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How to Find Your Target Audience (and get them to listen!)

As a small business owner, marketing is one more item on your already crammed to-do list. How are you supposed to find time to promote your products and services and run your business?

You decide to hire someone to help or delegate the task to a member of your team. That person throws up some social media posts, slaps together a blog post or two and…silence.

You start panicking.  After all, you just invested your hard-earned cash in a marketing campaign. Why aren’t you seeing any results?

Slow down and take a deep breath. Chances are you forgot a very important step.

Identifying your target audience.

The key to digital marketing isn’t in how amazing your next blog post is or how incredible you look in your Facebook cover photo.

The key to success is in listening to your audience and creating content that meets their needs.

Easy enough, right? Wrong. Many small businesses create and promote content without identifying their target audience. And that’s the number one marketing mistake you can make. All of your efforts will fall flat if you don’t truly understand whom you’re trying to reach.

You need to know your target audience intimately. It’s not enough to say you want to reach women ages 25-35. Where is your audience located? What do they do for a living? What are they struggling with? Which topics are they interested in? How can your services make their lives easier?

These are the questions you should be asking yourself. If you don’t know the answers, then you need to do some research.

One of the top questions I get from clients is: How do I find my target audience?

Start by looking at your own analytics. Your website has a story to tell. Look at your Google Analytics (if you don’t have analytics set up for your website, you’re missing a big piece of the puzzle). Which pages are getting the most traffic? Is there a specific blog post that is performing best? Is there a services page visitors tend to gravitate toward? Those are clues into the type of content your audience is interested in. The Google Analytics dashboard has all of this content at the ready. If you’re not sure where to look, give me a shout!

Next, survey your current and past clients. Ask what they’re interested in learning about. Ask them about their top challenges. Is it time? Money? Lack of knowledge? Your existing network can offer great insight into how to reach your target audience.

Now that you’ve done some digging internally, it’s time to search for your target audience online. Start by doing a quick Google search on your industry or subject matter. Take a look at what’s being written (or not written). How are people responding? What are they saying? Is there a particular topic that’s not being addressed as broadly that you can weigh in on? Look for certain keywords that pop up frequently and think about how you can incorporate those keywords into existing content on your website.

The next thing you should do is check out online discussion forums specific to your industry. Again, focus on what people are saying. Are there certain questions that are being asked over and over again? Do you have the answers? If you’re not sure how to find an online discussion forum in your industry, just do a Google search with “discussion forum” + “your industry”. If you’re looking for a more general discussion forum, Quora is a great place to start.

Facebook and LinkedIn groups are also great places to find conversations related to your industry. If you already have a Facebook page, you can check out Facebook’s Insights tab for more details about your audience. Just click on the Insights tab and go to the People section.  You’ll see which percentage of your audience is women vs. men, the top age ranges and more.

Also consider searching Twitter for specific industry hashtags. Look at the type of people who are using those hashtags. What do they have in common? What questions are they asking?

Once you find conversations online, spend time listening. Take notes on general themes that come to the forefront. Group common questions or concerns together. Visit the profiles of people who are posting and try to learn more about them. After doing this research, you’ll start to identify groups of people who are interested in your industry or topic. This is your target audience. And now that you have detailed notes outlining the topics they care about, you’re ready to put together a marketing strategy.

I know, it sounds like a lot of work. But if you don’t do the planning beforehand, your content won’t resonate with the people you’re trying to reach. Trust me, you don’t want to spend time and effort launching a marketing campaign that isn’t truly reaching the people who matter most.

Take the time you need to uncover these insights and use them to develop blog posts or marketing collateral that will hit home for your potential clients or customers. You need to give them a reason to care about your business. You need to tell them what’s in it for them. You can only do that if you know what they’re looking for in the first place.

Remember: your audience is constantly evolving. Their needs and wants change. Make sure you continue to keep a pulse on the conversations happening in your industry. That way, if you notice a shift in what your audience wants, you’ll be prepared to pivot quickly.

Any tips to offer for finding your ideal audience? How did you hone in on your target client or customer?

Not sure who your target audience is? Download my free Target Audience Tracker! By answering just a few questions, you’ll have all the details you need to get your business in front of the right people.