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Who is your topic for? Define your target audience.

Your work should be for a particular, defined person. Also known as a buyer persona, target audience, or your reader. You need to know exactly who you will change with the work you put into the world so you can focus your time actually helping them.

Who is it for is one of the very first questions you should ask yourself before you begin writing. It’s like asking who your target audience is. Except, it’s more generalized than that. It would help if you didn’t think in strictly marketing terms.

Instead, it would be best if you look inside and really answer the question with brutal specificity. Your topic may help business owners with something they struggle with often.

But your idea isn’t for “business owners.”

Define Your Target Audience VERY Specifically

It’s for someone far more specific than that. It’s for Jeff. Here’s Jeff’s story. Hint, you should write this out for every type of person you’re targeting. This is called a buyer persona and will help you build a target market and plan your marketing/writing efforts for your topic.

This is Jeff.

Jeff runs a donut shop with three staff. He’s running very lean and margins are thin. Every mistake has a noticeable impact he cannot afford — and he constantly has to be ready for health inspectors who could show up, no-notice, anytime.

He’s 34 and taking the business over from his father who just retired last year. He’s been working in the shop since childhood but is now thrust into the leadership role and struggling to find his way.

At home he is married with two children, both in school. His wife works from home, lucky, she can take care of the kids while Jeff works late closing up the shop each day.

Jeff and his wife live about an hour and half from the donut shop because they wanted to be in the suburbs and have a better school for their children. While amazing, this also means Jeff has quite a lot of time wasted commuting into the shop each day.

On Saturday’s Jeff has a bowling league for two hours in the evening. This is where he unwinds and resets for the week. On Sundays he takes the kids so his wife can go to the salon, spa, or hang out with friends.

Jeff’s life is a full balancing act right now, but he imagines he will have more time when the kids are a little older.

He is inspired by the founder of Starbucks. He likes the stories of struggle in the beginning and that perserverence paid off. He can draw parallels between Starbucks and his donut shop and often uses them as an example to strive for in his business.

He’s worried when big supermarkets start lowering their prices on donuts that simply aren’t as good as his. But consumers often want the most value they can get, not necessarily the best quailty. Plus they are already in the market to buy other things.

And even though his donut shop is nearby the market, buyers aren’t coming over because they are getting cheap donuts in the market.

This means Jeff is always on the lookout for some edge he can get over the local competition. His online social media strategy is weak and he knows it. He’s not sure what he should post, when, and how much of it — so he does almost nothing.

Be Very Thorough When Defining Your Target Audience

I could go on and on about Jeff — and you should when you do this exercise. Just keep writing about Jeff’s life until you can’t think of anything new about it. Then write about Jane, Deon, and anyone else you can portray as who your work is for.

This will help you focus your writing — to put together audience insights and eventually lead to content marketing plans, new article decisions, or overall strategy.

Documenting Who It’s For is a Lot of Work

I know what you’re thinking; this is a lot of work. That’s true. But it is work worth doing. I do remember a long time ago when I used to think the same thing. That the time it takes to do this work, I could’ve spent it doing something else.

Trust me, the insights you gain from doing this will help you in many of the stages of your writing.

You will come to points where you need to make decisions, and knowing precisely who you’re doing the work for — who you were serving – will directly influence your choices; producing a better outcome.

Your product, your work, will ultimately be shaped by who it is you seek to change. In other words, your potential readers and customers. The entire reason for even doing the work in the first place.

Don’t Waste Too Much Time on Social Media

I wish I could say you can sit on social media and watch how people act to find your target audience, but that would be bad advice. People behave differently on social media than they do in real life. They will say one thing and do another.

You know this, you probably sugarcoat your profiles a little bit as well.

Craft the Story for One Person First

Sometimes you need just a little kick to get started. So here is your homework.

Start with one person. Who is it? No, who is it really? Your goal is to be very specific to learn everything about them. What drives them? Where do they live? How old are they? Who inspires them? What makes them sad? Where did they grow up?

Answer every tiny detail you can about that person. The more thorough you are the better it will be for you long-term.

Do all this in its own separate document so that you may return to it time and time again while you do the work developing the topics you will write about.

Take it All One Step Further

Do you really want to take advantage of this persona? Find somebody who fits your narrative, your story that you wrote. And then talk to them. Literally called him on the phone or go visit them in person.

Find out if your story is correct. Fill in any gaps that you might’ve missed.

Talking directly to the person your story is about will give you even more insights to learn about them, things you probably could never have written about unless you speak with them.

What to do With All This Information

Once you’re done crafting the story about the people you are doing the work for, it’s time to put it to use. That means using it to make decisions during the development of your topic ideas and writing.

Or use it when crafting your marketing plans. How are you going to reach that person? How will you deliver the message they need to hear to understand your idea?

Use your person to consistently move your ideas forward in a manner that best serves them. They are your ideal reader, customer -- your market segment.

And once you have enough of this person interested in your idea, you have your customer base. You now have the opportunity to give them what they need and your writing to succeed.

The Channel Doesn’t Matter

The channel is just how you are communicating or where you show your work. But putting together your target person's story gives you what you will be communicating — and who you were communicating with.

You can use this on any channel.

Get Started

If you’re ready, get started writing out each person's story; who is your target reader? Don’t forget their marital status, goals, what inspires them, where they live, work, play, and everything in-between.

The more thorough you are, the more material you’ll have as a resource when making critical decisions while doing your work.