18 min read
As a content creator, nothing induces more stress than staring at a blinking cursor.
You try to brainstorm what purposeful or thought-provoking things you can say, but alas, it goes blank. As blank as the new document you created hours ago.
Call it writer’s block or a lack of inspiration, but we know what it really is:
A misunderstanding of who you are writing for and what they want to hear you say.
Penning emails can be difficult when you don’t know who is on the receiving end.
You may have an idea of the stories you want to tell or advice you want to share, but is it relevant to your audience? Do they care enough to not only listen but also use the content as a means to build trust with your brand?
Effective email marketing can’t be achieved until you define who your target or niche audience is. Only then can you begin to attract more of the right email subscribers. Then you can build and nurture connections with them that have a greater probability of turning into sales.
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While you may want to dive head-first into setting up your email list and sending your first email broadcast, let’s pump the brakes to ensure you understand your audience on a deeper level.
You might know some of the basics—like their age range, gender, location, and possibly their education or income level—but these demographic facts paint a broad picture of who your audience is. Writing effective emails comes from knowing exactly who is receiving them.
We need to know more than how to attract audience members who fit the profile of 25 to 40-year-old women located in suburban areas. There are so many more details, characteristics, and traits that make a person who they are.
So where do you start? By asking the right questions.
Here are a few prompts that can help you discover exactly who you will be marketing your products and services to.
Every successful business offering is intentionally crafted as a response to an audience pain point. When you know what your audience member’s pain point is, you can work to create valuable resources and solutions to decrease or completely dissolve the pain point.
Put another way, a pain point is simply a problem your audience has that you are strategically positioned to help them solve through your products and services. The same principle is true for selling one-on-one consulting sessions, physical products, membership communities, or any other income stream.
One of the mistakes we often make as entrepreneurs is that we only locate surface-level pain points. You may assume the pain point of your target audience is about saving time because they lack consistency. Or maybe it's saving money with DIY efforts because they lack the budget. But there are deeper pain points at play here.
What is it that your audience member would like to do with the time or money they would save by hiring you? The answer to that question will help you understand the origin of the pain point.
This brings us to our next point where we can uncover what our target audience’s strongest motivations are.
If their pain point is the thing that keeps them from achieving their greatest dreams or reaching their most important goals, we must know what our target audience’s ideal goals are in order to help them get there.
Think of your business as the guide that gets your target audience from where they are now to where they dream of being. The pain point is the temporary roadblock, but the dream is the vehicle that mobilizes them to get to the bigger vision.
They will have key motivators you’ll want to pay attention to like:
Once you have tapped into these motivators, you will understand the driving force behind what your audience needs and desires. With their psychographics in mind, let’s understand how your target audience wants to be communicated with.
Not all audiences communicate the same way.
At a first glance, it’s easy to understand that Baby Boomers communicate differently than Millennials. But what about audience members who share the same demographics but still differ?
You may want to first consider how your target audience likes to communicate and consume information.
These questions will help you understand your audience by defining what their ideal communication methods look like.
Knowing when to communicate with your target audience is just as important. Is there a certain day of the week or time of the day that your audience is most likely to open an email? Do they prefer to receive weekly, biweekly, or monthly emails?
Once you know when to communicate with them, think about where they like to hang out. Many entrepreneurs find that their target audience members spend time on multiple platforms. This could include social media platforms, video websites, RSS feeds, forums, and their email inbox.
You don’t want to spend your time and energy marketing your products or services on a platform your audience doesn’t regularly use. While social media is a great place to start building an audience, you’ll want to transition them into email subscribers so you can nurture your community long term. As social media sites become noisier and more crowded, having a direct line of communication to your subscribers through email marketing is crucial.
Are you already starting to feel more connected to your target audience? Good! That’s what we like to hear.
These are your first steps to help you feel confident and comfortable when you begin implementing your email marketing strategy.
If you want to continue uncovering the desires, motivations, and traits of your target audience, we have additional audience research prompts that can help:
If these questions feel difficult to answer right now, don’t worry. Having a full understanding of your audience doesn’t happen in a day, but it is good to keep these prompts in mind as you turn blog readers, website visitors, and social media followers into email subscribers.
As you begin thinking about who your target audience is, it’s natural to ask yourself how specific you want to get. You’re convinced that you want to go beyond the basics, but how specialized or niched down should your audience be?
We are big believers in the power of building a niche audience. Rather than trying to attract everyone, it is better in the long run to focus on the type of people you attract.
It may seem great when you see your list of email subscribers rise, but are they actually audience members who fit your ideal customer profile? If not, you may be building your email list full of subscribers who won’t see a need in the products and services you offer.
Instead, we recommend building a niche audience from the get-go.
Trying to be everything to everyone won’t get you far. If you are still trying to decide whether or not you want to attract a niche audience, we’ve defined a few more reasons why it might be a good fit for you.
Starting a business is easier and more accessible than ever. This is great news for many of us, but the downside is that you will face more competition than you would decades ago. In light of this new competition, positioning yourself as a niche expert is important.
Instead of becoming a graphic designer who works in any industry, you could become a visual branding designer who works with non-profit organizations. In the same vein, a lifestyle and travel blogger could become a travel expert in a specific location.
And it’s even better if you can find a highly sought after niche that doesn’t currently have a high number of competitors in it. The more specific you become, the stronger your solution will be.
How do you go about finding your niche?
Knowing your niche not only helps you easily connect with your target audience but also helps you convert more of your readers or subscribers to buyers or clients. If you can offer an exact solution for a specific type of client or buyer, it is easier to sell than a product or service with broad claims.
You may be asking yourself if pursuing a niche audience will limit the number of sales you can make. It is actually the opposite. A broad solution is harder to sell than a specific offer, making it a stronger (and more appealing) call-to-action when you write your email content.
If you were a first-year wedding florist who wanted to increase your profit margins, would you buy a digital course that taught all entrepreneurs how to build a business or a course that focused on small business solutions for wedding professionals? You would most likely choose the second option because of the specialization it offers.
While not every product or service you create will “sell itself” solely based on the niche you choose, it will help you increase conversions with a niche audience who values your specialized knowledge or offering.
When you know the unique set of challenges and struggles your niche audience is up against, you’ll be able to use this knowledge to brainstorm content ideas.
From there, you can create an in-depth content strategy that will allow you to walk each audience member through a series of emails that helps them solve a problem or gives them a better understanding of what they are struggling with.
Creating a list of email marketing content ideas becomes much easier when you keep a niche audience in mind. Since you have their key pain points and dreams identified, you can use them to inform your content.
Thinking this way turns your email content into a roadmap that takes them your audience from their problem to the solution (or a partial solution to a bigger problem when you are selling products and services). Each email does its job when it educates your niche audience on relevant topics while simultaneously building trust with your brand.
If determining your niche audience is proving to be more difficult than you anticipated, don’t worry. It’s hard to make thoughtful decisions on the direction of your brand and business without doing some audience research.
We can’t be expected to know everything about our audience in terms of their motivations, decision-making process, buying habits, and thought patterns. We can only make predictions that need to be tested and proved by conducting audience research.
So far, we have helped you create a detailed list of characteristics about your niche audience, but audience research is where it all comes together. The predictions you already have about your target audience will help you craft questions and prompts that will show you what is true and what isn’t.
The first step is to ask your target audience the same questions you answered on your own at the beginning of this article. Were you right on target in regards to their struggles, motivations, and visions?
Our audience research will help give us more context and clarity around each of these areas, but how do you know what format is best for asking these questions? We have a few examples to help you get started.
Creating a poll is arguably the easiest way to perform audience research. With a poll, you offer your audience a list of questions and give them a few options to choose from to answer each one.
One of the downsides, however, is that a poll won’t give you context as to why a person in your target audience chose each answer or if they had another answer in mind. If you want to understand your audience on a deeper level, a poll may not be your best fit.
However, a poll can be a good fit for entrepreneurs who want a quick and simple way to see if there is interest in a new offering or have a direct question they want feedback on. If you have been engaging with your target audience members for years, polls may be a great short-term audience research platform.
If you decide to create a poll, social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter can help you get more eyes on your poll. Both platforms have built-in poll features that make them incredibly easy to use and set up.
Keep in mind that depending on the audience you’ve built on both platforms, you may get responses from people who aren’t in your target audience. In that case, disregard those responses and stay focused on the people who identify with your niche.
If you are looking for more audience-generated information than a poll can give you, a survey could be a great next step. Many bloggers and product creators create surveys in order to understand the types of content their niche audience is interested.
Based on this information, you can create a priority list of products or services you want to create because you know the level of interest your audience has in each one. You can also use surveys to understand what your target audience is struggling with and what their motivations are.
When you create a survey question, think about how many questions you want to keep open-ended and how many could be multiple choice (like a poll) or rating based.
When you create a survey, you want to be intentional about the number of questions you ask. Too many questions and you may turn off a target audience member who doesn’t have the time to take a long survey. Too few questions and you may not gain the kind of insight you were looking for.
We recommend sticking with five to 10 questions with a mixture of survey question types that make it easy for any target audience member to record and submit their answers. Free, easy-to-use survey tools like Typeform and SurveyMonkey can help you get started. As you create your first survey, we have a Typeform video tutorial to guide you through the process.
Conducting a survey or poll can be a great way to test product or service ideas, but one of the best ways to truly understand your audience is by doing interviews or holding a focus group.
These audience research methods aren’t as scalable as the other two, meaning it will take more output from you as the creator, but they will give you a deeper look into the minds of your target audience.
If you are struggling to define your niche or don’t know what is motivating your audience to buy, hosting interviews and focus groups could be a great next step.
Your interviews will be structured much like a survey in that you will go in with predetermined questions. Unlike a survey, you can also ask follow-up questions based on the person’s feedback.
These open and honest conversations can often reveal more than you would learn in a poll or survey. You can also do in-person, video, or phone interviews depending on what your audience member prefers.
While interviews are often done in a one-on-one capacity, you can also host group interviews through a focus group.
While you may think of a focus group being reserved for people who want to get feedback on a physical product, but they can also be used for testing new marketing concepts and understanding your audience’s needs.
You can also host a focus group online through a group video call or in your local area at a coffee shop, co-working space, or in an available conference room.
Once you build confidence in knowing who your niche audience is and what solutions they desire from you through these interviews, you can use these polls and surveys to continually nurture your audience and ensure you know how their needs are evolving over time.
We are about to find out! No matter where you are in the process of defining your niche audience, we have an exercise to help you nail down who you want to serve.
In four simple steps, you will understand how to choose the best target audience for your brand and have the tools to actually find them. Once you know who they are, it’s time to create email signup forms that will entice them to sign up for your email list.
Open a word document or grab a sheet of paper and write down the names of at least 10 people you already know (ideally 25 or more) who you would love to have as readers and customers.
These should describe your ideal reader, the person who would most benefit from learning about your topic. Ask yourself:
Who on your first list has some of the attributes on your second list? If you don’t know for sure, think about who on your first list is likely to have at least some of the attributes on your second list?
Who on list 1 has the most attributes on list 2? You need at least one name, but if you have more, that’s good too!
That person now represents your ideal reader. Everything you write and create for your blog should be with this one human being in mind.
By focusing on one specific person to start, you’ll eventually find the universal content that matters most to what will be your now narrowed down blog audience.
PS- If you don’t have one real name, look through your contacts in your phone, Facebook friends, and LinkedIn connections until you find at least one person who fits the bill.
If you’ve never built an email list or are looking to move your email list to a new platform, you can check out ConvertKit for a free.
Once you’ve got your niche, target audience, the next step in email marketing is to start building your email list. And the doors into your email list are landing pages.