Know Your Audience

May 2, 2013 § Leave a comment

Girl playing guitar to hens.

Image Source: Pinterest, Nikole Herriott

Not long ago, I had an interesting conversation regarding writing and character and voice.  The friend with whom I was speaking had written a novella and was well on her way to giving it a polish and self-publishing it as an e-book.  During our discussion, she said something that was so startling in its simplicity and sense that it threw me for a moment: “I know exactly who my audience is.”  It’s not that the concept is foreign to me, rather, it was the absolute certainty with which she said it.  It was like a spring rain clearing the air.  And it stayed with me.

Do you know who you’re writing for?  Playing for/designing for/selling to?

Returning to themes explored in a couple of my previous posts, if you want to achieve simplicity and not be all things to all people, one of your tasks is to define your audience (aka target market).  In order to break through and stand out, especially when you’re starting out, you need to know exactly who you want to reach, and the more specific you can be about this the better.  Start small, if you can.  Where do they live?  What do they do?  What do they love/read/watch/do for fun?  Men/Women/Children?  You get the idea.

Once you’ve nailed the market and its characteristics, you’re in a position to hone your message, and focus your branding and marketing efforts, so that you gain some notoriety, some traction with at least one segment of that audience.  Then, you have something to build on.  And maybe, 3 or 5 or 10 years down the road, you can reach the masses, maybe not.  Maybe you won’t want to.  But you’ll have a choice and you’ll have the knowledge necessary to make that choice.

To provide some inspiration, here are five examples of individuals and organizations, of various sizes, who’ve figured this out.

Celestine Maddy – Founder, Wilder Quarterly.  Since 2011 Celestine Maddy has produced a quarterly (seasonal) print magazine, and website with Wilder Monthly available for download, for a new generation of growers, cultivators and urban farmers. In Fast Company, Maddy explained her approach: “See the audience, segment them, quantify them, figure out what they need that’s missing. I could do all those things for Wilder, from having done it for brands like Sony Ericsson and Jim Beam.”

Benjamin Clymer – Founder of  HODINKEE.  Launched in 2008, this online publication devoted to wristwatches has become the must-read for timepiece lovers.  Check out his Reuters interview, about half-way through, to see how Clymer describes his readership.  The words “specific,” “focused” and “targeted” come to mind, and possibly “small,” but that’s okay.  He owns it and, as a result, the right advertisers are willing to pay.

Tavi Gevinson – Founder of Rookie.  She’s a 16-year-old meda mogul knows precisely who her audience is.  Per her online magazine, “Rookie is a website for teenage girls.”  That’s it.  No mincing words.

PepsiCo Americas Beverage division of PepsiCo partnered with Complex Media to create custom, branded content delivered on a new internet channel for Mountain Dew,  The site is squarely aimed at young men.  In The New York Times piece profiling the new endeavor, “Brought to You by Mountain Dew,” “Jamal Henderson, senior brand manager for Mountain Dew at PepsiCo Americas Beverages in Purchase, N.Y.” said, “This new digital destination will align everything we’ve done into a hub for youth culture.”

Moda Operandi “is the only place to preorder looks straight from the unedited runway collections of the world’s top designers–months before they are available anywhere else.”  In a recent Wall Street Journal profile of “luxury shopping website Moda Operandi,” company co-founder Laura Santo Domingo spoke about their business, including their target market:

“Our average customer is similar to me,” says Santo Domingo. “She’s educated, lives in an urban center, 36 years old, travels internationally, loves fashion and culture, speaks multiple languages and has multiple addresses.” The Moda client is also a plugged-in fashion fan, likely to watch the live stream of the Marc Jacobs show, read the review on and await Moda’s email about the trunk show to ensure that she’ll be able to get one of the satin evening pajama tops.

Can you be as precise, as succinct?


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