Why read this? : We explore 3 ways to sharpen your target audience writing. Learn how market research, brand strategy and editing combine to create compelling copy for customers. Read this to learn how to hit the bullseye with your target audience writing.
Most business writing guides stress how important it is to write with your audience in mind. Fair enough. But if you’re doing the writing, you have to think beyond what’s actually obvious advice. After all, you’re hardly likely to write for someone who’s NOT your target audience, are you?
Improve your target audience writing - market research
You first need to know who your audience is and what they need, if you want to write with them in mind. Understanding what’s going on with them increases the chances that they’ll read your words and respond to your call to action.
Market research is key here.
It helps you identify the audience and get into their heads enough that you can write for them. There’s no need to be a full-blown market researcher. But you should understand what market research is, how you do it and how to turn the results into action.
Use the customer segment profile
From previous research, you’ve ideally got a customer segment profile of your target audience. It’s often part of the brief and describes who you’re writing for. It gives you an idea of how they think and feel, and what they need.
From this, you form a mental picture of that customer. This shapes what you write and how you write it.
For example, do they like to make their own mind up and only want to read facts? If so, your writing style should be more educational.
Or do they prefer a more emotional connection, and want to feel something deeper about your brand? In which case you write something more entertaining.
The profile also gives you ideas about where they go and what they do. So to understand them even better, you can then go hang out where they do.
For example, look at what they do on social media and in online forums. Run readability checks on what they write. Think about their tone of voice. Jot down their jargon. Suck up their slang. Get into the rhythm of how they talk about the category. You should try to mirror their style in how you write, as that helps build a stronger connection with them.
Observe and listen in real life
A bit more work on your part but just as valuable is to observe them in real life.
Go to focus groups. Read verbatim quotes from previous qualitative research. Go to relevant physical places (stores, cafes/bars, sports and cultural venues etc) and (without being weird about it), listen in. Take notes. Listen to how customers talk and what they talk about.
Writing the way customers talk is how you build empathy. You imagine they’re there in the room as you write. This helps you tailor your writing style to that particular audience.
You should know what they’re looking for. If they’re in a hurry or have more time. You should know if you need to get straight to the point or need to set some context first. If you can be light-hearted or need to be more serious. You should know what emotions will be in play when they read your words.
Get feedback on your writing
All this research gives you a broad sense of how to engage your target audience.
But of course, once you start to write, you can ask them directly. Get feedback on your writing. Include it in your market research. Ask how they feel about your advertising copy. What they think of your social media posts. Ask if they find your blog articles and website content helpful and relevant.
You also get a good idea of what’s working from the performance measures your writing supports.
For example, do sales go up when you launch that new advertising campaign? Do you get lots of comments about that provocative social post? And what do the traffic numbers, bounce rates and time on page look like for your new articles?
The idea is to gather as much target audience data as you can about your writing and turn that into insights to improve what you write and how you write it.
Improve your target audience writing - brand strategy
Of course, the goal of your target audience writing isn’t to just have a nice chat. You’re writing on behalf of the brand. You want the customer to think, feel or do something differently with your brand.
Knowing what you’re trying to achieve for the brand focuses what you write.
As you review what you’ve written, ask yourself if the reader is going to think, feel or do the thing you want them to. Does your call to action drive the customer to this new way of thinking, feeling or doing?
You should also look at the brand’s tone of voice guidelines to get an idea of what’s worked and not worked before. These show you “how” to write in the brand’s style to bring its values and personality to life.
For example, should your brand’s writing sound authoritative or be more approachable? Is it upbeat or more sombre? Can it make jokes or should it always be serious? These decisions are part of a brand’s identity. They shape the style of how you write for the target audience. For example, they shape key writing areas like word choice, sentence length and readability.
Imagining the brand’s voice when you write
It helps if you work with the brand owner to establish how the brand might respond or have a view on hypothetical scenarios and situations.
These are often category-specific.
For example, how would the brand respond to a quality issue? Or a big innovation move from a competitor or retailer?
Or you could be more creative and look outside your category for inspiration.
For example, how would the brand respond to a recent big news event? How would it talk about its favourite celebrity or sports team? Use your imagination to find something relevant and inspiring.
The goal here is for your target audience writing to “sound” like the brand. Asking and answering these sorts of hypothetical questions helps you clarify the way you imagine the brand’s voice in your head.
Improve your target audience writing - editing
Now you know who are writing for. And who you are writing as. What remains is to write the words.
You use creative thinking to imagine the flow of the conversation between the brand and the customer. Write these words down. Dump your first draft down on paper, so it’s out of your head and you’ve got some writing material to work with.
You’ll need that as the last key part of nailing your target audience writing comes when you edit.
If you’ve got time to do so (and it’s a good writing habit to have), try to leave time between the first draft and editing it. Re-read the customer segment profile before you re-read the first draft and imagine you’re that customer reading it for the first time.
Can you see the insight that underpins the writing come through? How does it sound when you read the text aloud? Is it clear? Does it flow? Are there words or sentences which sound off? Too technical? Too long? Mark these up and make your amends.
Then leave some time again (if you can). On the next edit, re-read the brand tone of voice guidelines.
Now, you’re checking that it sounds like the brand talking. Do your words bring to life the brand’s values and personality? Can you see why you’ve chosen those words, that sentence structure and the overall flow of the ideas to represent the brand? Is it distinctive enough, that even if you don’t mention the brand name, you’d still know which brand it was?
Putting it all together for target audience writing - example
As an example to show how all these come together, let’s use the made-up healthcare brand Sustenagen from our tone of voice guidelines article.
The customer segment profile shows the target audience is educated and likes to be in control.
They like reading lots of information so they can make up their own minds. They want professional-sounding writing that stays objective and is backed up by clinical evidence.
The brand identity suggests you’d write with an expert healthcare professional persona in your head. You’d be clear and concise. Include relevant technical terms and references. You’d share facts and logical thinking. As you edit, you try to imagine the conversation as like an HCP giving a patient advice.
You’d avoid being too emotional or informal. No jokes or slang. The brand wants to come across as an expert partner, not a chatty friend.
Conclusion - Be on target with your target audience writing
But the writing also has to be for a reason. That’s usually to grow the brand.
You make sure you follow the brand’s tone of voice guidelines and have a clear call to action. What you write should highlight the brand’s values and personality and leave the reader in no doubt about which brand is talking to them in the writing.
Finally, you apply your good writing habits. You edit to make the writing sharper. Get the words, sentences and paragraphs to flow naturally so it feels like a natural conversation with the reader. You make it clear, readable, interesting and most of all, relevant.
Customers are bombarded with branded messages every day. Great brands help their messages stand out by understanding who their customers are, what the brand can do for them and how to write those messages clearly and compellingly.