Learn the language of your target audience
So much of your brand strategy hinges on understanding your audience! In fact, branding is all about connecting with your audience, and building a strong emotional association in their minds.
When you speak the the language of your audience, they connect with you in a powerful way. Not only does it show your expertise. It also shows that you care, you listen, and you understand. It shows that you get it. You have invested time and energy, and even your career, into understanding and solving the problems they face.
So how do you learn the language of your audience? Let's break it down into a few easy steps!
Step 1. List your questions.
Here are a few of the basic questions you should try to answer about your target audience and the way they see and feel about things, especially the problem you are solving. You may want to add to this list.
Who has the problem I'm solving?
What is that like for them?
How does it make them feel?
What do they think they need to solve this problem?
What have they tried?
What transformation are they looking for?
If they worked with someone like me, what outcome would they want?
If I offered a free piece of help or content, what would they really love?
Now get ready to answer these and other questions! You don't need to answer each and every question, and you may get information that doesn't match a specific question. What you want to do in this next step is listen and learn, and build up a picture in your mind of your target audience and how they see and feel about things.
Step 2. Practice social listening.
Start by visiting some of the places your target audience frequent. Facebook groups, Amazon book review pages, and other online platforms can be a great place to start. If your business is all about addressing behavior issues in dogs, look up some Amazon book reviews for books about training dogs with behavior issues.
Language to look for...
Look for statements like:
I struggle with...
It makes me feel...
Does anyone know how to...?
Can anyone help me with...?
How can I...?
When you see key comments that shed light on these questions and your target audience, drop them into a document to refer to later.
Step 3. Have real conversations.
This is the super fun part! The objective here is to meet with and informally "interview" people to really get to know them. You want to really immerse yourself in the language and perspectives of your target audience.
how it works
Define a period of a few weeks, or maybe a month or two, and meet with as many people as possible in your target audience - that is, the people who have the problem you are solving.
Write out your questions in advance, mirroring the questions you want to answer as part of this exercise (see Step 1). You might start with something easy like "Tell me about yourself!" and then get more and more focused in on the problem at hand.
(If you know exactly who your "dream client" or ideal client is, you can be more targeted in who you reach out to. But if you aren't sure who that person is, just look for opportunities to meet with people in your target audience.)
Then schedule calls and hop on the phone, introduce yourself, and ask your questions.
finding people to talk to
So how do you find these people? You may already have a network of people to reach out to - maybe online, maybe in person. In-person networking events are a great place to connect with people who are eager to expand their networks and might be happy to chat with you.
You can also start in the same place you did your online social listening exercise. Write a simple post asking for interviews, and make a small offer if you can - like a free consultation, a free coaching session, free access to a piece of content you normally sell, or whatever else you offer.
It's important to avoid coming across like a disguised sales pitch. You aren't trying to get people on the phone so you can sell to them. Be crystal clear that this is simply market research to help you understand your audience better.
The first time to post an invitation like this, you might get crickets. That's okay! Keep at it. Make it your goal to talk to one person. Then once you talk to that person, make it a goal to talk to three people. Then five. Then 10. And so on.
a note about scheduling
I might ruffle some feathers here, but I want to gently discourage using an auto-scheduler like Calendly to set up these calls. Why? They eliminate the work on your end, and put the burden of scheduling on the person who is already doing you a favor. It creates a sort of awkward power dynamic. Try either sending them a few times to choose from, or asking if they have a scheduler they'd like you to use :)
These interviews should be fun, because you're talking to your people! These are the people you're in business to support and help, so treat each conversation like pure gold, because it is. Be yourself, don't sweat the details, and try to enjoy learning as much as you can.
If the opportunity arises, and you feel that the interviewee is receptive, feel free to serve and support them. If you can help them get a little unstuck with their current challenge, that's great practice and experience.
And remember to send an earnest thank you to follow up! If you did end up doing some free coaching or serving, it can be extra nice to summarize your recommendations or any techniques you suggested, in a set of organized notes.
Step 4. Analyze.
Now it's time to answer a few questions. Go back to the original questions you set out to offer, and spend some time writing your answers.
Then give these some thought as well:
What how I learned about my audience?
How do they see and feel about the world?
What language do they use to describe their problem and what they need?
What do they want? What do they need?
What's the transformation they're looking for?
How can I package my services to really serve them?
How can I meet them where they are right now?
How can I talk about what I can do for them, in a way that they'll understand?
Is there a free piece of help I can offer as an opt-in, that they would love?
What do I still not know?
If the answer to that last question is "a lot," consider doing another round of research to fill in those gaps!
Step 5. Put it into action!
If you've reached this point, woohoo! Way to go! Now it's time to put everything you've learned to good use, in a variety of ways:
Use the language of your audience in all your copywriting, to catch their attention and show that you understand them.
Pay attention to the positive emotions your audience wants to feel, and deliver those emotions in your brand voice, content, website experience, visual identity, and everywhere else.
Incorporate topics into your content strategy, addressing the key pain points and questions your target audience has.
Create a free piece of content that helps your target audience make a little progress today.
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