7 Ways New Businesses Can Know Their Target Audience (Before You Have an Audience)

“Know your audience.”

Open any book or blog post on content marketing strategy, and that advice is going to be somewhere near the top. There’s plenty of advice out there on understanding your target audience or customer so that you can market to them well.

The trouble is, almost all of this advice is about knowing your customer better. But what if you’re just starting out and you haven’t even started gathering leads, let alone making sales? What if you haven’t even published any content yet?

How are you supposed to know your customer if you don’t have any? How do you find your target audience when your blog or business is brand new?

Take heart. While a lot of the advice out there about getting to know your audience can be intimidating, a lot of it is geared toward large companies and isn’t really relevant to small businesses or solopreneurs. But it’s not rocket science.

With imagination, experience and some creative sleuthing, you can craft audience profiles that will help you plan and create targeted content that attracts the right customers to your business. Here are seven methods to help brand new businesses identify their target audience.

1. Imagine Your Ideal Customer

Who is your dream client? Who do you most want to work with? What type of person would benefit most from your product or get the most out of the content you want to produce?

You can use some imagination here to create a profile of exactly the type of person you want to work with or sell to, but you may also have a real-life representative in mind. If so, you can follow that person on social media to learn more about them. You may even be able to warm up to them enough to start conversations that can help you discover relevant details that can inform your marketing efforts. Just, y’know, don’t be creepy or weird about it.

Is your dream client a Fortune 500 company? Then you’ll want to figure out who the point of contact would be and get to know more about people who hold that role. But starting out with your ideal audience in mind will help you tailor your marketing message and your content to the kind of people who will be a joy for you to work with. This is especially important if you have a service-oriented business that will have you working one-on-one with your clients.

2. Base it on Someone You Know

Maybe you had a specific person in mind when you developed your product, wrote your book or decided on the service you want to provide. Or maybe you’re an affiliate marketer and you have a friend or family member who is extremely into the topic you’ll be blogging about. Maybe that person is you. In any case, if you already know someone who would happily devour your content or plunk down their hard-earned money to buy what you’re selling, then you’ve got a template on which to base your target audience.

3. Base it on a Past Version of You

If your business is built around solving a problem that you yourself once faced, then that past version of you may be your ideal audience. Say you’re a fitness coach or a nutrition coach who used to struggle with weight loss, but you finally unlocked the secret to getting and staying healthy. You know exactly what you needed to hear and feel in order to get to a place where you were ready to take action. That’s the core message you can plan your content around.

4. Talk to People Struggling With Problems You Can Address

Or, conversely, engaged in activities that your content, service or product can make more enjoyable or improve their performance. If you don’t know anyone in real life, try hanging out in Facebook Groups, Reddit threads or online forums relevant to your type of business. For example, if you’re starting out as an ADHD coach, the ADHD subReddit is a goldmine of the challenges faced by people who have ADHD. That’s your target audience. Tailor your content to them.

5. Read Reviews of Related Books or Products

Trying to launch a personal coaching business? Read reviews of self-help and personal development books to learn specific problems called out by reviewers that you can address in your content. Or read business book reviews if you’re a business coach. Or read time management and productivity book reviews if you’re launching a SaaS website that helps in those areas. Reviews can be a valuable source of insight into discovering who your target audience is and how you can serve them.

6. Consider Your Target Demographics – but Make Sure They’re Relevant

You’ve probably reat at some point that you need to craft your buyer persona down to the micro level, knowing everything about them including how many kids they have, what kind of coffee they drink and how many rooms are in their home. These things might be relevant if you’re giving parenting advice, launching a subscription coffee service or a new line of cleaning products. But they’re not relevant to every type of business.

The age group of your client may not matter at all, or it may be super important. If you’re selling a nutrition plan to help perimenopausal women, or women struggling with infertility, age matters a lot. It might also make a huge difference whether your target client is a Boomer, a GenXer, a Millennial or GenZ, which will impact your messaging, your delivery and the tone of your marketing content.

Target demographics can be important, when they’re relevant. But don’t get hung up on trying to determine minutiae about your audience that doesn’t really make a difference.

7. Consider the Psychographics of Your Audience

Psychographics focus on your target’s AIOs – which stands for Activities, Interests and Opinions. In other words, psychographic data is information about what your audience is into, how they spend their time, what they think about, and what they think about those things.

This information can be useful in determining things like where your audience hangs out online and the sort of content they like to consume, which can help you choose your content channels and delivery method.

But again, how do you get this information if you don’t already have an audience? Again, Facebook groups, Reddit threads, comment threads on blogs, Twitter threads and online forums can be immensely helpful in gaining these insights into your hypothetical customer.

Using these methods, you can build an audience profile and buyer personas that will let you start creating content that pulls in relevant traffic and creates brand awareness with the right audience. You might not be directly over the bull’s eye, but you’ll still be on target.

And as that traffic converts to leads and sales, you’ll be able to engage in other methods, like customer surveys and interviews, that will let you tweak your content strategy and get it closer to the mark.

Creating a Content Strategy: Getting the Most Out of Your Brand’s Marketing Content

I remember when I started my first blog, waaaay back in *mumblemumble year that started with 2 and ended with three 0s mumblemumble*. I whipped up a post and posted it whenever inspiration struck. I wrote about all kinds of random things. I updated when I felt like it. I had a blast.

But I didn’t have much of a following.

Of course, this was back when Yahoo! was still the first word in search, blogs were just beginning to be a thing, and SEO hadn’t even been invented yet. I didn’t have a large following, but I did have a following. Fast forward to when Google pretty much took over the internet, and now that kind of approach to serving up content will get you no following, outside of your mom, your best friend and maybe a handful of your Twitter peeps.

Which may be fine, if the point of your online presence is to have fun and keep in touch with your besties. But I’m guessing you wouldn’t be on this website if that was your goal.

More likely, you’re here because you have a product or service you need to sell, and you need to know how to get eyes on that product or service. You know, or at least have an inkling, that SEO-driven content can draw potential buyers to your website, where you can eventually get around to making your pitch. For that, you need to approach your content with more deliberation and care.

You need a content marketing strategy.

What is a content marketing strategy?

A content strategy is… well, it’s pretty much what it says on the tin. A strategy for your content.

You’re welcome. We can all go home now.

No, but seriously, a content strategy thoughtfully answers a few questions you may — you should – be asking:

What kind of marketing content are you going to serve?

Who are you going to serve it to?

Where are you going to serve it?

How are you going to produce it?

When or how often are you going to post it?

Why are you posting it? In other words, what purpose does your content serve? What outcome are you hoping it will achieve?

Take time to answer those questions, and you’ll be well on your way to developing an effective content strategy to help bolster your online presence.

Start with Why

I always find it helpful to start with the desired outcome and work back from there, reverse engineering the steps I need to take to achieve that outcome. Not only should you know the overall purpose of your content, but what purpose should each spoke of your platform serve? What’s the desired outcome for each post?

I also write fiction. I have an author website. You would think that the purpose of that website would be to promote my books – and I do have info about each of my books there, along with links to buy them – but my primary purpose for that website is to convert readers into fans and get them to join my mailing list. My books direct readers to my website, where they can do just that. My blog serves as a place for readers to learn more about me and my life and stay up to date on what I’m working on next, and to connect with me in the comments. My author Instagram profile and Facebook page are both there to hook new fans and point them toward my blog. My mailing list, on the other hand, is there to promote my books and get sales.

Effective content marketing isn’t about the hard sell. It’s about connection and brand awareness, and building curiosity and trust. Save the sales pitch for content that gets served up later on in your audience’s buyer journey, like when they subscribe to your mailing list or venture off of your blog to explore your product or service pages.

With that in mind, what purpose does your website serve? What about your blog? Your social media? Keep that purpose in mind as you plan and create your content.

Who is Just as Important as Why

For a truly effective content strategy, you need to know your intended audience inside and out. What stage of life are they in? What questions or challenges are they struggling with? What answers or solutions can you offer? What kind of content do they like best? What kind of tone attracts them? Where do they hang out online?

Take time to answer these questions and develop a profile of your ideal client or customer. This is your target audience, and knowing this can help answer the questions of what kind of content you’ll create and where you’ll serve it, as well as direct which topics you’ll cover as you plan out your content.

You may find that you have more than one ideal client profile, or buyer persona, and that’s fine. But if you have multiple buyer personas, try to focus each piece of content on one or two personas at a time. Trying to reach everybody in your audience at every stage in their buyer journey will only water down your content and cause it to lose impact.

You Have a Strategy. Now You Can Make a Plan.

Wait – isn’t that the same thing? No, it is not. Your content marketing strategy is the macro, big picture view that will guide you as you plan each piece of your content and develop your content calendar. Planning your content focuses more on the micro level for each platform and individual piece of content. What does it need to accomplish? Which of your buyer personas is it targeting? When is the best time to post it? Who will write or produce it? Where will it appear?

Taking time to sit down and develop an overarching content marketing strategy will give you a framework that will help make sure your content is doing exactly what you want it to do and reaching exactly who you want it to reach.

Do you have a content marketing strategy in place, or are you winging it? How’s it going either way? Let me know in the comments!

ChatGPT for Content Marketing Writing? Five Reasons I’m Not Worried AI Will Steal My Job

A lot of hay is being made about ChatGPT being the future of writing. It’s being celebrated by entrepreneurs who are using it to churn out content within minutes, and being given some serious side-eye by actual human writers who, like me, make their living from writing B2C marketing content.

What is ChatGPT, you ask? It’s an AI interface, developed by OpenAI and hosted on their servers, that is being touted as the next step in the evolution of search technology. Basically, it’s an artificial intelligence that answers questions when asked.

But it doesn’t only churn out quick answers for information seekers. It can write entire essays and articles. It can even write fiction. And it does these things well enough that schools and universities are having to crack down on students using ChatGPT to do their homework for them.

Some freelance writers are also using this program to do their work for them – or at least to speed it up. Hire a low-pay freelancer off of Fiverr or Upwork, and you might end up paying for an AI generated piece of content, which may or may not have been edited and polished by your human content writer for hire. Many busy entrepreneurs are skipping the middle man and simply using this program to write their own content without needing to pay anyone.

This new reality is making some freelance content writers higher up on the experience ladder a bit uncomfortable. Once the word gets out that marketers can simply instruct a chat bot to write their marketing content, will that spell the end of our freelance content marketing writer careers?

Not based on what I’ve seen so far. I’ve played around with ChatGPT’s content writing abilities, and here are 5 reasons why I’m not worried that it will be stealing my job any time soon.

  1. Its writing is perfunctory at best. This is why hirers might not notice the difference between AI-generated content and the usual fare they get from low-pay writers – it’s about the same level of writing skill you’d get from the sort of writer who’s happy to charge under a nickel a word. If I were competing on job bidding sites, I’d be concerned. But the clientele I write for pays a premium for excellently written content, and they’re happy to do so because they know the value of quality content that gets results. Turning in an AI-generated article would fool no one at this level and would likely get me fired.
  2. The information tends to be high-level and basic. You can keep playing around with it to get it to go deeper, but for as much time as that takes I can just Google some sources or reach out to an expert source with my questions.
  3. The information it provides isn’t always accurate. ChatGPT has been criticized for, basically, making things up and providing misinformation. Any article it churns out needs to be thoroughly fact-checked and vetted.
  4. It lacks the human element – for now. I admit, I have some concerns about machine learning and how this AI grows smarter with each use. Will it eventually be able to do a better job of mimicking humans? That’s a somewhat creepy possibility to contemplate. But the writing I produced using this program felt very flat, lacking in style and creative flair.
  5. It lacks empathy — and empathy is critical to being an effective content marketing writer. My clients need writers who can put themselves in their customers’ shoes and empathize with the problems and challenges that lead them to seek out the solutions my clients offer. An AI simply can’t do that, and I’m not convinced that’s something AI will ever learn to do well.

All of that said, in my experimentation I did discover a few ways that ChatGPT could come in handy for speeding up my workflow and making my job a little easier:

  • Keyword research – the AI is excellent at suggesting related key words and phrases that I can work into my articles to enhance SEO.
  • Headlines and subheads – I sometimes get stumped when it comes to writing effective headlines and SEO-friendly subheads. ChatGPT can generate some pretty good suggestions that work great with a little tweaking.
  • Ideation – Another thing I’m not great at is coming up with ideas for articles to pitch that haven’t already been done to death. It takes some creative question phrasing to drill down to a level that might actually pique an editor’s interest, but it gave me a few ideas that I might be able to develop into something worthwhile.

All in all, I think ChatGPT has the makings of a helpful automated virtual assistant. But I would never use it to do my writing for me, and based on what I’ve seen, I have nothing to worry about as far as my clients deciding to dump me and publish AI-generated content from now on.

At least, for now. After all, we live in strange times. Who knows where all of this will ultimately lead?

Have you tried ChatGPT? What are your thoughts? Are there any ways you’ve found it helpful that I didn’t mention? Let’s hear about it in the comments.

Effective Content Marketing and SEO: How to Make Your Brand Stand Out

Years ago, if someone had told me I’d one day make my living as a content marketing writer, I’d have laughed in their face. Me? Marketing? I hate marketing. It’s so pushy and sales-y. I’d really rather not.

A lot of people feel that way. That word “marketing” is a real turn-off for many. Some people are born salespeople and can’t get enough of marketing, but I’m not one of them. And yet, marketing is necessary. How else will anyone learn about your brand or product if you don’t market it, and market it well?

Thank heavens for content marketing. What I didn’t understand back in those days when I would have laughed is that this approach is 180 degrees removed from those hard sales tactics that make introverts like me so squeamish. Not only that, but letting your content do your marketing for you is a highly effective way to create awareness for your brand, drive relevant traffic to your website, and build relationships and brand confidence that converts visitors into repeat business.

What’s Content Marketing?

It’s simple, really — content marketing means creating meaningful content that will appeal to potential customers and clients and attract them to your platform, where they can learn more about you and what you have to offer. That’s it.

Content marketing is a form of “pull” marketing — a passive form of advertising that captures interest and pulls people in where they can become curious and learn more. The opposite of this is “push” marketing, more aggressive forms of marketing such as ads and direct sales that push your products and services in front of people. When people say they hate marketing, they usually mean this second kind of “in your face” marketing. On the other hand, content marketing, if done correctly, doesn’t feel like marketing or selling at all. It feels more like sharing or having a conversation — because that’s exactly what it is.

Backing up a bit, what do I mean by “meaningful” content? Something that will provide value for your potential customer — typically, information that can help them solve a problem or that answers a question they’re asking. But meaningful can also simply mean entertaining. Preferably, your content will hit that sweet spot of being both informative and entertaining at the same time — or if not exactly entertaining, at least engaging enough that it won’t feel like a slog for your audience to get through.

Content marketing can take on myriad forms: an article, a blog post, a newsletter, an infographic, a tweet, a TikTok or Reel, a YouTube video and a podcast are just a handful of the more common examples. That’s one of the things I love most about this type of marketing — whatever your personality, whether you’re the most laconic of introverts or the most outgoing of extroverts or somewhere in between, there’s a form of content marketing that will suit your energy level.

But whatever form your content marketing strategy takes, it needs one vital component to truly succeed.

SEO Copywriting for Your Content Marketing Strategy

However engaging, entertaining or informative your content may be, it won’t matter if nobody sees it. That’s where SEO copywriting comes in. You’ve probably heard of SEO, and you probably already know that it stands for Search Engine Optimization, but you might not know much beyond that. A true SEO expert could regale you with lengthy explanations of algorithms and metrics and other terms that would likely make your eyes glaze over, but you don’t need to know all of that in order to effectively use SEO as part of your brand content marketing strategy. All you need to know are a few best practices for SEO and how to implement them.

But first, a quick sidebar on why this is important, and why you don’t want to treat it like an afterthought: SEO keywords are what makes it easy for the people who are seeking the information you provide to find that information. Think of a search engine like a match maker that matches your desired audience with your content.

Say you’re a pet writer who posted an awesome recipe for gluten-free peanut butter dog treats. The right SEO keywords will help get your recipe in front of people who are looking for awesome gluten-free dog treats. You created a video on how to teach puppies not to bite? SEO can help match your video with puppy parents who are tired of chewed up fingers. In short, SEO can help get more eyes on your content — eyes belonging to people who are searching for the exact type of content, and likely also the products and services, you have to offer.

With that in mind, here are a few SEO best practices that can make the difference between your content actually being seen or languishing in the no man’s land of page forty-five of search results:

1. Use relevant key search terms in your content

2. Build external links back to your content

3. Create internal links between your content

Let’s break these down.

How To Use Key Search Terms in Your Content: Placement is Everything

Key search terms, also known as key words or key phrases, are what tells search engines that your content is relevant to what someone is searching for. When you enter a word or phrase into a search engine, the search engine sends out robots to scour the internet for content that’s highly relevant to that search term and then present that content in order of what is most likely to satisfy your search request. So if you want your article or video to show up on the first page when someone searches “how to trim my dog’s nails,” you need to not only offer the best article on getting those nails trimmed, but you also need to include that phrase throughout your article.

But effective SEO isn’t a matter of cramming as many relevant search terms as you can think of into your content as many times as possible. That’s called keyword stuffing, and it’s a practice that can backfire, getting your content pushed way, way down in the rankings, or possibly de-listed from search listings altogether.

It’s much more effective to focus on one or two highly relevant search terms, or at most three, and place them strategically throughout your content. Where to place your key words? Follow these rules:

1. In the title — the title of your article, blog post, YouTube video, etc. should contain your primary key phrase. So using the above example, you would title your content, “How to Trim My Dog’s Nails.” If that’s not catchy enough for you, save your spice for after the key phrase: “How to Trim My Dog’s Nails: Expert Tips for Safe and Stress-Free Nail Trimming at Home.” Remember that an eye-catching title won’t catch any eyes if it’s too far down in the search rankings.

2. In the first paragraph — generally, it’s a good idea to use both your primary and secondary key search phrases within the first 100 words of your written content. That goes for descriptions on YouTube videos and podcast episodes as well as articles and blog posts.

3. In section headings — when it comes to articles and blog posts, a bonus SEO tip is to use a format that’s easy to read and easily skimmable. That means using short paragraphs and breaking your content up into sections with their own headings and subheadings. These section headings are a great place to highlight your key search terms.

4. In image file names, alt tags and title tags — When adding images to your content, most content management systems or blogging platforms will provide fields where you can enter or change the image file name as well as the alt and title tags. These are all great places to insert your primary target search term and give your SEO an extra boost.

5. In the URL of your post — Typically, your content management system will automatically do this for you when you include your key phrase in the title of your post. But if it doesn’t, if possible, edit your content’s URL to include your key phrase.

So how often should your key words appear in your content? Twice for each key phrase at a minimum. For longer content, such as articles longer than 800 words or so, aim for at least four times for your primary key phrase, not counting your title, URL and image tags. But try not to use it more than six times. You don’t want to risk getting penalized for overdoing it.

Boosting Your Content’s Search Engine Ranking with External Links

As essential as good keywords are, effective SEO isn’t built on keywords alone. External links — links to your content from other blogs and websites, also known as backlinks — will also help make or break your search engine rankings. The higher quality the links — that is, the more popular and trusted the websites linking back to your content — the better. These external links act as votes of confidence that let those busy little search engine bots know your content can be trusted.

External links can be a bit of a road block when developing your SEO strategy. After all, you don’t have a lot of control over whether another blogger or content creator decides to link to your content. But it’s not completely out of your control. Here are a few creative ways you can build back links to your content:

1. Write articles and guest posts for high-profile blogs that allow guest posters to include a byline or bio. Include a link in your byline to relevant content or a landing page on your own website.

2. Seek out interview opportunities. Become a go-to expert on YouTube shows and podcasts and ask the hosts to provide links to your content in the video description or show notes.

3. Sign up as an expert on Help a Reporter Out. Freelance writers and journalists use this service to find expert sources to quote in their articles, typically in exchange for full credit with a link back to your website.

4. Ask. It’s a bold approach, but there’s no harm in asking a blogger or content creator whose audience is similar to yours if their audience might be interested in your content. If they have content that’s also relevant to your own audience, offer to return the favor. The key word here is relevant. Don’t approach a blog that has nothing to do with the topic you’re writing about and expect a positive response. You’ll need to do a little research to find platforms that are a good match for your content.

5. Create your own. Articles you post to Medium, videos you post to YouTube, a separate blog you’ve got on a separate domain, and other platforms you operate external to the website or content you’re promoting are all places where you can link back to your content and provide an SEO backlink boost.

Maximizing SEO with Strategic Internal Linking

Internal links — links between posts and pages on your own website or blog — are much easier to achieve. As such, they don’t carry the same weight as external backlinks, but they still help provide a shot of positive “link juice” to your SEO, encouraging visitors to spend more time on your website. This not only tells those algorithms that the quality of your content makes people want to stick around; it also gives visitors a chance to learn more about your brand and what you have to offer.

So there you have it — a rundown of how content marketing and SEO strategy can help attract new customers or clients to your business. Need help putting it all into practice? A content marketing writer and SEO copywriter such as myself can help you develop and implement an effective content strategy that will appeal to your ideal customer and help build a relationship that goes beyond a one-time purchase and keeps them coming back.