Ad and marketing creatives

Research Your Target Audience

When writing a marketing or publicity piece, such as a landing page or press release, you have to know the ins and outs of the product you're writing about. That's a given. However, it is equally important -- if not more so -- to thoroughly understand the target audience as well. That's not always easy.

After all, how can I, a forty-something copywriter and marketing consultant, understand the business problems faced by an IT manager? Or the day-to-day challenges of a single working mom?

Research is required.

But then you face another roadblock. There isn't always a lot of time available. You might be asked to write an email promotion targeting librarians -- a group you know little about -- and have just a couple of days to do it. How are you going to find out more about their needs and interests, and the unique issues that influence their buying decisions? In less than 48 hours!

Here are some fast-track tips that will help:

Read what your prospect reads.

Just about every group -- accountants, seniors, even shuffleboard enthusiasts -- have websites, newsletters and other publications that target their interests. Find out what they are and review a few issues. This will not only give you insights into the target audience, but what the style and tone of your copy should be, too.

Haunt the blogs and forums.

Want to find out what the hot issues are with a target audience? Blogs, discussion boards and forums are a great way to find out.

Seminar descriptions.

Seminar descriptions often address the most important concerns of a target audience. If they didn't, the seminar wouldn't sell! Professional associations -- such as the American Association for Certified Public Accountants -- as well as magazines and other publications, often run seminars. You can also do a search for seminars on the Internet.

Speak to the sales reps.

Salespeople are a terrific source of information on a target audience. After all, these are the folks who deal with prospects and customers everyday, and can often provide you with insights you won't find anywhere else.

Want to know what warehouse managers are concerned about? Ask the shipping supplies salesperson. Want the scoop on the electronic gadgets that kids are clamoring for? Ask the electronics store clerk.

Meet your target audience.

Sometimes, it's possible to talk to a prospect or customer directly. If so, this is ideal. Alternatively, your company or client may have commissioned a survey of the target audience and has a summary of their thoughts and opinions. Ask if this information is available.

Attend trade shows.

There is a trade show for just about every professional and personal interest. The HVAC Contractors Show, The Cottage Life Show, The Knitwear Show, and hundreds more. These are a hub of activity where sellers and buyers meet to discuss new products, services and ideas. You can learn a lot here by hanging around the exhibits, and listening to the questions asked and the issues raised. It's an education.

Can't attend a trade show live? You don't have to. Often the Web site promoting the event will publish news and highlights.

In every marketing or PR piece, understanding your target audience is the key to persuasion. You can never truly walk a mile in someone else's moccasins. But, with some quick research, you can come pretty darn close.

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Steve Slaunwhite is a marketing consultant, award-winning copywriter, and author of The Everything Guide to Writing Copy. He works with professionals who need better results from their websites, e-mails, sales letters, ads, and other marketing communications. He is also the editor of His professional home on the Web is Click here to read more articles by Steve Slaunwhite.