My soapbox is just about worn out. I've been preaching the necessity of knowing your target audience for at least 10 years. “You can't write effectively to someone you don't know, " is how my spiel would normally go. When one day someone asked me to show him what I was talking about. “I'm writing copy for computers, " he said. “Everybody needs and can use a computer. How could a general product like that possibly have different target audiences?" I'll show you exactly how.
Be Specific With Your Definition
Don't ever begin an analysis of your target audience with the word “everybody. " The people who fit into your target group are individuals. They certainly share common traits, needs and wants, but they are unique. When defining your customer base, and the segments within it, be as specific as possible.
If we go back to the computer example, we would surely find several segments within the target group who buy computers. One would be senior citizens. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project Report, 54% of Americans ages 60-69 go online. In fact, 21% of those over the age of 70 also go online. In order to surf the Internet, these people need a computer.
What concerns do seniors have when it comes to computers? Fear is a big emotion that comes into play with this crowd. While they love the idea of being able to keep in touch with family and friends, many in this age bracket have a hang-up with learning to use new technology. Ease of use and a low learning curve are some things that must be communicated clearly.
High School and College Students
Having grown up using computers in the classroom, and most likely at home, students are generally very comfortable and confident with this technology. If something breaks, they'll figure it out themselves or just get a new computer. Portability, the latest technology and speed are the biggest factors for students.
With many younger users, gaming is a primary function, so the computer they want/need has to have large amounts of RAM, hard drive space and virtual memory. What about cost? Mom and dad are almost always the money source for a student's computer, so the student isn't interested in the price. If mom and dad can't afford it, there is always grandma and grandpa.
While computers are a tax-deductible business expense, small businesses are still concerned with price. They are also leery of low price points and special offers because, most of the time, small businesses will need to add a good bit of additional equipment to a basic computer which ups the price.
Small businesses also normally have no full-time IT staff, so support is an issue that comes into play. Is help available to answer questions or troubleshoot if and when networking doesn't go smoothly? What about repairs? If the computer requires any service, is it done on-site or does the computer have to be shipped to some nameless service center? Is there a guaranteed time for repairs to be completed?
As you can see, each segment has its own concerns about buying a computer. While “everybody" may need one, every person does not have the same concerns or needs when making a computer purchase.
Before assuming that every member of your target audience is alike, take some time to do a little research. Conduct an informal survey, ask questions and talk with customers one-on-one. Find out what their wants are, what concerns they have or what they'd most like to see you offer. Once you find out, write so that you communicate directly with them on their level. You'll find your conversion rates rise when you give your visitors the information they want.
by Karon Thackston © 2006
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