In teaching composition, I dedicate at least an entire class period to discussions of audience and what it means to be aware of it. Even outside of academic writing, to achieve the best results, the piece needs to match the abilities and interests of the people who will read it. For example, dry, jargon laden, technical piece will not do well to supplicate the needs and desires of high school students.
Knowing and envisioning an audience is the hardest and most important part. Data, in this arena, is king for a reason and why there is big money to be made by selling it. This data, when properly processed, can give incredible insights into an audience. However, in the small-business world, access to this level of data is likely not financially viable. This fact does not mean, as somebody in this position, that we’re out of luck. There is a host of data to be gained from simple analytics, customer data, and even analyzing the marketing of products to similar demographics as those we desire. This approach might mean a little bit of hard work, but we wouldn’t be in the small-business world if we were adverse to rolling up our sleeves to expend a little elbow grease.
Think about commercials for household products and cereals. Have you ever noticed the preponderance of middle-class families in spotless homes that are slightly more expensive than the ones people actually live in? There’s a reason: they’re targeting a specific audience, not as it actually is, but as it sees itself and desires to be. The message is these products are part of the desired lifestyle and will help you achieve it. Meanwhile, your Saturday morning commercials for breakfast cereals have a different approach: flashy graphics and cartoon characters. They’re not about achieving a middle-class dream, but rather having fun. They’re aimed at children. While the example might be apparent, it is an example of the differences in approach based on audience.
Next time, we’ll get into some of the basic components of what to consider when addressing audience.