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Match Your Message to Your Audience
By: terri
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    If you've ever hunted for a job – and who hasn't? – you know that all the job search gurus tell you to construct a separate cover letter for every place you send your resume. In some cases, they even tell you to build different resumes! By doing this, you sent the right messages to the right audiences. As a business owner, you still need to do that.

    Before we go any further, let me ask you a question: why did you bother to at least customize your cover letter? You're just one person offering a particular set of skills. But the companies you hoped would hire you (or at least offer an interview) were all different in some way. Some had a more relaxed environment than others; some might be more interested in one set of skills than others; and some might need some strong persuasion before considering you for the position you wanted.

    In every case, your essential message was the same: “hire me!” But you changed the way you delivered it, tweaking things here and there, based on the reception you expected. Guess what? Writing content for your company's website is a lot like writing cover letters for those hiring managers. It's all the same message, but you'll need to tweak it based on the audience you're trying to reach. 

    Stoney deGeyter wrote about this important topic for Search Engine Guide. He didn't look at it from the perspective of a job hunt, but I think he'd agree with me. I particularly like his example of writing to his congressman to register his disagreement with the man's stand on a particular issue. Can you believe the congressman's office was clueless enough to send deGeyter a reply thanking him for AGREEING with him?!  If the congressman had hoped to change deGeyter's mind, he couldn't have chosen a worse way to go about it. After all, he clearly didn't read deGeyter's message; why should deGeyter read his?

    So how could this congressman have sent the right message? According to deGeyter, he should “acknowledge my viewpoint, sympathize with it, find areas of common ground and only then make the case for the merits of the issue. That message would have had a higher chance of persuading me.” Notice that the congressman wouldn't actually be changing his own stand on the issue; he'd simply be changing the way he communicates that stand by emphasizing different elements.

    But you're a businessman, you say, not a politician. Fine. Say you sell firepits, those lovely outdoor fixtures around which people can sit and be warmed by the fire and the glow. As luxury items go, they're not incredibly expensive; they ARE a luxury, though, which means you need to persuade visitors of the benefits. You put your sales pitch together, but you notice that it's falling flat with a certain section of your audience. What's happening? Your message, even if it's the right message, isn't falling on the right ears.

    A young family with kids might be more interested in things like telling stories or toasting s'mores around a firepit, but what about the single person who lives alone? Or the retired couple with no grandkids? The point is, you need to communicate your message differently to someone who is already a customer than you would to someone who's more skeptical about doing business with you. Take these different audience segments into consideration; put yourself in their shoes, and create a different “cover letter” for each one. Use language that specifically reaches each segment.

    In short, as deGeyter puts it, you need more than just THE right message; you need SEVERAL “right messages,” one for each of your target audiences. That is how you go about expanding your market. Good luck!

    DISCLAIMER: The content provided in this article is not warranted or guaranteed by Developer Shed, Inc. The content provided is intended for entertainment and/or educational purposes in order to introduce to the reader key ideas, concepts, and/or product reviews. As such it is incumbent upon the reader to employ real-world tactics for security and implementation of best practices. We are not liable for any negative consequences that may result from implementing any information covered in our articles or tutorials. If this is a hardware review, it is not recommended to open and/or modify your hardware.

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