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Brand Publishing 101 - #2 Identifying your audience

Brand Publishing 101 - #2 Identifying your audience

This article is Part 2 of our Brand Publishing 101 series - walking your through the ins and outs of setting up and kicking off a winning brand publishing strategy. So buckle in.

Brand publishing is all about putting your audience at the centre, so it makes sense that this is where you start. No matter how well you think you know your audience - going through this process is always worthwhile, even if the result ends up being a confirmation of your original assumptions. Getting your audience wrong at the start is a sure fire way to trip yourself up, just sayin.

There are two main ways in which you get to know your audience, and both are critical components in getting this part right - so don't just focus on one:

1. Get out of the office and meet people

It's that simple. Get out of the office and meet with your existing customers face to face. Meet with as many customers as possible, from as diverse a background and geolocation as possible (if you're pushing for global reach then jump on a google hangout or a call with customers from as many locations as possible).

Before starting your customer chats arm yourself with some key questions that you want to ask each customer, to ensure you are getting data points that you can compare easily from each conversation to identify trends and commonality. The easiest way to do this is to gather together all of the brand publishing stakeholders in your business and ask them - "If you could ask our customers anything, what would you really want to know?" This gives you insight into what your team is seeing as important for customers, and also ensures everyone is on the same page.

If you're still stuck for question ideas then start with a general question that involves your key speciality, then simply dig under the surface with follow on questions, for example:

  • I'd love to know, why do you use content marketing for your business?
  • How do you know that it's really working?
  • How much time would you spend online reading and upskilling on content marketing? 
  • Why is that important to you?
  • Where do you go first for inspiration? 

The main thing to keep in mind here is that your looking for an emotional response, not hard data facts. If you get an emotional response that goes down a tangent - then follow it! Sometimes those tangent conversations can yield the most valuable insights. Once you've run 3-5 of these conversations you'll have a much better understanding of the types of questions you need to ask, and the process will just get easier. 

For some reason this is often the biggest challenge for businesses when trying to identify your audience, the concept can seem too difficult, time consuming, or simply unappealing to many. But these meetings will be the ones that give you the most valuable insights into your customers and audience. This is the exact same process that leading brands and technology companies use to optimise their customer success, and you need to be doing the same.

But don't stop there. Once you've started conversations with your existing customers, reach out to potential customers or lost customers that fit the same target market criteria. This ensures that the insights that you're getting will also work for your potential customers - which is critical if you want your brand publishing venture to help with lead generation. 

The rule of thumb is that you keep having these chats until you are see a strong thread of need/emotion on a single topic coming from these conversations. This often requires that you narrow your audience during this process, dropping off the outliers until the chat answers start feeling the same - that's when you've hit it on the head. This could take only 20 conversations to get to, or it could take 100 - it simply depends on focused your target audience is at the outset. 

If you want to speed this process up the easiest way is to split the conversations across multiple team members and run this process in parallel. Just make sure that all of these team members are skilled at holding a conversation, ask the same questions (so you can compare the results), and record each session carefully. I strongly recommend using a recording app on your phone rather than notes as it allows the conversation to flow more naturally rather than feel like a job interview, but ensure you ask permission before recording.

2. Gather all of the data

You will already have a wealth of data from all of the different systems that you currently use in your business; from your CRM, analytics & tracking tools, marketing tools, social media channels and digital advertising. This is the time to collate all of this data and gather as much insight as possible - there's little benefit to your business in building a great audience for 30-40 year old men, if 80% of your buying market is women under 25. So check your data - this is why you've been collecting it.

If you need help with your data collecting, or just don't have enough data points enough yet - then paid for services like global web index can help source that data for you.

The next stage is to look outside of your internal data set, and see what conversations are actually happening in the market. Using tools like google's keyword planner, or trends insight platform, to look at specific phrases and/or topics can make it much easier to see what traction those topics are actually getting online. This will help you to identify the appetite your audience already has for the speciality topics you are considering focusing on. 

Building a brand personality

Forming and maintaining a strong brand personality is core to a highly effective brand publishing venture, and your brand personality needs to relate to your audience.

Personas can be a great help here, giving your writing team a 'human face' that they can relate to - which helps to generate more personalised content that is better suited to your audience. At the same time it's also really helpful to create a persona for your brand - build a personality around it and clearly outline what your voice to your audience is going to be. Are you going to be caring, blunt, sarcastic or punny? There's no right or wrong - but whatever you decide it needs to be consistent. Building personas for both your customers and your brand shifts the focus to a relationship building conversation between your brand and your audience.

Carry on to Part 3 - Defining your editorial mission.

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