This guest post is by James Chartrand is the owner of Men with Pens.
One of the greatest challenges of writing for your business is figuring out your ideal reader.
It’s tempting to think that everyone will read your work—and that creates a problem, because your mindset shifts to thinking that everyone is your audience. After all, you reason, everyone is a potential customer, right?
Nope. Not even close.
Let’s say I started writing exclusively about training horses. Now, you might like horses. You might enjoy riding them.
But unless you’re intensely interested in the actual training of horses, my words and my business aren’t for you.
The same is true in any industry, and especially so for any niche. Only a select group of people will care about what you write, simply because it directly applies to their interests.
No one else gives a damn.
This is a very good thing.
What would you rather have? 500 loyal customers constantly spreading the word about you, your products and your business because they love what you write?
Or two million faceless consumers who show up to your website, read what you have to say and realize it doesn’t concern them?
Think further. What would you rather have? Customers who rave about your business after buying your products because it was exactly what they expected and needed?
Or people who buy and then demand a refund because your content wasn’t supposed to loop them in and this was the wrong product for their needs?
If you’re thinking, “Hey, but at least I got sales!” then you’re clearly missing the point.
Building a successful, sustainable business isn’t about scooping as many random people as you can into a giant net. It’s about targeting a specific group of consumers at the intersection of their problems and your solutions.
And your writing is the key to unlocking that place.
How to unlock the intersection
To help you unlock that mystical intersection, you need to figure out the exact type of potential customer you’d love to meet there.
- Go through a list of your best customers—the people you loved working with, the ones you can’t wait to do business with again.
- Write down what you liked about working with them. Why are they your best clients?
- Write down commonalities—are these people all in a specific industry? Do they come from the same age group?
- Write down similar traits these people share. Do they all act a certain way? Carry a similar tone of voice? Behave in common ways?
Figure out as many similarities as you can. Figure out what you liked about these people and working with them.
Maybe they have go-getter attitudes and make decisions quickly. Maybe they give you clear instructions and pay on time. Maybe they’re friendly and warm, or helpful and forgiving. Maybe they’re Baby Boomers. Or Gen Xers. Or work in a field you find interesting and challenging.
List it out. Build a portrait of your ideal customer, the type of person you wish all your customers would resemble.
This is your ideal reader—the person your content should attract.
The list you’re building can be as long as you want, but the key is to learn what you love about these people so that you can decide how to write in a way that pulls in more potential customers just like the ones you love working with.
For example, writing in a bold, authoritative style might attract the go-getters… and turn off the simpering, unsure customers you dislike dealing with. Or maybe writing in a warm, friendly way pulls in kind, caring souls that make you feel good about your job and wards off the authoritative, pushy types.
List in hand, you’ll be able to formulate a very accurate portrait of your best possible reader—and your most ideal customer.
Then you can begin writing in a way that appeals to them, reaches them, and attracts them closer to you—and to your business.
James Chartrand is the owner of Men with Pens, and the writer making waves at Damn Fine Words, the most innovative writing course completely designed to help bring you business results. Sign up now for the DFW newsletter for more writing, blogging and content creation tips and techniques.
My experience with the concept of having a “perfect reader” has something to do with a person that isn’t necessarily a loyal follower of the blog but has the intent to get involved once something big comes in (like a launch, an event, etc). For me it’s about having readers you can actually talk too, regardless if they’re your clients at the same time.
Now of course the trouble is finding more readers like that. I guess I’ve always relied on luck/serendipity. Great article James!
I really agree your comment. Thank you for sharing
“…For me it’s about having readers you can actually talk too, regardless if they’re your clients at the same time…” – Exactly! I, myself, think this way. :)
In fact, meeting new people is always a lot of fun for me. However, James surely has a point in getting those “500 truest followers”. In the end, they will be the ones to back you up when you have any kind of problem, big or small. Not regular followers simply won’t know enough about you to do that…
Liane, finding readers of the kind you want comes down to knowing who they are – who that Ideal Reader is – very intimately. Then you can go out, connect and bring that person back to your business. And it sounds like you already have a good sense of that person brewing in the back of your mind… go go!
Totally true, the perfect reader is someone you talk to outside of your blog, because you know they have a loyalty that goes deeper than the random RSS subscriber.
Certainly makes you think.
I think the problem I have is that I assume my audience is exactly like me and would therefore appreciate things exactly like I would. Although this is probably true is some cases I’m certainly aware that’s there’s probably plenty of people interested in the particular niche of one of my sites who are in-fact very different. It’s amazing how different people with a common interest can be.
It seems it’s all about trying to get that balance which suits the largest subset of readers possible, not as easy as it seems I imagine..!
Ha! In fact, NO ONE on the planet is exactly like you – kind of scary if you think about it. People are very much that unique!
But of course people have common interests and intersections of needs and goals and solutions. You can totally find those folk and bring them to your business.
I’d not try to find the largest subset of readers, though – I like building on one single Ideal Reader and then moving from there. Better to get 10 out of 10 in loyal customers than 1 out of 100 readers!
Understanding your readers (or customers) is also very important. You have to keep yourself in their place and then think because this will tell you what they are looking for
Right – putting yourself in your reader’s shoes for a day, walking a mile in their life, seeing the world from their eyes… all very valuable to sales, that’s for sure.
Writing is a lot like marketing. You need to know who your target market/audience is, so you can cater your approach to that audience. Creating a reader/customer profile helps keep it in mind. What do you they do? What gender, age, race, etc. are they? How much do they make? What hobbies do they have? Whatever comes to mind that helps you focus it. You don’t have to have one reader profile, create several to cover your basics as people are different but like similar things.
Writing is so much like marketing it’s almost scary. Even fiction novelists need to make sure they fulfill all the needs of their Ideal Reader to sell them on the idea of picking up the book, compelling them to turn the page, satisfying their desires… marketing indeed!
I like to think that finding the Ideal Reader should go far, far beyond demographics, though. Age, race and all that is good, but the real secret sauce is when you start delving in the pyschographics of your Ideal Reader… then you’re really tapping into gold.
Perfect advice, James. Untill you know who your “ideal customers/readers” are there’s no point of doing something.
You’ve listed the perfect tips to start of and may I add one more: “Spy on your competitors”.
I’ve recently watched an old movie about Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and there was that quote: “Good artists copy great artists steal” – so why don’t you go look at your competitors. Who are their customers, how do they attract them, what works best? Once you know the answers – do this yourself and do it better! :)
Those are my 2cents :)
Ha, good one, Tim! I absolutely agree with you on that one!
Thanks for the post … i really think this is a great idea to help people figure out who they are, because once you start to figure out who you are then you will start to figure out who your target audence is.
I’ve struggled with this idea, so this was really timely for me. I have it in my head that I want to write for everyone, but tend toward writing for women and parents. Ok… more for women. After reading this blog, I started getting some ideas how to build my women readership.
I’m in the process of planning for my blog, so this is one of the things I’m thinking about.
People with slightly “dark” tastes for art and detailed work, with a big dose of curiosity, openness towards new experiences and thirst for them thrown in :) ?
That definition needs work, but those are the main traits.
I think I might have to deal with the same issue as Ben Norman, above – my perfect reader is pretty similiar to me… but I think I’m going to like that :D .
I’ve decided to write a book, “The First Weak of Blogging.” My ideal customer: a person who has discovered that blogging is hard work with meager early rewards.
James, thanks for the post. The notion that everyone is a client (or your audience) is a fallacy I fell into early in my career. Getting specific on who I was speaking to made a huge difference not only in the response to my speeches, but to my overall happiness (imagine that!). Instead of sweating what I thought people wanted to hear, I delivered what I knew they needed to her. That only happened after following your formula of noting my best clients, noting what I like best about working with them (and their commonalities), and how I could deliver my most authentic content to satisfy them (and me!)…
Great stuff, James! Keep it coming…
Really very useful Tips about How to Attract Your Perfect Reader thanks for sharing
really agree your comment.
Knowing who you are actually writing for(Targeted audience) is often spoken of on the web. Though, I think many Blogs(Websites) may have difficulty in defining who THAT audience(the potential customers) really is.
Your post has highlighted the desire for moving towards a targeted Audience in a more defined way.
It takes a conscious effort to decide who we want to attract to our blogs/websites. Of course I had the attitude that everyone is my audience but I have since refined that.
Less is indeed more when quality is considered.
I think just about everyone starts out thinking everyone is the ideal target… and then the ones who succeed realize that’s not it at all. Good for you!
Cool Post James …
This part here was the most important part of your lesson I feel:
What would you rather have? 500 loyal customers constantly spreading the word about you, your products and your business because they love what you write? Or two million faceless consumers who show up to your website, read what you have to say and realize it doesn’t concern them?
I agree, speaking from experience, providing good relevant content for your readers is important, which in turn provides a natural word of mouth referral system.
If you want to get under the skin of your ideal reader, a term I use too, you need to ask two questions: What gets her up in the morning? What keeps him up at night?
Those are very good questions to ask, Barb!
Good advice. It was not until I realized that my core audience was the aspiring writer that my content and my blog became useful to my readers. Now I have a readership and a subscriber base that slowly keeps growing.
And growing is a really, really good place to be. Keep up the good work, Guy!
I’m struggling with this issue right now. It takes a lot of forethought to understand who exactly is your idea reader. I’m still not there.
Back in 1991, I took myself off to a “marketing boot camp.” As I ‘d already realized that I knew next to nothing about marketing, I learnt quite a lot. But the most important thing I learnt was that I should read a book called “Positioning, the Battle for The Mind” By Al Ries and Jack Trout.
Since reading that book and their others, I’ve narrowed both my business focus and my target market. And I’m always looking for ways to narrow them further.
Mate, what you say is both wise and true. What fascinates me is that so many bloggers and business managers seem to try to be “all things to all people.”
Keep hammering away James. After all, BMW is still “The Driving Experience.”
That’s a great book, Leon. I’ve read a few of Al Ries’ books, and the one I loved best was the 22 Laws of Branding… fun stuff in there!
Crystal clear thoughts presented in a fine, writerly manner. Nice going!
While I enjoy learning this, I must wonder (because I’m there!) what about just starting out? Or maybe I have a few customers now and I don’t really know them since they bought the book through amazon.com and not through me?
This is certainly the best way that I’ve read about to learn this sort of thing. It’s not vague or magic like some others have made it sound.
I’m grateful for that when I DO have customers I can learn from.
Great advice and it makes complete sense! Thanks for sharing!
Very marketing oriented advice and to continue in that vein I would like to add two things:
Writing: As Dorothea Brande says in her 1934 classic ‘Becoming a Writer’ “If you can discover what you are like, if you can discover what you truly believe about most of the major matters of life, you will be able to write a story which is honest and original and unique”
The Reader: If we write honestly in any genre, then we are going to attract people who can relate to what we write or who like to escape into what we write. If we develop a way to engage our readers, through a blog or social networking or book readings, then we should seek the opportunity to ask them questions.
In marketing we never assume we know what customers like about a product, we don’t guess, we survey them and test our assumptions, this can be formally or informally – but never has it been easier to engage with the reader than it is today I am sure.
This is the most important part and I am struggling with it. I deal with Logo, design and branding. So have to target a verity of customers like- real estate, medical, education and all those who really require the job to be done! There is no specific boundary and so really liked to know from where to start. Your input will be most appreciated.
I think it would be more effective to work for the certain auditorium, because over the time they will become more loyal and among them will be more potential customers
It clearly depends on the purpose of your blog. If you’re simply a “middle man” as an affiliate, while it might be great to have potential customers coming back to you in the future your main intention is to just get people to click a link.
In retail it’s absolutely necessary to get as many regular readers as possible, because I’ve found that most customers come back again if you have a more in-depth relationship with them.
Very good article, thanks!
It´s important to bring more traffic to your blog as more traffic should represent a better rank, but is more important to bring quality traffic to your site. I prefer to have less traffic from quality readers who will leave a comment on my blog than to have hundreds coming for a quick glimpse.
It would be of most importance if you are selling a product or a service.
Thanks for these tips.