It’s the target audience, stupid!

Back in 1992, when Bill Clinton was running against Bush the Elder in the US Presidential elections, his campaign strategist James Carville coined a phrase – “It’s the economy, stupid” – to help the Clinton team focus on their message. Carville had spotted that President, George H.W. Bush, had lost touch with the voters. He didn’t understand that their biggest concern was the economy. Clinton’s team got this, shaped their messaging accordingly and won the election.

clinton carvilleWhat we can learn from this is the paramount need to understand just what is on the minds of people in your target audience. What concerns do they have, and what opportunities do they see on the horizon? When we get that, we can begin to create content that feels relevant and useful. If you can provide value to your target audience, people will be prepared to listen to what you have to say, and if you can guide them through a purchase process with targeted content, they will eventually become customers.

My point is that we shouldn’t talk about what we find interesting or amazing about our products or solutions, we should talk about how they can provide value to our potential and existing customers. And to do that, we need find out a lot more about those customers…

… Which leads me to my second point: if we spend time getting to know our target audience, we’ll not only discover what kind of content people find valuable, we’ll also find out how (through which channels) they prefer to get it. And that is the business reason for a channel: does it help you reach your target audience? Channels rarely have any value; they are simply pipes designed to get your content to the target audience. Unfortunately, many companies build their communication and marketing efforts around channels (be they digital, social, print or events), and that’s a mistake. You might be spot on with your channel setup, but until you can prove it, using target audience research, you run the risk of pouring good marketing dollars down the drain.

So how do you fix this? First of all, take the time and resources to carry out a thorough analysis of your target audience: who are they, what’s important to them, which challenges do they face and what opportunities can they grab? But, just as important, where can you reach them, what channels are they using, and are they prepared to spend time with you there? By doing this research, you’ll not only get a deeper understanding of the people you’re targeting, you’ll also be able to put together a long list of topics and ideas from which you can start creating content.

Working strategically with your communication and marketing is a many-step process that includes defining goals, messages, channels, resources and measurements. But one of the first steps, and arguably the most important one, is taking the time to define who your target audience is and then getting to know them.

This post was originally published on the Nordic Morning #801 blog in November, 2013

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