Often I’m sent a brief to write a brochure or website copy for clients that want to talk to themselves. The marketing director or CEO has dreams of telling the company story, designing fancy charts or organograms, profiling every employee or plastering every piece of information he / she can find into the smallest space possible to save on costs. While some of these things may be relevant and good ideas (the exception being the last), clients need to ask themselves two big questions before starting a marketing project: who is my target audience? and what is the function of this communication?
It’s useless putting together a beautiful, glossy and expensive corporate brochure if your target audience will be bored to tears by it. Yet so often, companies get caught up in what they want to say and forget that it’s all about what their target audience wants to know. For example, if the aim of your website is to attract new customers but the content is predominantly tailored for your own employees and shareholders, you have a problem.
When you forget who your audience is, you may neglect to include vital information that your readers need, or include irrelevant information that they don’t need or want to read. Identifying your audience means you’re able to figure out the sort of questions they want answered. Generally, these are the same questions that drive journalism – the five W’s and H: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?
Think about why your audience would read your marketing material. Put yourself in your user’s shoes. For instance, if I were the customer of a shoe retailer, I might visit the website looking for an online catalogue, pricing and stockists in my area. If I were an executive of a company looking to rent office space, I might browse through office development brochures seeking information on location, size, services available, pricing and parking facilities. One of the best ways to find out what users want is to ask them. Find out what they’re looking for, what they like and don’t like and what they would change. Make sure you get regular feedback.
Remember also that user-centricity is not just about copy. Every aspect of your communications needs to be user-centric, from your design to the navigation, features and content. If you have multiple types of users, make sure you cater to all of them and not just one category. For example, a multinational telecommunications company might produce brochures for each of its specialist services, or have different landing pages on its website to cater to customers from different regions. Check out Gloria Wadzinski’s great post on How to Create User Centric Web Design for Better SEO for more on this concept.
Remember also that communication is a two-way street. Making it easy for your customers to talk to you is just as important as getting your message across to them, and listening to what they have to say is even more important.