Business communication comes in many forms and spans international borders, cultures, and demographics. Therefore, you must know precisely who your audience will be—their background, demographic traits, their knowledge of the subject already, and their expectations of your presentation. It can be easy to turn off an audience, so whether you are writing an internal company memo or a PowerPoint presentation for a large conference, the key to success is in your ability to identify who your target audience is.
Why You Need to Know Your Audience
You can’t sell sneakers to a snake…
In business writing—and especially in marketing strategy—the goal is to motivate your audience to take action. And you can’t successfully sell a product or pitch a new idea to someone until you know what makes them tick. What do they like? Dislike? Need? Want? What proof will they require to make a decision? How much decision-making power do they have? Are you sending your pitch to the right person?
Clearly, you need to know your audience. Otherwise, you won’t be able to tailor your message appropriately or cultivate a lead to a full-fledged customer. And you won’t have success in motivating your readers to follow through on your advice or recommendations.
How to Better Understand Who Your Audience Is
You can do multiple things that will allow you to gain a more accurate picture of who your audience is. Here are three actions you can take:
- Research—Before writing or delivering your presentation, research your audience’s demographics. Don’t settle for the basics, but delve deeper to gauge their interests, education, background, intercultural business communication preferences, and more. The more you learn, the better equipped you will be in writing for a diverse audience.
- Check out your competition—Who is targeting your same audience? Check out their branding and voice—what appeals to you? Why is it effective? Now use that insight to work on your own messaging. Your business writing skills in reaching your audience will greatly benefit from this research.
- Invest time—Spend the extra few minutes at a meeting or on the phone in getting to know your clients on a more personal level. Take note of their hobbies and interests, what makes them stand out from your other clients. Then, whether in writing, by phone, or in person, use that information to demonstrate you’ve really listened to them.
Assess Your Audience’s Knowledge
When writing or presenting information to a group of people, consider how much they already know about the subject. You certainly don’t want to bore them with stating in detail things they are familiar with.
To do this, ask yourself these questions:
- What does my reader/audience already know about this topic?
- How can I present the information in a fresh, attention-grabbing way?
- What details can I share that would build upon what they already know? Related niches?
- Would my audience benefit from real-life examples, illustrations, or audio-visual aids?
When you ask and answer these questions, you are performing an audience analysis. This should always be considered during the initial stage of writing or outlining your business document or presentation.
Breaking Down Your Audience
Your intended audience or reader can usually land in one of four categories:
Once you have determined which category your audience falls into, you can begin writing. For example, your writing style to executives (those who may have the power to approve a project or allocate the funds for it) differs from writing to the end-user (customer or employee). Keep in mind: Don’t overcomplicate things. Write concisely, define terms when appropriate, and avoid technical jargon unless needed. Write for your audience and their scope of knowledge.
Be Adaptable to Your Audience
At times, you may have to prepare a report, a memo, marketing materials, or manuals that need to be read by people across the board. This means you can’t focus on one niche or one specific audience. Thus, you will need to be adaptable.
If the audience is extensive and consists of multiple demographic and international backgrounds, adapt your writing voice accordingly. Use words, expressions, idioms, jargon, and any technical terms in a way that appeals to a more general audience. Keep it business formal but easy to understand and universally relatable. Try to anticipate what collectively the main concerns of your audience will be.
Audience analysis is an essential tool that every writer needs to have at their disposal in business communication. Not only will it allow you to write more effectively, but you will also achieve your goal of reaching the minds and hearts of your listeners.
Related reading: If your audience intimidates you, here are some tips on writing for executives that may give you a boost of confidence.