Identifying your target audience is the second step towards putting your blog in the direction of inbound money. It involves one important point that may be a revelation to you. The narrower you get with your target audience the more genuine loyalist subscribers you get, and the greater the wealth you can tap from your audience. How is that? Most entrepreneur-professionals starting blogs think of this as counter-intuitive. They believe that the wider their target audiences, the more possibilities exist to turn them into subscribers. But this is how narrowing your focus works …
Let’s say you are a financial expert and your target audience is other mid-tier accountants to whom you can give authority advice. If you try to engage every type of accountant, you will have “generalist” blog posts that do not tug at them personally, and so there is a temptation for them to unsubscribe when they see your articles are not tailored to them well enough. On the other hand, if you target “financial consultants to high-net-worth individuals” (a smaller subset of the larger accountant community), you will have blog posts with more acute, focused and sharp advice, specifically useful to them.
You may think you’ve lost billions of accountants globally who could have been your subscribers, but in fact, by writing very targeted blog posts to very narrow niches, you may get a slightly smaller audience, but they will be a highly qualified audience. Such audiences have greater potential to become loyal and enduring followers – because you directly hit them every time you write pertinently for them.
An introduction to Identifying Target Audiences for Power Blogging
Step #1: Refining your niche and target audience
Your blog’s target audience and niche selections are critical to income potential. What is a target audience? Wikipedia defines it as: “The intended audience or readership of a publication, advertisement, or other message.” In other words, your target audience should constitute those whom you want as readers of your power blog. Most bloggers often begin their blogging ventures with a vision of their “ideal followers” they’d like to have. But there could be a mismatch between who they want and who they are likely to get as followers.
And what is a niche? Many bloggers get confused between a “target audience” and a “niche”. They believe that if they have located their target audience, they have found their “narrow niche” – and thereafter it will just be about “owning the niche” by saturating the niche with their blog posts. In actuality a niche is not just your target audience, but also includes your “content tilt” in writing to that audience. Your target audience is who you write for. Your “content tilt” is the angle of attack you use to write for this audience. Both together form your “niche”.
Step #2: Researching your target market thoroughly
After you’ve identified your target audiences, you should find out as much as possible about them. Your research needs to be both online and offline. One good offline way to do hands-on target audience research is to attend professional conferences or trade shows. In the online sphere, too, there are the online forums, groups, blogs and magazines that act as watering-holes for groups of target audiences with like interests. Some things people do online is very much like their offline behavior. But sometimes online behavior can be very different from real-life behavior. In your research, it would be a great idea to follow a simple thumb-rule: to see how people behave, watch them in person offline; to see what they really think and feel, try prodding them online.
You can check out the layers of people within your audience segment and try to see how many sub-segments you can find within them. You can study people via both their formal and informal selves. Usually getting to know one person then leads you to their networks and the number of people you get to know multiplies. There are many places online where audiences reveal themselves before you are ready to survey them more deeply. The more reliable your sources of information, the more reliable the outcome of research.
Step #3: The behaviors of your target market
Since you aim specifically to be a power-blogger and your target audiences are all online creatures, you have to particularly zero in on behaviors and habits online. Where do people hang out, what type of information do they consume, where do they shop, what processes do they use to shop, how exactly do they lean on others to get advice on various topics, how do they socialize, how do they search for information, how do they make decisions …
One thing to beware of with online target audiences is that online people often show both their “real personalities” and their “aspirational personalities”. Since we cannot really know the physical person very accurately, we may not know if they are projecting themselves authentically or they are trying to be somebody they are not.
Some bloggers see this as a problem. But this topic is worth questioning more deeply. If some people are showing their aspirational selves, is it not easier to read their needs for personal improvement? Is it not easier to then write to them in a way that directly focuses on their needy areas? It’s perfectly okay if your target market has a lot of people hiding their true identities and showing their aspirational identities, because in the end it’s all to your advantage if you can help them get to the life they seek.
Step #4: Appealing both rationally and emotionally
After you’ve researched and zeroed-in on the ideal target audiences for you, you have to take a moment to see if there’s a fit with what they may be looking for in you. There are typically two types of satisfactions target audiences expect from bloggers whom they like to read.
Your rational attributes are qualities that you need to get you entry through their gates. You must be able to demonstrate to your target audience that you have the expected education, experience, certifications and skills to do what they need you to do. Then there are the emotional attributes you will be judged by … such as whether you have a sense of humor, empathy, friendliness or sincerity.
Remember, that even if you create initial attraction through your rational attributes, it’s the emotional attributes that will bring people back to your blog again and again because of the ambience of the blog. So when you project your reasons for fit with your audience you have to try and gauge whether you are on their desired wavelength both rationally and emotionally.
Step #5: Locating the real pain-points of your targets
By now you should have a reasonable idea of whom you’re going to target and where you’d fit into their interest bandwidth. But one other piece of the target audience puzzle has to be still evaluated. You have to ask yourself the question: “What are the real pain-points of my target audiences? How can I can step forward to help them in their areas of maximum vulnerability?”
Nine times out of ten, people look around actively for valuable information, and consume it with eager attention, either when they feel a sharp pain-point in their lives, or they are vaguely aware of some discomfort in themselves that they cannot yet articulate, but they feel the need to “scratch the itch”. If you as a blogger can help clarify your target audience’s pain-points faster or better than competition, you’re already halfway there. If you can provide clever solutions in addition to helping clarify their pain-points, you’ll very quickly become their most-preferred go-to person whose products they are compelled to buy.
As a power-blogger you have to not just intuit, but factually ascertain your target audiences’ existing or potential pain points. The reason you can’t just use your intuitive guesses is because pain-points are never actually well-explained by consumers. Even in direct interviews, they may tell you of the symptoms of their pains but not the root causes. Your target audiences are not experts in the areas that are causing them pain. If they were, they would have solved their challenges already, wouldn’t they? Because they’re not experts, they struggle to accurately verbalize exactly what their problems are. Or, often times, they might be very vague if they have not even realized they have a problem yet.
Step #6: Planning your rapport building
No matter how much prior target audience research you have done, when you first start blogging, it’s too soon to be acting as if you are ready and eager to build a relationship – because you need to give your target audiences time to get to know you through more and more of your writings. Getting too close for comfort or emphasizing a “relationship” too early can be a bond-killer.
There is a lot of advice online to new bloggers to get humorous or chatty or even controversial to get people to start noticing you, but a lot of research shows that enduring and solid relationships can’t be built on that platform – because it’s hard to be constantly funny or chummy or radical. On the contrary, it’s better to use semi-formality in your tone of voice (so people take you seriously), and to steer clear of topics of controversy.
Rapport building is different from relationship-building. What is rapport? Rapport is a state of “initial hitting off” with another person that acts as a foundation on which a relationship can be built later, gradually. Rapport is about how you will build the first few steps of contact with your target audiences. Plan your first moves carefully, keeping in mind the expected best practices in your professional line for introductory overtures – and also keep in mind the differences between the offline and online worlds.
Step #7: Developing target audience personas
What is a target audience “persona”? Ardath Albee, the digital marketing specialist, has the perfect description: “A marketing persona is a composite sketch of a key segment of your audience.” The word “sketch” here has to be taken seriously, because what you do when you create a “persona” is to imagine, visually, a typical member of your target audience.
You could leaf through stock images to see if any picture of any person fits your image of your typical target audience. Copy and paste that image on a handy-sheet, and then below the image, you could add a verbal description of what you think their demographic and psychographic characteristics could be. Try to envision their names, what they may look like, dress like, speak like – and also how you’d describe their age, habits, daily life, pursuits and interests, hobbies, family, home, motivations …
The idea here is to get a strong fix of who you will be addressing your blog posts to. Naturally, the more real this target audience person looks to you, in your mind, the more powerfully you can “converse” with him or her as you write.
In developing your target audience personas, if you have more than one audience segments, maybe you can create a different “typical persona” for each segment. There’s no one perfect way to develop a persona, although the Net is full of templates you can use. In fact, the less formally you take this exercise, the more authentic this persona will feel to you … so feel free to use the same everyday language you’d normally use to describe a friend.
Step #8: Planning ahead for target audience expansions
It’s also not enough to just write for your primary target customers, it’s crucial to plan who your future targets would be too. Room for future growth into adjacent target audience segments is an important thing to assess and ensure. It’s a good idea to start with a sharply focused narrow target audience, but also have in your future plan a shortlist of other sharp target audience segments that your writing could extend to.
The questions to ask yourself in future-mapping audiences is: “Apart from my primary target audiences, who else could use my speciality knowledge? Exactly which area of my knowledge would they need and how shall I appeal to them from this angle? How shall identify my secondary target segments and my shoulder-niche target segments? How shall I prioritize the acquisition of the new target audience segments into my overall contact plan?”
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