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Researching and testing your audience
This is the third article in a four-part series on author platform. If you’re looking to build or strengthen a platform, you’ve come to the right place!
I’ve broken down essential portions of author platform into four easy-to-read articles:
1: Defining Your Author Brand – Part 1
2: Defining Your Author Brand – Part 2
3: Finding Your Target Market (Today’s article!)
4: Building Author Brand Engagement: It’s Not About the Numbers (Coming 7/23)
This is the third article in the platform series: Finding your Target Market
WHO IS YOUR TARGET MARKET
I often have clients who say that “everyone” is their market. Red flag! You must narrow it down, or you won’t connect with anyone. And sometimes the person you think is your market, actually isn’t. How do you find out?
There’s no silver bullet to finding your target market. So how do other small business creatives find their market? They research, test, and ask.
For those with existing audience, roll up your sleeves and look at what information is available to you.
– Reviews on Goodreads: What information do readers share about themselves?
– Facebook business page analytics: All business pages have “insights” you can look at to see the age, gender, some locations, and time of day their followers are online. Keep in mind that FB skews female as more women are on FB to begin with.
– Website analytics: Install tracking software, like Google analytics on your website. Google will compile basic information about the people who are coming to your website.
– Giveaway tools: Some giveaway platforms give you a bit of information, like the likely country based on the IP address their entry came from.
– Social media comments: Often times fans are practically banging businesses over the heads with who they are and what they want. Simply listen.
All of these resources start to paint a picture of your audience. Some marketers are proponents of finding your audience avatar. These steps will help you find your ideal audience avatar, too.
TWO RESEARCH STRATEGIES
For those who are new, or who want to expand their audience, here are two strategies:
Research comparative authors and titles
Look at similar authors’ data to see who they’re targeting. For example, if their copy specifically speaks to moms of toddlers, it’s possible their publishing house has already researched and discovered that moms are the ones buying picture books, so they’re talking directly to them. Also, look at the other authors’ social media accounts. Who is engaging with them? Their fan base will likely be similar to yours. With a bit of research, you’ll be able to identify some hot-button topics (like if they’re all about chic couture for their toddlers, or if they’re college students obsessed with Ikea furniture hacks). Start finding out what your audience is interested in! Do not be skeezy and attempt to pull their followers to your account. (More on engaging the right way in the next article.)
Utilize the core branding from the first two articles in this series
Look at who else cares about the same things you’re passionate about and market to them. Let’s say your brand is feminism. You might create an ad for people who follow feminist-centric entities who also are interested in reading. Or evaluate where those communities overlap and if there is a subgroup there. Perhaps there’s an influencer in that arena that you can partner with. This is not always easy, but you will get better at spotting these opportunities as you practice.
There are multiple ways to test your audience, but here are three ideas, plus how to know if your author story is connecting with others.
– Organically test your audience: Based on your branding from the first two articles, start posting things around those branding elements that you love. Evaluate what your audience responds to—every brand has a hot-button issue.
Example: One of my clients publishes science fiction and fantasy. After experimenting, however, I realized that the audience isn’t super into Marvel–complete shock! Do you know what they do like? Dungeons and Dragons, Star Wars, and my very favorite surprise . . . binge-reading! Because this client is a publisher, it was exciting to realize that one of the hot-button topics lined up perfectly with what the client sold (which means the audience growth methods were well done). If your audience is not responding to your posts, but your core brand is critical, then keep going and your people will find you.
– Ask your audience: I ask my audience things all the time, like do you prefer paperback books or e-book? Binge reading or stretching out a novel? What books do you love so much you re-read them? This gives tons of not-too-personal information, but exactly what you need to deliver to your audience what they want, within your brand.
– Paid testing: Some authors spend hundreds of dollars a day on ads for their books. Even the Harry Potter books get advertised by their publisher on Amazon! But they didn’t start out pumping money into ads. They tested first. If you’re self-publishing, test your cover image and your copy to see what your audience is responding to. There are lots of courses and articles on ads, as this is a very intricate subject, so I’ll just mention that paid testing is a part of a solid engagement strategy, especially if your goal is to meet new people, or to strengthen your relationship with existing fans.
– Is your story resonating with your audience? They’ll start initiating those conversations with you.
Example: I have an author friend who’s most popular protagonist has a serious green thumb, specifically with potatoes. My friend used potato emojis in her social media and would do potato memes and jokes. Now her fans tag or send her potato jokes, memes and even PHYSICALLY MAIL her potatoes!
An author has to be connecting with their fans in an honest way. The comments *back* let you know if you are. This is building her relationship with audience: know, like, trust.
I have author friends who are a few years ahead of me in their publishing career. They are extremely generous in sharing insights on who their audience is, how they found this out, and who they think my ideal audience is. Many successful authors will share information, either at conferences, or one-on-one. Open your ears and take notes. For me, I had to make some immediate changes when an author friend told me my audience was older than I’d predicted. I’m so glad I listened because she was right!
Finding one’s target market takes work and isn’t generally accomplished all in one day. But keep at it, keep learning, and you will grow your audience one fan at a time.
My next article in this series is on building brand engagement!
Kristin J. Dawson lives on the edge of a forest in the Pacific Northwest. She’s the author of THE LILAC PLAGUE, the HowDoesShe.com Literary Contributor, and a Deep Magic E-zine Board Member.