have begun doing it. It takes much longer than traditional advertising before you can reap any benefits, but usually, they’re longer-lasting and cheaper to maintain in the long run.

Magazines are experiments, and you’ll need to try different things to find what works best. That’s why you shouldn’t ask too many people what they think about it.

Your colleagues or employees aren’t your target audience. Thus, they’ll most likely be the wrong ones to ask. Even asking your customers can be dangerous, as they might end up reading your magazine but lacking the self-consciousness to foresee this behavior.

Humanity would’ve suffered dramatically if scientists would’ve asked for opinions before conducting experiments. They’ll find out soon enough whether their hypothesis is true or false.

Be a scientist, and dare greatly – but always know who you’re writing for.