defining your audience

image by retrowhale – click for more info

This week I was talking with a client who is starting a blog as part of the growth of her creative business. She was getting stuck at a place many bloggers and small creative biz owners get stuck: defining her audience.

For most of us, there’s a little voice inside that protests, “But my stuff is for everyone!”  Danger: this is the equivalent of saying, “I want everyone to like me.” In business (as in life, I would argue), you don’t want everyone to like you. What you want is for everyone to be able to form an opinion about you.

Your goal is for a new customer to arrive, identify what it is you do, and say “This is for me” or “This is not for me.”

About the only thing that is actually for everyone is water. And just think how many companies are making a killing selling water by branding it as exclusive and specifically not for everyone. Water might be for everyone, but SmartWater? Now why would you need a celebrity to sell water? Certainly, SmartWater isn’t meant for everyone.

So how do you define your audience?  Here are 3 quick ways to get you started.

1. Identify a specific population. This blog is for single parents, people with debt, freelancers, bloggers, people who need a custom website.

2. Describe the qualities of type of person who would be hungry for what you do. This blog is for ambitious free-thinkers who work towards social change.

3. Discover who doesn’t find value in your stuff and work backwards. 20 and 30 somethings not responding to your stuff? This blog is for second half of lifers.

Be exclusive. Start thinking who is in and who is out. Count your blessings when you find someone who’s out and work backwards. You don’t have to offer something for everyone. The people who need you most will find you if you speak clearly to them and not sweat everyone else.


14 thoughts on “defining your audience

  1. Good one Laura!!! So much good stuff here but this line nails it for me.

    What you want is for everyone to be able to form an opinion about you.

    YES. It may or may not be a good one but your work/message should elicit an immediate response.

    I also love the term second half lifers :-) Especially since I am one.

    Finally, you wrote a beautiful description of my blog.

    “This blog is for ambitious free-thinkers who work towards social change.”

    How did you know 😉


  2. Loved this post! I’ve read articles on this particular subject a few times, but this one skims it down to the bare necessities and makes it easy to understand. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Love the tip about working backwards…that’s a great way for you to narrow things down. You “can’t be all things to all people,” it’s more fun & way more appealing to hone in on something…good advice Laura!

  4. Hrm…I get the first two suggestions, but the working backwards point is a bit more complicated, I think. It feels like trying to prove something didn’t happen, if that makes sense. I agree that if you can figure this out, you’ve got a great tool for narrowing your audience and maximizing your biz. But how do you find out who isn’t responding to your message?

    1. Well, sometimes people will just tell you, politely or not! I think you can do some imaginative forecasting here as well. For example, Scoutie Girl attracts a lot of smart, creative, conscious-living women. But not all women who fit that description will feel at home on the site. Figuring out why not can help reveal things about the people who are here.

  5. I also love the line:

    “What you want is for everyone to be able to form an opinion about you.”

    My little voice, never says: “my stuff is for everyone!” I KNOW that what I am working on is not for everyone – in fact, I would say it was the very definition of “niche”. I can only identify my customer as “me”. I am making what I would like to purchase myself.

    I think I’m rather a misfit, so it will be fascinating to see if there are many other me-types out there.

  6. I admit, I want everyone to like me. And my blog. And my garters. And since I feel my blog and my garters are me, any rejection of those feels like a rejection of me. But I am working on it. One thing I have done is added a call to action (a question) to the end of almost every blog post. I’m not getting much of a response yet, though. How long do I ask questions before I start asking myself why no one is responding? Once I start asking myself why do I look at my blog and wonder if I have poorly defined my audience or do I look at my questions and wonder if I am asking the wrong ones (or asking the right ones the wrong way)?

    1. I’ve felt the sting of rejection. But the truth is, someone’s opinion of me or my work tells more about them than me. They’re not bad for their opinion, and I’m not bad for their opinion. If I feel in integrity with myself and my work, the sting isn’t as bad.

  7. Laura,
    This is my first introduction to you, and I must say – what a refreshing look at one’s audience. Short and to the point, I LOVE this line:

    “The people who need you most will find you if you speak clearly to them and not sweat everyone else.”

    Brilliant and spot on. If, as a marketer (and we’re ALL marketers, are we not?!), you’re communicating correctly, then your words will essentially do the work for you. It’s the “correctly” that seems to stump most.

    So many of us are afraid of “pigeonholing” ourselves – afraid of losing sales, attention, etc. when quite the opposite is true.

    Thanks for sharing such a great post-

    1. Thanks so much, Leah. For me, this continues to be a game of trial and error. My first stomach-churning you’re-either-in-or-out decision was choosing my header art. I figured that if people didn’t bat an eye at a girl with antlers then we could get somewhere together. Some folks have said they don’t dig it–which just tells they are not the right people for what I’m doing. I think of that image as a litmus test. Makes things easier for me and potential clients.

  8. I love the working backwards tip.

    I have been selling my art for five years and defining my target audience is something I pretty much avoid and ignore…falling right into the “my stuff is for everyone” trap.

    (Well, obviously, that’s not true, or I’d never have any woe-is-me-I’m-never-gonna-sell-anything-again days.)

    Am definitely going to be giving this some thought.

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