Creating Content for Your Target Market
Last post was all about target markets and the power in finding your right one. This week I answer a question I’m often asked: “How can I find what appeals to our audience?”
The quick and easy answer is “ask them.” Audience surveys can be very helpful in a number of ways.
Too much asking and waiting for your audience to tell you want to do can make you too reactive.
If you rely solely on what the audience tells you, you can lose sight of your vision, mission, and core values.
Plus, if your audience isn’t used to interacting with you yet, you might not receive any response and then you’re still floundering around looking on the outside for an answer.
So how do you create content that appeals to your target market?
The answer lies in your uniqueness.
In a marketing plan, there’s a section on uniqueness. What makes you unique? What sets you apart from your competition? What do you rock at? (In marketing jargon you’ll see this called the USP. Your “unique selling proposition” or “unique selling point.”)
These are the things you want to showcase in your marketing content. Then, the right audience will find you because they dig what you’re putting out there!
Does this mean you should ignore your audience completely?
Of course not. We want to create interaction, and making people feel like part of your organization’s “family” is KEY in strengthening those bonds that lead to long-term audience members and donors.
But, they’re also not the ones steering the ship, and if we try too hard to please everyone then the ship will ultimately lose it’s way.
In a lovely spot of coincidence, as I was thinking on this topic and first drafting this post, A.P. Bio (RIP) had an episode surrounding a talent show. They were originally going to go act out this weird script that one of the students wrote, until they found out money was involved. They wanted to win the money, so they instead created a show based on everything that is popular on YouTube thinking it would be the winner. To say it went chaotically awry is an understatement. See for yourself:
I won’t say what happens after because I don’t want to spoil it. (But watch the show. This too-short-lived series was brilliant, and I’m sad it’s cancelled.) And while it’s fiction, it’s easy to see how this can be real and go awry.
Don’t lose sight of your vision.
Instead, think of content creation like auditioning.
When you try to give the person in charge of hiring what you think they want, you may or may not get the part. And if you DO get the part and it’s based on you trying to give them what they wanted vs who you are, it takes even more effort and energy than usual to get the “right” performance, and it may not turn out as well as it could have.
But when you go in there, and show them who you are and your uniqueness in what you bring to the part, if you do get hired, that’s when the magic happens. Things flow with more ease. And though you of course have to put in the work, energy, and effort, it ultimately feels better and has a better result than when you’re in the wrong part for you.
Plus, you might find yourself getting more and better suited jobs when you showcase your best self within the material. I know I’ve heard tons of these stories, and I bet you have to. (If not, ask me and I’ll share some.)
Now when you showcase your uniqueness might you not get the part? Yes. But that’s always a possibility anyway. The entire industry is built on rejection.
Might you turn off potential audience members with a bolder line of marketing? Yep. But if they don’t like something that’s uniquely you, they’re not going to be that into what you’re doing anyway so they were never really a solid potential audience member anyway.
Ultimately, it’s best to showcase your uniqueness because:
It shows off what makes you different.
It will attract those who are attracted to those qualities.
It gives the audience the best example of who you are and what you do.
Instead of asking “how can I create content my target market will love?” ask yourself, “How can I best show off my uniqueness in my content?”
How do you do that?
Define what makes you unique. What are the things that set you apart from everyone else? What are the traits that come effortlessly to you?
How can you showcase these traits within your marketing content? Tell your stories. Each thing you promote needs to have a set of stories to go into the marketing content. This is the perfect place to showcase how you are unique. Why did you choose a certain piece of programming? How does that relate to your mission? Why did you hire a certain performer? What traits do they bring to the stage? If you’re a performer, why did you take a certain job? What about it speaks to you?
Once you’ve defined your unique qualities and the stories that you’ll tell to showcase them, how do you get those in front of the right audience? Where do you post them?
THIS is where audience surveys will really help you. Where do they look for information? When they want to go see a performance, where do they look for current shows? And a really important question - what other sources (non-performing arts related) do they turn to to be informed? What information are they looking for in each source? What other sources of media are they into? This will help you find the non-performing arts related sources that may be a good place to market yourself.
You can also get a glimpse of this information in the Interests section under the Audience segment in your Google Analytics. It doesn’t give a lot of detail, but it’ll send you in the right direction of additional interests that people visiting your website have, so that you can find potential marketing placement ideas in those areas of interest.
Pro tip: I’m a HUGE fan of marketing yourself in places that aren’t directly related to your business. In a busy advertising space, this helps you stand out even more. For example, a wedding planner I used to know loved dogs, so she advertised in a dog magazine. She saw quite a bit of business from that ad because she was the only wedding related business in the magazine, and many of the brides had an immediate connection with her because they were dog lovers too.
When I was a professional organizer, I advertised in a local food magazine. The target market for the magazine was right in the sweet spot that I wanted, and I’m a food lover so we had an immediate connection, which was oh-so-helpful in quickly creating trust which was vital since they’d be allowing me into their homes and lives and helping them make decisions on what to do with their things.
This is why it’s so important to have a “full circle” picture of the people in your target market. You need to know what else they’re into so you can be seen in spaces that aren’t immediately thought of for performing arts!
And the final step to all things marketing - how will you know if your efforts are working?
Take a dive into the data. Is it growing or shrinking?
What are the reactions? Are comments mostly positive or negative.
How are your usual die-hards reacting? If they love it then you know you’re on the right track. Being the die-hards, they should be all over this. If they don’t love it, examine why not. Have you gone off base from your mission? Were you playing it too safe before and it turns out they don’t actually enjoy you as much as they thought they did? If you’re an organization, were they too dedicated to a person rather than the org as a whole? Spoiler alert: if the die-hards suddenly hate you because of something happening with a single person, they were that person’s die-hards and not the organization’s. (Unless you were in the wrong. So take a hard look at yourself and be honest, just in case.) If you aren’t in the wrong, don’t waste too much energy trying to get them back. #fairweatherfriends.
A few final notes:
What are you most passionate about that ties into your mission? Start there. Passion is contagious.
What is already resonating and performing well? Do more of that, as well as starting to work adjacently from there.
Don't be afraid to be bold. If it fits within your business plan, go for it. You never know until you try. People might super-dig it. They might hate it. But you'll never know until you do it. Often times in all of my prior businesses there have been blog posts I’ve been afraid to push ‘publish” on because I think they’re “too much.” Those usually become my most popular and well-received posts.
If you LOVE something, and it’s on mission, NEVER preemptively say “no” because you don’t think the audience will like it. You have to give them the chance! You might find that your audience surprises you.
Note: If you want to try something new, and it’s within your mission and core values, prepare the audience for it. Example: Fort Worth can be a pretty conservative place. When Book of Mormon played at Bass Hall, there were a few articles that ran in our local paper preparing the audience for what to expect. While there were a few walk-outs, there weren’t many. Furthermore, I’ll admit that I misjudged the pair of older ladies seated next to me. When they told me they were from Tiny Town East Texas, I was afraid they were going to lose it over some of the more controversial parts of the show. Well they taught me! I cautiously ask them if they know what they’re about to get themselves into. “Oh yes. We can’t wait!” And afterwards they looooooooved it! So give people a chance.
Put yourself out there more. Often we hold ourselves back because we don’t want to be annoying. But the internet moves fast and it’s really, REALLY easy for people to miss our posts. The die-hards won’t be annoyed, and those that are annoyed aren’t your target market.
If you're just starting, don't be afraid of small numbers. Give me small numbers of engaged people over large numbers of people who don't interact. Often when we read marketing blogs to get examples, they often show us huge numbers making small numbers feel like they’re not good enough. As long as you're meeting your goals, you're doing just fine.
Since this turned out to be a MASSIVE post, how about a wrap up?
Don’t only give your target market what you think they want. Too reactive. Give them who you are.
Show off your uniqueness in all of your marketing. (Show it off in everything you do, really.)
Learn more about your target market, and what they’re into outside of the performing arts. Place yourself in those spaces where appropriate.
Measure and listen to feedback. Adjust as necessary while staying on mission.
Don’t be afraid to be bold!
What are the things that make you unique? When marketing yourself, where are the places you find the most success? Share with us in the comments below!
Just starting out in your marketing? It all starts with a plan. Check out The Performing Arts Crash Course: Marketing 101 + Plan today!