I conducted a poll recently asking about the biggest PR problems faced by small businesses and I was surprised by the results.

The results showed that the number one problem is targeting. And that surprised me. I didn’t anticipate that answer. (It also reminded me of the great value in seeking feedback.)

What is targeting?

Targeting the right audience, making sure your content reaches the right audience, knowing how to tap into the right market – can seem overwhelming, right?

So, let me break it down for you.

First, a story.

Having spent nearly 20 years working with people, I learned that the starting point of any communication is to listen.

This became clear one day when watching the communication technique of my company mascot and Chief PR Adviser, Gwen the Pig.

Before asking for anything (usually food), this clever five-year-old listens to the voices around her.

She digests this information, then:

  • works out if it is a good time to ask (are there yummy leftovers?)
  • selects the best person to ask (the most gullible!)
  • chooses the most effective method to get what she wants (a grunt or a snout to the leg).

So, GwenPig showed me that by listening first, we learn: who to communicate with, the best time to communicate with them and the best way to reach them.

Targeting is just that. It’s about talking to the right people in the right way at the right time.

There are a few simple steps you can take to learn how to do this quickly so that you can find and communicate effectively with the right audience for your business.

Let’s look at an example of effective targeting

This article I wrote for The Guardian about why I named my business after my pet pig, (I’m not just showing off, although I am proud of it!) is an example of how to target an audience with a ‘how to’ style article without being overtly salesy.

Look how I get to subtly mention my business whilst offering helpful ‘hint and tips’ content about naming a business to my target audience (other small businesses).

The article is talking to the right people (small businesses) in the right way (providing useful content) at the right time (start-ups wondering if they need to bother with PR).

What are the benefits of targeting?

You can better focus your message so it is more bespoke to your audience. You can talk about the specific benefits to that particular audience.

You’ll sort the wheat from the chaff which means that only people who truly value your offer will connect with you. In a sea of small businesses grasping for business, you will seek out and find only the people who are looking to buy your product or service.

Your promotional efforts will get you more bang for buck because you’ll only be talking to your people. This means that rather than a ‘batch and blast’ strategy, you will have a tailored approach which means you can spend your hard-earned cash where it matters most.

You will become known as the go-to person in your field. Us humans are simple beings at times and psychologically we like to grasp onto one idea. If you can become known as the person who does just one thing – and you do it really well, people will find it easy to describe what you do to others. Once people understand what it is your offering and who this best benefits, they can more easily refer potential customers and journalists.

Three steps to effective targeting

So, you can effectively target your chosen audience through a three step approach. This involves taking a giant leap back from your business and asking yourself a lot of questions. Try to do this from an independent perspective.

  1. Talk to the right people

Define who your target market is. This is where you need to generalise. What is your typical or target customer’s age? Where does s/he live? Is that person very local to you or somewhere else in the county? Could that person live anywhere in the world? What does s/he do for a living? What does s/he earn?

Also, think about what their interests may be – outside of your product or service. What would that person’s values be? What would s/he like and dislike?

What is their biggest problem? How do you solve that problem for them?

  1. Talk in the right way

Where is your target market? How do they consume media? Are they on Twitter or Facebook? Or do they read the sort of niche magazines that use to feature on Have I Got News for You? Maybe they only read local press, maybe they’re all Guardian readers.

What is your target market interested in? It may not be your service per se. It may be another product or service you can use as a way into their world.

So, for me, I have a number of digital marketing clients. They are interested in all things digital and techy. They want to know about numbers, statistics: they want concrete evidence. So, I talk to them in their language and use figures to show the return on investment that PR provides.

  1. Talk at the right time

Where are they on their journey? When is the best time to talk to them? As they set up their business or three years in when they may be seeking support or hiring staff.

Also, think about seasonality. For a physio it may in the summer when more people do outdoor sport and get injured. For a divorce lawyer, it may be after Christmas when statistically most couples break up – after the heady intense boiling pot that is the festive period.

By really focussing in on your niche, you can direct your communications specifically. This avoids the need to ‘batch and blast’ throwing everything at the wall and hoping something sticks.

Katy, I wrote the textbook on targeting

If you’re confident you’ve already got your targeting 100% nailed, forget the above and pay it on in sharing this content.


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