At a recent family gathering, a cousin of mine decided to tell a joke.

The joke involved a few four-letter words that I can’t print.

It was told in the presence of my 80-year-old grandmother.

And it was followed by a few seconds of forehead-warming, lip-biting awkward silence for the other family members in the room.

The reaction of my family was not a result of the joke being terribly bad, but because the rest of my family understood something that my cousin did not – my grandmother was not the right audience for his crude joke.

Understanding your audience is one of the most important parts of creating a message – whether that message is in the form of a joke, news release, tweet, advertisement or any other marketing and PR tactic.

For B2B organizations, not having a solid grasp on the behaviors, motivations and influences of an audience is one of the main reasons that companies waste budget and feel like the “market doesn’t get us.” It’s also a big reason why tactics fall flat.

This is where customer and audience research come in to play. Understanding the difference between who makes the purchasing decision and who influences it can have a huge impact in the messages you craft and deliver to your target audiences. What are the pains and opportunities they’re feeling in their business – “them” individually and not just “them” as an organization

But how can you tell if you’ve done enough research to know your audience and get working on your message development? Well, start by answering these three questions: Who is your audience? What do they care about? And where are they getting their information?

Who is your audience?

The answer here is not “everyone.” Don’t make your message a one-size-fits-all suit, make it tailored and suave.

A one-size-fits-all strategy often results in watered down messages and telling a story that’s not really compelling for your audience. Figure out who’s actually buying your product or who you want to buy your product. To put it simply – determine the hypothetical person you are speaking to. Using a market research strategy or taking advantage of resources such as our SMS Research team would lend a hand here.

Once you have this primary audience in mind, you can narrow your communications with specific messaging and call-to-action tactics.

What do they care about?

So, you’ve figured who you want to talk to and what you want them to do. Now comes the tricky part – actually making them notice your message.

For many companies, the first instinct is to recite a laundry list of great things about their product. But your audience has work responsibilities, projects to complete, budgets to hit – oh, and rent to pay, kids to drop off at school and the hottest new streaming-service show to catch up on after work. In other words, they have a lot on their plate.

So, position yourself as the best utensil to clear their plate. What’s the most groan-inducing part of their job? Understand that pain point and gear your message toward how you can help resolve that issue. If you can describe what your audience cares about and the problems they have, your message will have a much higher chance of being successful.

Here’s a good test – put the features of your products into benefit statements. For example, if you’re a construction company, don’t just say “this skid steer has a compact design.”  Instead, say “its compact design was made to fit into the narrow urban construction environment that contractors deal with daily.”

If you can connect the dots for them, you’ve done your research.

Where are they getting their information?

As the old saying goes, if a message knocks down a tree in the woods and no primary audience members heard it, did it really happen? I might be mixing up some of the words, but you get the point.

The next important question to answer is where are your primary, secondary and tertiary audiences getting their information?

If you assume it’s the first top-tier newspaper you can think of, you haven’t done your research. Yes, your audience might read The Wall Street Journal, but that might not be the most cost-effective and influential placement for your message. If your goal is to reach IT managers for the top 100 automotive manufacturers, national business media may not be your best bet.

Find out what trade magazines or websites your audience reads. Who do they consult in the buying process? When you can answer these questions, you’ll be in a good position to place your message where it will be seen at the right time by the right people to make an impact.

Message development can cost time and money, so don’t draft blind. Do your research. Take the time up front to understand who you’re talking to, what they care about and where they get their information.

It would have saved my cousin embarrassment, but it could save your company much more.

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