It's 6 pm -- do you know who your audience is?

Dear writers, marketers, and organizations:

Want to waste your time? Take a bullhorn, stand on top of a skyscraper, and say the Very Important Messages you're dying to say. No one will hear you, but who cares? You can at least cross something off your To-Do list.


I never want to mail this letter to you. Yet I fear I may have to if you continue to NOT define your audience before you begin writing/messaging/making pretty press handouts. Because really, let's be serious: If you don’t know WHO you’re trying to reach, HOW are you going to reach them?

Defining your audience is an essential first step in any communication. campaign media planning. It helps you clarify your external/public-facing goals, outline the objectives, and plot out the appropriate tactics for achieving them.

The more specific your audience, the better. You can have multiple audiences, with messages and media targeted directly to their unique attributes.

Example: “Everyone with a pulse” is NOT a viable audience. “Middle-class women in their 30s-40s with discretionary income and a history of cause donation” IS a viable audience.

How You Can Define/Segment Your Audience

Your audience definitions will vary depending on your broader communication goals. I want to increase donation conversions by X%, I want to build my email list by 200 people, etc.

Here are some examples of questions to help you determine and then segment your audiences. I've compiled them from the great list of resources at the end of this post:
  • What does your typical donor/customer/email recipient look like?
  • What does your ideal donor/customer/email recipient look like?
  • What do many of your donor/customer/email recipients have in common?
  • What is the age range of this group?
  • How much education does this group have? What type of education?
  • How much computer and Internet experience do they have?
  • Is this group comfortable with technology?
  • Where and how does your audience get their information?
  • Do they need your product/information?
  • Do they want your product/information?
  • When do they open the emails?
  • Which links do they click on?
  • What offers or calls to action do they respond to?
  • What are they looking at on your sites/profiles/newsletters?
  • What do you want them to know, believe, or feel after they read your email/click your widget/watch your video?
  • When and where will they read/click/watch it?
  • Why will they read/click/watch it?

Next Steps in Expanding Your Audience

These will all be built out in future posts, but here's the thumbnail sketch to get you started:

1. Survey your audience for any info you haven’t already captured.

2. Identify your key metrics (will vary with each plan or campaign).

3. Get a baseline on those key metrics, and then set monthly, quarterly, and/or annual growth goals.

4. Run A/B tests on keywords, image placement, calls to action, etc. Evaluate results.

5. Continue what works, refine what doesn’t, and keep experimenting!

And step #6 ... let me know how it goes. ;)

More articles and worksheets for you happy learning types:

Conversion: Define Your Audience

Define Your Audience (questions to ask)

SME Toolkit
Segment Your Audience
Define Your Audience

Email Marketing: Define Your Audience (inferences from open rates and clicks)

Web Analytics: Understand, Then Segment Your Audience (more ideas for segmenting)

How to Segment Your E-mail Marketing

Segment Your Audience for Marketing Relevance: Goodwill Splits Its Base 25 Ways (case study)

Chris Brogan: What Does Your Audience Need?

Photo by This Is A Wake Up Call