Written By: Alley Ines
“Who is your target audience and how can I reach them?”
Every good copywriter asks themself this question before they start a project. Knowing your target audience is the secret to writing copy that sucks them in. You might be a prolific writer with the most extensive vocabulary. But your words won’t inspire action if you don’t know your target audience like the back of your hand.
What’s a target audience? Simply put, a target audience is a group of people that a product or service is aimed at. They have a problem that the product or service can fix. Examples of target audiences are:
- Dog owners, for dog leashes.
- Vegans, for veggie patties.
- Chronic pain patients, for CBD oil.
When you know your target audience well, it’s easier for your writing to capture their attention from beginning to end.
So how do you get from “who-the-hell-is-my-target-audience” to “knowing-them-like-the-last-four-of-my-social?”
In this blog, I go over four sneaky ways to get into your target audience’s mind. They are:
- Check out competitors’ reviews.
- Hang out where your target audience hangs out.
- Analyze a competitor’s offer.
- Consume what your target audience consumes.
As a copywriter, it’s not your job to sell dog leashes to a cat owner. But it is your job to get dog owners to read your copy and say, “This dog leash was made for me.” Legendary copywriter Eugene Schwartz said it best in his book Breakthrough Advertising:
“Copy cannot create desire for a product. It can only take the hopes, dreams, fears and desires that already exists in the hearts of millions of people, and focus those already existing desires onto a particular product.”
By putting your detective hat on, you’ll learn about your target audience’s lifestyle, their problem, what they desire, and what’s holding them back. You’ll know exactly where your product or service sits in their world so you can position it as the answer to their prayers.
Tip #1: Check out competitors’ reviews.
Reviews are the windows into your target audience’s mind. Reviews reveal their experience in their words. You can draw a wealth of information about your target audience just by reading between the lines.
Reviews are like movie trailers. When writing a review, people focus on the important parts of the experience. Pay attention, because what we think is important might not even matter to your target audience.
When you read a positive review, you’re seeing through the eyes of a member of your target audience who searched for a solution to their problem and found it. Positive reviews display feelings of joy, happiness, surprise, or relief. Analyze the words they use. Search for clues that reveal their personality and lifestyle.
Let’s say a client for an upscale barbershop calls his visit a “classic experience.” A few questions to ask are:
- What made it classic?
- What made it an experience?
- What does a normal visit to a barbershop look like?
Or let’s say a Reiki client says she left her appointment “buzzing with good energy.” Ask yourself:
- Why did she use the word “buzzing”?
- How does “buzzing with good energy” differ from “feeling good”?
- What does this say about how she felt before the appointment?
Here’s another example: a pottery student calls her instructor patient. Consider these questions:
- Was she expecting her instructor to be impatient?
- Was she worried about being a difficult student?
- Do all pottery newbies feel like this?
When you dissect their joy with curiosity, you discover their expectations towards your product or service. And you learn what features of your own product or service to highlight in your copy.
On the other hand, negative reviews give you a front-row seat to a situation where someone didn’t get their problem fixed or was unhappy with the way it was solved. Negative reviews reveal objections your target audience might have towards your product or service.
Negative reviews are typically loaded with anger, sadness, despair, embarrassment, or frustration.
Suppose a customer for an auto shop was upset with an employee’s attitude. In that case, you learn that customer service matters to your target audience. But let’s take it a step further.
- Why is customer service so important for them?
- Is it because they don’t like to go to the auto shop?
- Is it because they come in with a fear of getting ripped off?
Analyze the hurt. When you write copy inspired by real-life examples, you convince your target audience that you understand their situation. And empathy builds trust.
To start, you can find reviews on Yelp, Amazon, YouTube, and competitors’ product pages.
Tip #2: Hang out where your target audience hangs out.
What better way to learn about your target audience than to hang out where they’re likely talking about their problems. Reddit, Facebook groups, and Quora are a few places to start.
As you visit these places, pay attention to two things: language and storytelling.
Writing the way your target audience speaks will convince them that you’re one of them. Choosing the wrong words in your copy will get them out of their flow of desire and into “figuring-it-out” mode.
For example, if you offer personal training services, the way you say “lose fat and build muscle” in your copy will depend on your target audience. If you’re targeting women, “trim and tone” will perform better than “get jacked and shredded.”
If you offer a service that helps business owners earn more money, the phrase “increase revenue” will speak to business owners who are only interested in growth. The term “increase conversions” will speak directly to data-driven entrepreneurs.
Every target audience has its own tribe speak. Keep a running list of phrases and buzzwords circulating these forums, and refer back to it as you write.
In the book Breakthrough Copywriting: How to Generate Quick Cash With the Written Word, David Garfinkel says stories are “the best way to reduce or eliminate sales resistance.”
Research also shows that storytelling increases empathy because stories trigger our mirror neuron system. This causes us to feel the emotions of the characters in the story we’re reading.
In these forums, look for stories.
- How do they describe their problem after hearing good news?
- After fighting with their girlfriend?
- After an intense workout?
- In the middle of a hot summer day with no air conditioning?
Reading these stories straight from the source will broaden your perspective on the problem. This will help you write captivating stories that will get your target audience to see themselves in your copy.
Do I suggest interviewing someone you know who might be in your target audience? No.
One reason is, people generally aren’t comfortable talking to people they know about their problems out of fear of embarrassment and vulnerability.
Another reason is, if you interview someone, you lose the opportunity for the problem to surface organically.
That said, I think it’s okay to be a patient observer, like a birdwatcher or helpful wallflower. Wait until they reveal their problem to you. And when they do, listen. Study their tone, body language, and facial expressions. Let them paint the picture for you without probing for answers.
Tip #3: Analyze a competitor’s offer.
When you study a competing offer, you gain insight into how your competition understands your target audience.
Go to their website or landing page and analyze their copy the way you would study copy from one of the greats. To do this, run through the 4 Ps of copywriting: promise, picture, push, and proof.
What promise are they making?
Let’s look at Apple. The iPhone 11 landing page says, “Take your photos from wide to ultra-wide.”
At the surface, this tells us two things about their target audience:
- They struggle with capturing ultra-wide photos with their current phone. Let’s call this their before.
- With the iPhone 11, they’ll have the ability to take ultra-wide photos. Let’s call this the after.
But let’s dig deeper. What problem does the iPhone 11 wide lens solve? Why would they want to take ultra-wide photos?
If you’re a photographer, will the iPhone 11 help you take better photos and therefore help you make more money? Will it take away the pain of having to lug heavy camera gear everywhere you go? Which is more important to photographers: money or comfort?
Figure out the promise, and you’ll discover what your target audience’s ultimate problem is.
What picture are they painting you? What do you see? Are they telling a story? Using vivid imagery? Take note of sensory words that make you see, hear, touch, feel, or taste.
Highlight any parts that trigger an emotion. Remember, we make buying decisions with our emotions and then justify our decisions with logic.3 Your competitor purposefully exaggerated that emotion. Ask yourself why they chose that emotion. Is it a reflection of your target audience?
Copywriting is writing that inspires action. When reviewing a competing offer, look for the call to action.
Are they trying to get the reader to subscribe to their email list? What does that say about their target audience? What does that say about their product or service?
Are they trying to make a sale? How do they create a sense of urgency to buy now?
The proof your competitors use will tell you what your target audience is more receptive to. Are they using testimonials? Videos? Graphs? Statistics?
Tip #4: Consume what your target audience consumes.
Copy, which is a written sales pitch, is a monologue, not a dialogue. For your reader to feel understood, they need to see themselves in your writing. When you consume what your target audience consumes, you can frame your offer in a way they just get.
What does this mean for you? Watch the same shows on Netflix. Read the same books. Listen to the same podcasts. Start following influencers they look up to on Instagram. Install the same apps they use on your phone.
How do you find out what they consume? Check out what’s circulating in Reddit forums. Look at Instagram posts tagged under keyword hashtags. Search Netflix for documentaries that are popular in their community. The point is to get granular with not just demographics, but psychographics as well. It’s time to get deep.
How does this help your copy? Let’s say you offer copywriting services to entrepreneurs who are stretched too thin.
Your research shows your target audience is obsessed with The Last Dance, a docu-series on Netflix covering Michael Jordan’s (MJ) NBA career.
In your copy, you could say that your services take content marketing off their plate, so they have more time on their hands.
Or, you could say that you’re the Scottie to their MJ. With you on the court taking care of their copy, they can use that time and energy to dominate the game. To work on their business instead of in it.
You want your writing to flip the switch and turn on the light inside your target audience’s mind. That’s what this tip does: it lets you frame your offer in a way that makes the most sense to your target audience.
Get to Know Your Target Audience
Now, it’s time to do the research. Find the information you need to speak to your target audience from a place of compassion and understanding.
When you know their ultimate problem, you can position your product or service as the best solution.
When you know their dream, you can help them envision life without their problem through storytelling.
When you immerse yourself in their culture, you can prove that you are one of them.
I hope these tips are helpful. Research is the most important part of copywriting, and with enough of it, you’ll have everything you need to write copy that hits the nail on the head every single time.