As a marketer or a writer, you’ve probably spent a certain amount of time thinking about who your audience is. Perhaps you’ve done exercises to better identify and understand them.
But in spite of those mental exercises, anyone who writes a piece of content often defaults to speaking to a broad and nebulous “audience” that could encompass consumers, colleagues, and random people on the Internet.
It often takes another pass through a draft to hone in on your audience, but the process is easier if you have defined who they might be beforehand.
First to come to mind is usually customers — existing and potential, although this is really two different groups. But if your company isn’t marketing online direct-to-consumer, then this is probably not the right group to be speaking to all the time.
Read through our breakdown of potential target audiences, and next time you write, determine in advance which of these groups the writing should target.
This group ranks at the top of every company’s priority list. Customer retention and satisfaction are crucial to a successful business. Generally, at least some of the content on every website, social channel and newsletter will be written with the existing customer in mind.
However, this gets a little iffy in certain niches including:
In those niches, the customer is still important, but not more important than the potential customer.
For companies that exist on a supply chain and can only get their products to market with the coordinated efforts of other links on the chain, one of the most effective and low-effort content marketing strategies is to engage with suppliers, distributors and wholesalers — the others on the supply chain — and create content for them and with them. This is a reflection of how you already do business, and it makes for very organic content that leans into existing relationships.
These are not clients, and not other entities in your supply chain, but rather, other professional allies that work with your company and bring their own strengths. Depending on what kind of business niche you are in, you may only have a few strategic partners, or you may have many.
If you’re an event planner who works with dozens of vendors, you’ll have all of them as strategic partners. If you’re a CPA, you might have no strategic partners because your service is straightforward and usually only involves your clients and the IRS. Depending on how important strategic partners are, and how many of them you work with on different projects, you’ll want to figure out what percentage of content serves them and/or involves them.
This could mean three things:
Businesses with “local business” branding or marketing need to prioritize engaging the actual community where the business is based, with content that showcases the business’ place in the community and also shines a light on community goings-on that relate to the business.
Businesses that aren’t local-focused but serve a specific type of people (e.g., veterans and military, or people who are interested in mental wellness) need to apply the second definition of community, and create content for the group of people who they hope to serve as customers. “Community” is different from potential customers because the content tends to slant more toward social impact or service, not outright marketing.
A brand’s existing social media community is extremely important because they’re already active and engaged — for good or ill. The team who handles this typically has to take on the role of customer service as well as content marketing, and is considered to be on the virtual “front lines” of consumer engagement.
Consumers are not the same as customers, but a lot of writers new to content marketing often get the two conflated. Consumers are the “regular people” that become end-users of a consumer product.
Customers are the entities that buy one’s products. So, for example, if you’re a food producer with foodservice clientele, the distributors, restaurants, hotels, entertainment venues and retailers that buy your food would be the customers. If you are writing for consumers, it’s for the people to whom it will ultimately be served. In this situation, you would probably be highlighting your products and your customers.
In this particular day and age, the definitions of “employee” for content targeting purposes also include independent contractors, franchisees, freelancers and affiliates. This is not a group that’s mandatory to write content for, but many businesses do it — especially those with a constant need for good people to fill low or medium-wage positions. Good content, especially content that taps into existing happy employees’ day-to-day life, can be an important recruiting and corporate appreciation tool.
This group is small but mighty in most cases, and definitely requires their own stream of communication. Update letters, presentations and press conferences all have their place in the spectrum of how companies communicate with investors and shareholders — and the content mix changes based on how big your company is, and how your key investors like to hear from you.
While smaller businesses tend to let an owner, manager or the social media manager field the odd incoming media inquiry, any business with real aspirations of getting press coverage needs to let professionals handle their communication material.
This may just consist of an online press kit or media room with a few one-sheets. It might include a series of blog posts. It might evolve to include press outreach with multi-prong communication. Materials for the press cannot be the same as consumer communication, because the press tends to want specific questions answered as soon as possible, whereas consumers are often browsing around looking for something to buy, or something to entertain them.
This group goes on the bottom because it’s the most important one in many business owners’ priority lists, but also is the audience that overlaps with many of the others. Yes, absolutely, it’s important to make constant efforts to connect with and capture new customers, but keep in mind that they can come from anywhere, and oftentimes not the places you think they would.
A potential customer might be entirely unmoved by a clever email marketing campaign from you, but then see a social impact campaign you did for your community and decide to become a customer. A potential customer might not ever look at your Instagram channel or Facebook ads, but might see an employee appreciation video posted on LinkedIn and decide they like your corporate values enough to become a customer.
It’s beneficial to your business to have a well-rounded strategy for communicating with different audiences, but before you can come up with them, you have to decide which audiences are important to your business.
Hopefully, this breakdown helps get you started. If you need to think through it with feedback from others, ClearVoice content strategists may be a good resource for you.