How to Strategically Build & Maintain Your Audience

Knowing exactly who needs your expertise and, therefore, who should be your target audience can oftentimes be a challenge. One of the most common errors that authors and experts make is thinking that “everyone” is their audience. While it may be true that just about anyone could benefit from the information that you are sharing, it’s important to consider who would want the information, and who is likely to be most excited about it. For example, just about anyone could benefit from learning how to manage their money, but only a select few will actively seek out that information.

As an expert who is looking to build an excited and engaged audience, the best people to attract are the ones who will not only be interested in your content but will also be so enthusiastic about it that they help to promote your brand and recommend you to others. Think about it: If you could dedicate resources to gaining one audience member who then shares your content with their entire social network, or you could dedicate the same resources to gaining ten fans who “like” you on Facebook but don’t recommend you to others, which is the better investment?

For most experts, this is a simple calculation. A dedicated and excited fan is much more valuable over the long-term.

The biggest question is how to identify and communicate with that audience of engaged, excited fans. I recommend a fairly simple exercise to start narrowing down your target audience. The more specific you can be, the easier and less expensive it will be to communicate with them.

Let’s go through some initial steps to defining your target audience using an example brand. This brand is focused on helping people to learn how to exercise more effectively.

Step One: Identify who could be your audience.

For our exercise brand, we start with the widest possible audience. We know that just about everyone should be exercising, so most people have the potential to be in the target audience for general information about exercise. People who we could exclude are elite athletes, who probably already know how to exercise very effectively, and people who should not be exercising for health reasons.

That’s a pretty wide audience, and trying to communicate with everyone who could possibly be part of that audience will not be very effective—it’s expensive and lacks focus.

Step Two: Identify who is most likely to be a part of your audience.

Sure, 90 percent of the population could be part of the audience for our exercise book, but we can quickly eliminate quite a few people from our list due to the likelihood of them seeking out information about exercise. First, we might do some research and find out that the audience for most exercise books is in the 18­–55 age range. People outside that range may be interested in your content, but they are the exception, not the rule. Next, it is unlikely that someone who goes to the gym once a year is going to be looking for information about improving their workout. It might be a good idea to say that the target audience has to have a demonstrated interest in fitness. A good test of that is how often they exercise. Given that information, perhaps we’re looking at people who are 18–55 years of age and exercise at least three times per week. That’s a much more focused market than what we had already, but still a big one.

Step Three: Who will love your content?

While lots of people may be at least somewhat interested in your content, the truth is that there is a narrow group who will be very excited about it. That will be the group who becomes your most valuable audience and that’s who you want to influence how you develop.

In the case of our exercise book, we might look at the types of exercises being covered—the advice could apply to anyone who works out, but perhaps the advice is most useful to runners. Alternatively, perhaps the author has tremendous credentials in the realm of weight lifting and can speak, in particular, to that community.

If the advice in the content requires special equipment, or for the readers to be at a certain level of fitness, then it’s important to consider who all can be a viable target for that information (who can afford access to the equipment, and who is fit enough to benefit from the information).

With this in mind, our exercise book audience may look something like this: People who are 18–55, work out at least three times per week, have a mid to high income, and have a membership at a gym.

This simple and fairly intuitive line of thinking will help you to come up with a good picture of your target market. While some of the assumptions above are fairly safe, the next step is to test your theories and back up any assumptions with research. After all, you’re going to invest both time and money into reaching this audience, so it’s a good idea to verify your assumptions before investing.

In next week’s blog post, I’ll offer some ideas on how to do simple research on your target audience, which will help to verify that you are talking to the right people and determine the best way to reach them.