Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.
Every time I sit down at the computer, I say to myself, “Let’s identify your audience.”
Each writing project is different. Blog posts. Articles. Web pages. Landing pages. Grant applications, speeches, devotionals, email campaigns … even if you write just one kind of content, you need to identify your audience for that particular project.
If the idea frustrates you, then think about the times you’ve been on the reader’s side of the fence. You land on a web site. The content above the fold reads, “We work synergistically for a collaborative future.” Uh, what’s that about?
Maybe the content writer meant …
“We help preschool parents and teachers work together so kids are ready for kindergarten.”
Or maybe the intent was …
“We help nonprofits find like-minded board members interested in building small businesses.”
See what I mean? Completely different audiences.
I know, I know. Must you actually identify your audience when everyone wants to read your content?
But we’re friends. And friends are honest with each other. The truth is that your potential readers have an ocean of content they can read. Why should they read yours?
Because you’re going to show that you “get” them. You understand what they need. And your content reflects that.
The task of identifying your readers isn’t as hard as it seems when you ask these three questions. Your answers will help you target your content to those particular readers.
Who do you want to help? Identify your audience by recording characteristics that differentiate them from others. Are you writing tax preparers … classical musicians … new college grads? Be specific.
The temptation is to write to everyone. This way, you reason, you’ll get more readers. If you target a specific segment then you’ll eliminate prospects.
That’s exactly why you need to narrow the field. You cannot be all things to all 7 billion people on the planet. There are specific readers that need the information you can share with them. Along the way, others will find your content and use it. But you need to choose a segment of people that have a specific need or want – and write to them. Identify your audience and others will come along, too.
What do these readers need help with? Here’s where you define the purpose of your content.
A helpful tip: use an action verb to describe the help you offer. Your content helps your reader do something.
Let’s say you identify your audience: classical musicians. These artists have memorized Mozart concertos. They can time the Wedding March to accommodate the slowest bride inching down the aisle as well as the one who races to her groom’s side. But these musicians struggle to schedule a steady stream of gigs and keep accurate financial records. They don’t need music lessons. They need to market their music services like an award-winning salesman and maintain their records like a savvy CPA.
What help do you provide? Resources, tools, and how-tos so Marty Musician can run a freelancing business. See the verb? Run. Or you could use verbs like freelance, operate, organize, manage … and so on.
Why should this audience read your content? It’s not quite enough to target who needs help and what help you’ll give them. They need to know why they should read your content. They need a benefit.
If you struggle to give an answer to “Why should they read what I write?” then ask this: what results will your reader get? What will be different for her? What outcomes can he expect?
Back to our example. Classical musicians practice hours a day to perfect their skill. (I know because I was one for 25 years). But when it comes to business, many of them are clueless. Your content doesn’t focus on their music making. Your content answers “Why should they read this?” when it focuses on their success in making money.
Put together the answers to these 3 questions with this simple template.
Going back to our example ...
Not so hard, is it?
You need to know who you’re talking to on paper. Identify your audience (who), uncover the help or information they need (what), and articulate how that information makes a difference in their lives (why). Do that … and your particular set of readers will adore your content. You’ll grow your audience and build traffic.
You get by giving. Get more readers when you give them what they need.
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