Siliconcowboy's Blog

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How to Increase Readership by Writing to Your Audience

Blogging is cool. You can write whatever you want.

The only problem is, nobody has to read it.

The challenge is to draw readers in, grab their attention, and compel them to read more.

In this article, I’ll show you how to focus on your audience and identify a compelling need. And, I’ll make a promise that doing so will reward you with increased readership, loyalty, and credibility.

Writing to your audience doesn’t mean making your content salacious or trendy, edgy or controversial – although with some audiences, that doesn’t hurt. Instead, it means framing your material so it satisfies the needs of a particular group of readers.

Let’s say you want to write an article about how to use a video in a presentation.  Before you begin, identify your audience.  For example, you could be writing to:

  • Videographers or social media consultants
  • Executive coaches or public relations practitioners
  • Marketers or engineers
  • Educators or medical professionals
  • Salespeople or IT specialists
  • Bloggers or vloggers
  • Students or others

Looking at this list, can you see how each potential type of audience could have different expectations for your material? In fact, some might even prefer seeing it as a vlog instead of reading it.

Here are some quick tips for identifying your audience and writing to it.

1. Is my audience corporate, small shop or hobbyist? A corporate audience is on the clock, wants highly relevant information fast.  Bullet points, declarative statements and charts or graphs work best. Small shops and hobbyists appreciate a more thorough explanation. Amateurs appreciate a conversational style, perhaps even a sense of humor. (In all cases, you want to avoid the risk of offending  your audience by sounding condescending.)

2. What does my audience need from me? This is a key question. If you write an article that isn’t somehow useful, your readers will figure that out fast. State what your audience can expect, right up front. It’s one of the reasons “How To” articles, such as this one, are so well read; the title tells it all.  Going back to the video presentation example, let’s say your audience is B2B corporate marketers, and you are trying to convince them to use more video in their presentations. You might try a title like, “How Video Grabs Our Customers’ Attention” or “Why Our Buyers Get It When We Show Them A Video”.

3. Make a promise. Believe it or not, reading is a transaction.  I will read your article if you promise to help me somehow.  You may, for example, promise to educate, entertain, or inspire. By promising a transaction, you engage your readers, which encourages them to continue.  For instance, in the video presentation article, you could promise your readers that they will learn valuable shortcuts for making visually interesting videos.  Once you’ve made this promise, you become part of the transaction as well, so be sure you pay it off or you will discourage your readers from coming back again.

Caveat

Frequently, in the world of high-tech marketing, I come across the phrase pain points, as in, “We have to show our customers that we understand their pain points so we can gain their trust.”

In terms of article writing, that’s not always true. In fact, dragging out a list pain points can drive readers away. Why?

Several reasons. First, you probably won’t solve all of them in one article. So you run the risk of breaking a promise.  Second, you might have missed a few, so you run the risk of neglecting a need. Third, different readers have different pain points, and they might not all care about each other’s concerns.  An executive, for example, might be cost-conscious while an engineer would require a certain level of quality control.

The point is, while it’s a good exercise for  you to understand your audience’s pain points, it’s not always helpful to bring them up in an article.

Focus on your audience, identify a need, and promise something of value. For that, you will be rewarded with increased readership, loyalty, and credibility.

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4 comments on “How to Increase Readership by Writing to Your Audience

  1. Chris Haughey
    May 29, 2010

    Good article. The “Caveat” is a very interesting subject and can be a quite lengthy discussion. I tend to gravitate toward the other side. If you know your short-comings, it give you a chance to message around them. To message around them, the assumption is that you’ve done your homework and understand the competitive landscape to make relevant comparisons. Avoiding the “pain points,” leaves the door wide open for a savvy marketing person to force you to respond (provided you are even given a chance). Also, it can create an impression that you don’t know their needs, your competition and you can lose credibility. Finally, if you are not prepared to address these “pain points” up front, you will hamstring your sales force and, worse yet, your executive team. Crafting the message to your target groups is much different than the aforementioned. It represents the “how” not the “what.”

  2. siliconcowboy
    May 29, 2010

    Chris, thanks so much for your comment! While I completely get your point, let me offer a different point of view. This is a classic comment so thanks for making it. Marketers are continually fearful of “missing something” in a presentation or an article, of leaving a hole for the competition to blast through. What they fail to realize is that a presentation is never the be-all or end-all of a sales dialog; it’s merely a starting point, or perhaps a mid-point in an ongoing transaction. If you focus your presentation or article on doing one or a very few things well, you will have addressed some key pain points with cogent and effective messaging that is righteous on its own merits. If your audience has questions or your competition jumps in to claim there’s a shortcoming, this only gives you an entry point to show your other strengths. This is by no means a weakness: it’s a great opportunity to shut your competition down or satisfy another customer need. An article or presentation that tries to “plug every hole” runs the risk of damaging credibility, especially in markets such as software, where change is constant and improvement is an ongoing exercise. In such a market, nobody expects you to have every answer. They just want you to demonstrate that you’re capable of giving them the right one when it’s necessary.

  3. Chris Haughey
    May 29, 2010

    Agreed. I appreciate your perspective. Many moons ago, like most aggressive junior PMMs, I’d show up with 30 slides for a 5 minute presentation! Right idea, wrong execution. The operative phrase in my comment above is “be prepared.” There is no way you can run through a deck of slides or write a communication without frustrating some members of your audience with information over-load. Consistent with your point (1) above, in my opinion, it is quite inconsiderate, disrespectful of their time and intellectually insulting. Can you tell I’ve spent a bit of time with Engineers?!

    In all seriousness, my view of the PMM is that she is the Champion of the program (service, product, brand). As such, this is the go-to person for all of the answers about the program. At any time, this person should be able to communicate to anyone inside or outside of the organization nearly anything about their program at any level of detail her audience requires. Aside from all of the other communications goals you have stated above, there are two others that I always try to keep in mind:
    (1) Influence those who influence others. They then pick up your flag and run with it.
    (2) Teach them something they don’t already know. This one has very interesting results. While your company may not get THAT sale, you have just created a brand for yourself (also, your company) as one who really gets it. With subsequent communications to those individuals, you have reinforced this brand. They then become your advocates. Expect them to call you!

    • siliconcowboy
      May 29, 2010

      Great feedback Chris! Sounds like the start of another blog entry…

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This entry was posted on May 28, 2010 by in Art of Communication.
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