How to reach your target audience (and why you need one in the first place)

I know, I know, you've heard this before:

- Have an ideal client
- Make a customer avatar
- Focus on your target audience

But is your organization actually following this advice?

For every single communication, are you asking: who, exactly, are we targeting-- and more importantly, why?

Having a clear, targeted audience should be part of every organization’s strategy. So let’s talk about the why, what and how of reaching the right audience with the right message.

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1. Know why you need a target audience

Everyone knows they need a focused audience for their communications, but so many organizations are afraid to actually commit to one target.

That might be you. If you're thinking, "I don't care who I'm reaching, I want to communicate to anyone who will listen," I'm definitely talking to you.

Because that’s just the thing:

You don’t focus on a target audience once you have enough customers or donors, you focus on a target audience so you get enough customers or donors.

People only pay attention to what they care about. And you can only show them why they should care if you know them well enough to know why they should care.

If you’re trying to sell an idea to "anyone who will listen," you’ll be stuck using wide generalizations, vague results and unfocused promises.

Which, let’s face it, won’t appeal to anyone.

But when you have a clear target audience in mind? You know exactly what to say on your website and in marketing materials to show why they need whatever you're offering-- which makes getting their attention a breeze.

And it’s not just about selling or fundraising, it's also about expanding your audience.

When you know how to speak directly to one specific group of people, they're more likely to see themselves in your brand. People who feel like they're a part of something are more likely to share it.

The result? You don't just create customers or donors, you create advocates for your brand. 

2. Know your target audience

So you’re on the target audience train. You know why you need a target audience. You’re excited to get started. So you google “customer avatar worksheet” and download the first thing you see, right?

Please, dear god, no.


Before you start mapping out your target customer's age, marital status, hair color and favorite ice cream flavor, first take a step back and remember:

Your target audience isn’t who you'd love to reach -- it’s who would love for you to reach them.

Targeting people who already want what you offer-- even if they don't know it yet-- is the only way to reach them and effectively engage them.

So before you fill out all the “client avatar” worksheets, first ask yourself:

  • What are you actually offering in exchange for their engagement?

  • Who wants that offering the most?

  • Who is ready to commit to you right now?

  • Who can afford to commit to you?

Figure that out first, and then you can worry about their favorite TV show.

3. Know how to show you’re for them

When I first started my consulting business, I heard the same advice over and over again: be clear about who you’re for. 

And it still stands, but not the way I originally thought.

When I first started out, I thought it meant explicitly saying who you were for, i.e. “I help purpose-driven organizations and businesses who are ready to up-level their communications and build their brand….”

Which, let’s be honest, is kind of a mouthful.

Luckily, I realized the subtlety around that advice:

It’s not about saying who you're for, it’s about showing who you're for.

For example, you don’t necessarily need to say, “We help small environment-focused NGOs and non-profits who struggle to find donors blah blah blah.” Instead, you can show you help small environment-focused NGOs and non-profits with your copy, voice and visual identity.

Here’s how.

Focus on your target's biggest pain point and most desired result.
I know your organization can target loads of different people with a range of problems, but this isn’t about you, it’s about them. Focus on what your target audience needs, not what you offer.

For example, if you’re a psychotherapist and your ideal client is professional women on the brink of burn-out, focus on the main pain point (burn-out) and the main desired result (work-life balance.) Listing out every other issue your clients could potentially have (head-aches, marital problems, etc.) distracts from why they’re on your site in the first place and makes you look like a generalist-- not the expert they need.

Use your brand voice to attract those you most want to work with-- and repel the others.
This is where your organization can make it a little bit about you: who you want to attract and who you don't want to attract. But again, it doesn’t mean you have to be so explicit about it.

For example, my brand voice and writing style make it clear that:

  • I tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear.
  • I’m all about specific, strategic action, not fad tactics.
  • I have a sense of humor about my work and won't corporate-speak you to death.

I deliberately make these parts of me clear through my web copy, because I don’t want to work with people who can’t handle them.

Offer exactly what they want-- and only what they want
What you offer says a lot about who you’re for, so get focused. Stop trying to be everything to everyone-- and start being the "perfect fit" for your ideal audience.

Because that's just it: when you speak directly to one audience and one audience only, you cut through the noise. Your audience feels like you're talking straight to them, like they're the only ones who matter to your organization.

Like you're made just for them.

And when they feel like that? Like you're a perfect match? 

They won't go looking anywhere else.

[Not sure you're reaching your target audience with your communications? Let's chat! Contact me to set up a free consultation.]