How do you speak to your target audience in writing?
Understanding your target audience or ideal client is fundamental in business; you know that. But knowing how to speak to them in writing is essential to blogging and content marketing.
I originally titled this post “How to Write for Your Target Audience.” But then I realized that misses the point: You want to speak to them, and writing is merely the medium.
This post is a partner to my post “How to Write for the Internet” — which provides tips and techniques to make your content more easily, physically readable on devices.
In this post we move from the general to the specific — how to write directly to and for the people you want to reach, support, and inspire to take action.
In short, writing for your target audience, ideal client, prospect, or other reader means sounding like yourself, only better.
This post will give you some tips on how to do that.
Sound like your better self
You hear a lot of advice to “be authentic” and “write conversationally.” This is good advice, but what does it mean practically?
Do you even know, for instance, how you talk? Have you listened to yourself? Hopefully this post sounds conversational, but I don’t talk like this. Believe me, you don’t want me to write like I talk, at least not all the time.
Besides, as I explain in the partner post, writing for the internet has its own requirements that are not necessarily conversational.
And yet, you do want your writing to sound natural, not forced. In language your readers both understand and recognize as their own.
(You’ll find this doubly true when you’re repurposing your blog posts into scripts for videos or slideshows.)
Here are 8 tips on how to speak to your target audience in writing:
1) Know your audience.
I repeat: Knowing your target audience or client is fundamental. Everything in business follows from this.
The most effective content is written to and for these people. Tips and templates abound on how to identify and understand your audience and create a client avatar. So I won’t attempt to duplicate that.
But it’s critical that you do this work. In blogging terms: You need to know your readers. Then you can begin to write for them.
When I’m writing a client’s blog and need to sound like them, I sometimes interview them with a tape recorder. That way I can study their diction and speech patterns and learn to imitate them.
You don’t have to conduct interviews. Instead, listen carefully to how your prospects and clients phrase the questions they ask about your business, products, or services. Listen to the wording of their questions seeking advice or information.
These are the words they’re going to type into search bars. That makes listening a critical part of your keyword research, which is the heart of search engine optimization (SEO).
It’s also part of your “human SEO” strategy. The questions they ask you are the questions they possibly asked to find you in the first place.
3) Use words your readers would use.
Using your readers’ words in your writing follows directly from listening.
When writing for a general audience, you want to avoid insider language or jargon. But when writing for your particular audience, the opposite may apply.
Using familiar terms and phrases shows that you literally speak your reader’s language — that you understand them and their concerns. It builds trust.Build trust with your audience: Use the same words they use.Click To Tweet
4) Use tech-speak appropriately.
Following from above, consider how technical you need to get.
If I’m writing about, say, mobile device security, I’ll write differently for an IT security professional than for someone trying to figure out their smartphone. The second will need me to explain many terms that the first already knows. Get it backward and I risk overwhelming the user or boring the professional. And losing both.
5) Write for one person.
A really helpful trick is to imagine that you’re writing your content for one specific person in your audience — and I mean someone you actually know.
I’m not into imaginary friends but I do this and it works really well. Sometimes I literally imagine the person sitting across from me as I write.
I imagine we’re at a café table and my friend is sipping his or her coffee, looking at my page or screen — not judgmentally, but as a confidante that I can look up from my keyboard and ask “Does this make sense to you?” or “Is this information helpful?” or “How does this sound?”
When I write like this, the writing is easier and my words come out both more informative and sounding more natural.
6) Become your reader.
If you’re a working mother whose business and blog are for other working mothers, you don’t need to adopt an “ideal client” persona or character. You’re already your own audience, already speak with “their” voice.
But such identification might not be your situation. In that case, consider thinking yourself into your reader’s place and writing from that perspective instead of to it.
This is something any freelancer writing for corporate clients must learn: how to sound like the company, not yourself (see tip #2 above). It’s challenging, but eye-opening no matter your situation.
7) Copy examples.
Don’t plagiarize, ever.
But as an exercise, find a blog post or other piece of writing you think speaks to the same audience as yours, or that’s in a voice you like, and copy it verbatim into a notebook or on a sheet of paper you’re going to recycle anyway.
You won’t publish this anywhere, but learning what good, targeted prose physically feels like to write can improve your own writing.
Good writers learn by reading a lot too. Read writing you’d like to emulate; some of it will rub off on you.
8) Know why you’re writing.
What do you want your reader to do after reading? This may be the most important question to ask for every piece of content.
The customer journey comes into play here. Are you describing a high-level feature of your business for a current client? Or introducing your business to a prospect? Or something in between?
Asked from the client side: What problem do your readers, clients, and prospects need you to solve at that moment? What question do they need answered to move forward?
You’ll want each reader to take a different action. Knowing what you want will help direct your writing — and reader — toward that action.You'll never feel like writing if it's physically uncomfortable to write.Click To Tweet
At its core, writing for your readers means answering their questions in language they understand.
Using familiar words and terminology shows that you’re “one of them,” that you “get it.” It helps ensure that your message actually gets across.
Critically, knowing why you’re writing imparts a sense of purpose that will guide your readers to the end you both desire.
Writing for people’s devices is important for getting them to keep reading your content.
But writing for people builds their trust and confidence in you — that elusive “know-like-trust” factor that’s so essential for earning and keeping both readers and customers.
Read the partner post to this one: “How to Write for the Internet (and keep your readers reading).”