A couple of years ago I quit my steady job at a digital marketing company to start my own company. Things were going great – I bought the website, filed my LLC papers, and found (what I still think) is a funny name for the company. Surprisingly, visitors didn’t just flock to the site because I had a funny company name. In fact for the first week and a half of the site, I was literally the only visitor! A sad truth is that I filtered out my home internet address from Google Analytics, and then felt so depressed that I logged onto the site at a Starbucks just to increase my visitor count. Gradually I began to wonder: how am I going to reach my target market on the internet? I had a very limited budget and reaching my target market was the first big hurdle for me to overcome for the business. I knew I had a great product (I was marketing only Pay Per Click at the time) and I knew once I could get in front of my audience, I could convince them to buy my services. Knowing that I needed to reach not just an audience, but my actual target audience was the first step in building the business into what it is today.
After my initial frustration, I figured I would try blogging. I would just throw up a couple of blogs, and people would come to the site. After all I am Adam – I was on MTV! If my content is hilarious who wouldn’t want to read it? I had authored blogs on other sites about digital marketing and those blogs had hundreds of thousands of views. I spent the next two weeks on a single blog and it came to over 2,800 words. I posted the blog and promoted it and ….. crickets. More people saw Johnny Depp’s The Lone Ranger, than read my blog. Adam you are so naive it hurts. I had a better shot of finding Justin Bieber sober behind the wheel than reaching my target market on the internet.
Since there was no way that I was going to let my company fail, I got inspired. I decided that I needed to do some hard-core Lambda Lambda Lambda style studying on how to reach my target audience on the internet. From that day forward I basically read every single book and blog on digital marketing that I could get my hands on for 6 months. I probably read over 25 books and over 1,000 blog posts. I was a beast and had an insatiable urge for knowledge. From the synthesis of all these books I began trying out tactics. I stuck with what worked for me and scrapped what didn’t. The following are my two favorite strategies to reach your target market on the internet.
Strategy One: Appear On The Sites Your Target Market Already Visits
According to Mashable the web adds 150,000 new URL’s per day. Each and every one of these URL’s is competing with you for your target markets attention. So how do you as a new site/marketer reach your target market? Appear on the sites that your target market already visits! Appearing on the sites your target market already visits has a variety of benefits. The first is that your audience is already reading the site, so you are guaranteed to reach them. The second benefit is that appearing on a prestigious site lends your credibility. It is as if the site is vouching for you, and saying “This author is good with us!”. Appearing on these sites is actually much easier to do than you would imagine. The Internet world is not as snobby as the traditional marketing world, where a magazine publisher would be happy to keep you away from your target market unless you have the budget of Scrooge McDuck to advertise in their magazine. These popular sites that your target market visits have to constantly churn out content daily, if not multiple times per day. Somebody has to write the content, so why not you? This is not some purely academic exercise – here is the step-by-step way of how I figured out the sites my target market visits and authored a guest post on the massively popular site Search Engine Journal. I invite you to copy my method – it has worked for me multiple times.
Step one – Find Out What Your Target Audience Reads
One of my target markets is VP’s of digital marketing at mid-sized companies. Obviously, I could not just barge into companies and demand to meet the VP of marketing. Instead, I followed a couple of these VP’s on Twitter and began to see a pattern that they attended (and tweeted) about meetups they went to. I next signed up for these same meetups on meetup.com, and began attending them. I attended about 5 digital marketing meetups before I really began to understand my target market and what sites they visited. Digital marketers make it easy to learn about them because they love reading, they love talking about what they are reading, and they love drinking lots of craft beer. The combination of the three facts made it easy for me to learn what my sites my target audience was visiting and what articles they were reading. I didn’t have to ask or steer conversations, they just talked! As the digital marketers at these meetups discussed the latest articles – I could see the number of people who nodded along that had also read that article in a certain site. Watching the interactions also alerted me to how digital marketers in different positions read different publications. I found that the target market I wanted to reach typically reads Search Engine Journal because of how often the site reports on larger digital trends and strategies. Search Engine Journal seems less technical and more strategy focused than many of the other sites that more inexperienced digital marketers read.
Step Two – Find Out The Person You Need to Convince To Get Published On The Site
Now that I knew my target site, I had to find my way in. Even the biggest online sites in the world are just made up of people. With the internet distance doesn’t matter – I knew I could reach anyone. I took it upon myself to find out who the person was at Search Engine Journal that I needed to know to get published. I figured it was an editor because though writers are great they are often not the people you need to convince to get in bigger publications. The editors are your gatekeepers to talk to. Once I found out who the editor of the site was, I begin to gather more information (I much prefer the term “gather more information” than “become a monster stalker”). Typically I look into their LinkedIn, Twitter, and read articles that they have published. If you look long enough and put in the time, you will find what they are interested in. When you know their interests and what they typically publish – the next step is easy!
Step Three – Pitch Something, Not Nothing
I knew my target market, and I now knew the editor. To close the deal I simply pitched him something. Don’t begin your relationship with this editor empty-handed. I have seen too many emails that essentially say “I would like to write something for you, but I don’t know what”. That is the worst way to do it! You not only want to be featured, you want the editor to also figure out what you should write. Negative. Your job is to make the editor’s life easier. You want to come in with a clear-cut plan and some credentials. Show them that you are a good content producer, pitch a couple of ideas and see what comes back. Always have a plan! I want to stress this – make it quality. If you pitch an editor quality content, that they don’t have to think about, that is interesting to the audience – you will get on their site!
Strategy Two: It’s Not Always About You
When I started writing blogs it was all about me. Adam this and Adam that and nobody cared! What I learned from my reading (and specifically my HubSpot training) is that reaching my target market on the internet is not about me – it is about my readers. What I think is interesting doesn’t always align with what my readers think is interesting. Usually I tell a brief personal story in the first couple of paragraphs, and then spend the remainder of the blog helping the reader. Some blogs are more personal, but it is only if I truly believe it will educate and entertain my target market. If you want to reach your target market on the internet you need to be obsessed with your target market. You need to learn every single thing that you can about them – their favorite movies, what their pain points are, what makes them happy. You will need to become Swimfan for your target market. Once you learn about your target market, create content they care about. If you target lawyers, write only about what lawyers care about. If target auto dealers, write about what they care about. If you have the option to be self-indulgent or not – do not! Some ways to make it about your reader that are worth trying:
Write in a “you” voice
Try to avoid the “this company” type of voice. I try to say “you” so it sounds like I am talking to my audience. Seems obvious but, people like it when you talk to them.
Use references your target market will get
I have several target markets that I use for my company. They are all very different and get different references. For example, one of the target markets are CEO’s in his late 50’s. For them, it doesn’t make a who lot of sense to reference someone like Miley Cyrus. For articles I write with CEO’s in their 50’s in mind, I do research about what happened in the 70’s and use that research for reference. That’s why in some articles I write I reference Animal House, Airplane, and Reggie Jackson and some I reference Justin Bieber.
Find what your target market is interested in
When I talk to my customers (who are my target market) I try to get a sense of what they are interested in. There are some things that I thought would be interesting to them, and they are not. In fact this blog is a direct result of a question that someone asked me (so I know it is interesting to them).
I want to hear some success stories about your experience. How have you reached your target market on the internet?