Subtract and Rule policy: How to study your target audience

Good content might do well in the search engine, but great content touches the heart to convert your prospects into buyers, and ultimately your brand ambassadors

Updated: Jul 9, 2019 01:36:44 PM UTC
Image: Shutterstock

The value of your product or service dilutes when the attention spreads to a large set of people. You get the same diluted results in terms of weak sales and online presence.

‘Offering in-depth knowledge’ and ‘target audience awareness’ are the two sides of the same coin. Selling ideas to random people is a daunting task. The real deal lies in knowing who your true audience is; what kind of issues they are facing and how you’ll help them with your vision.

“People buy for two reasons,” says Steenburgh, a professor at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business. “They either have a business problem that needs to be solved or they have a personal need, such as a desire to move up in the organisation that your idea helps accelerate.”

The Subtract and Rule policy takes off vague messaging by focusing on core customers. It breathes on reciprocation framework—you reap what you sow, and strengthen the value by narrowing your targets. Sow the seeds of trust and confidence. In return, you’ll receive the same enriched value in terms of strong sales and online presence.

Embrace the following strategies to adopt the ‘Subtract and Rule policy’ framework:

Stop playing the quantity game
Who doesn’t like to expand their customer segment as much as possible? But a well-defined narrow segment appeals more than random targets. For example, a clothing range for males covers a vast audience. Targeted audience—clothing range for teenage boys, living in suburban areas, who enjoy grunge music—brings in quality leads for better sales and relations.

The Three Ws to decode the audience affair
1) What efforts do you put into healing your users’ pain points? Address the problems and the needs of your target audience. Have a unique selling point which compels users to be on your side.

b) Where does your target audience hang out?
Study their behaviour by knowing the websites they visit frequently, social media platform they prefer the most, and engage with them on their favourite online discussion groups.

c) Who is your source of inspiration?
Draw inspiration from your audiences’ demographic (age, gender, annual income, region) and psychographics (hobbies, attitudes, lifestyle, and values).

Go beyond the pain points
Identification of pain point strengthens the connection, but the true engagement escalates with an emotional trigger.

Here’s an example for clarity:
Suppose, you are planning to sell a diet program. The pain points of your clients will be weight issues, poor eating patterns, increased dependents on supplements, and unhealthy digestive system.

To trigger an emotional response, don’t just focus on the problems related to diet programs. Craft content on how lack of confidence—due to improper diet—affect your customer’s lifestyle.

Go deep by highlighting how their poor organisation skills give birth to life-threatening diseases. Motivate them for physical and mental growth; let them realise the importance of health.

Induce fear for positive change
Nobody likes to feel left out. People don't appreciate what they have, they resent what they don't have.

“The fear of missing out is an old, actually an ancient fear, being triggered by the newest form of communication: social media,” says Anita Sanz, a clinical psychologist. FOMO marketing triggers the audience’s deep-rooted fear of missing out and compels them to take action.

Continuing with the diet program example, let us understand missing and gaining perspective

Two content ideologies to motivate the same audience:
a) What will you gain due to low self-esteem?
b) What will you miss out due to low self-esteem?

Both questions revolve around a single theme — low self-esteem. But, the latter question activates FOMO for a quick response.

Collaborate to drive change
Don't stop your research after understanding your customers. True penetration starts from understanding their path. Persuade, inspire and lead with empathy. Collaborate with your target audience to drive change.

Ask the following questions from your buyers to collaborate:
a) How likely are they to recommend your offer to a friend?
b) How does your product/ service adjust to their daily workflow?
c) Did they like your customer service?
d) What problem your offer solves? (Cross-check your vision with customer’s interpretation)
e) What features do they wish to have?

Collaboration gives clarity. You subtract the extras and focus on the essentials to rule the hearts of your tribe.

If you are targeting women, aged 20-35, it doesn’t mean you don’t want 40-year-old women to purchase your offer. But, a narrow segment directly appeals to your audience. You can’t persuade 20-old-year woman and a 40-year-old woman with the same message.

Figure out the customer’s motivations. Define their interest and opinions. Good content might do well in the search engine, but great content touches the heart to convert your prospects into buyers, and ultimately your brand ambassadors.

Always remember
You’ll never have mastery on your target audience. Stop looking for a perfect portrait because people evolve with time.

The author is founder of Mushroom Content, which aims for making businesses more human with approachable content.

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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