How To Create Content For Multiple Audiences
When you’re trying to reach more than one audience, it’s exponentially more challenging to create appealing content. In this scenario, writing and outreach can suffer from the strain of balancing competing priorities. On the one hand, you feel that you should be creating an online presence that is welcoming to each of your diverse audience groups, but you’re also wary of turning off one group in an effort to reach another.
This desire to appeal to everyone leads to exactly the opposite effect of what you want. Home pages become cluttered with competing calls-to-action and blog posts start to feel disconnected.
But it is possible to create a content for multiple audiences and maintain a website that’s clear and compelling to all that visit.
The first step is picking a framework.
Audience Framework 1: The Star
In many ways, the Star framework is the easiest to work with, because it makes your priorities crystal clear: One audience needs to get your content more than all the others.
Many, many organizations operate in the Star framework, from Apple to Kickstarter, because it’s typically most effective to create content when you differentiate between your primary audience and the supporting cast.
Take Charity:Water, for example. Charity:Water is a nonprofit organization that brings clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. What makes the organization unique, however, is not their mission but how they accomplish it — people like you and me can pledge our birthdays to Charity:Water. All proceeds you raise fund clean water projects, and when a project is complete, you get GPS data on the exact projects you funded.
To accomplish their mission, Charity:Water needs to reach all kinds of individuals and organizations. The success of each project is dependent on local partners. For larger events, they need corporate sponsors.
But none of this would work without individual participation, which is why the Charity:Water home page is wholly focused on helping people like you and me start a campaign.
For Charity:Water, individual campaigners are the star.
Is there one group upon whom the success and failure of your mission hinges upon?
You can adopt the Star approach by focusing the majority of your time and resources (say…80 percent) on your most important market segment. The Star should be the focus of your website, content marketing and PR.
Then you can devote the remaining 20 percent of your efforts on the supporting cast. You might dedicate a page or two on your home page to this audience, and it’s very effective to use more direct marketing efforts like networking or even cold-calls to reach your supporting cast.
Audience Framework 2: The Ensemble
The second framework, The Ensemble, comes into play when you want or need to reach multiple customer segments to achieve your mission. Often Ensemble-based businesses segment their audiences from a larger, more cohesive group to bring more clarity to their message. We worked with a business this summer who segmented her audience into the entertainer, the wine connoisseur and the chef.
Or, we might look at Chris Guillebeau to see how someone might market to differentiated market segments. Chris is an author, speaker and entrepreneur who brings content and training to two core groups: travel hackers, aka people who want to learn strategies for earning frequent flier miles to travel the world, and microbusinesses learning how to bootstrap their way to success by selling products and services (versus getting investors).
In some cases, Chris markets to each group with a separate web presence or offer, which we’ll talk more about in the third framework. But in others, like his core website and annual conference, Chris appeals to both groups.
The secret to marketing to an Ensemble audience is finding the commonalities among each market group.
For Chris, this meant understanding the core desires of his band of travel hackers and aspiring business owners and putting forth his own world view. Bringing together both groups at the World Domination Summit, Chris puts it this way: both of his audience sets want to live a remarkable life in an unconventional world. They simply accomplish that goal in diverse ways.
Similarly, Chris’s blog profiles individuals who respond to the call to adventure and short personal essays on challenging yourself to break the mold.
When you think to the broader purpose of living a life on nonconformity, both the personal essays and travel profile inspire other individuals aspiring to make changes in their own lives, even if the particulars vary.
To market to an Ensemble audience, identify the commonalities between your group.
It’s easy to fall into bad habits when you market to an Ensemble — overemphasizing one group, having too many calls-to-action on your home page and confusing both audiences in an effort to pull them together.
You can transform these challenges into opportunities by identifying what your diverse audience segments have in common.
We like to start with a set of questions and a stack of sticky notes. Designate a space for each audience on an open wall in your office. Work through the prompts for each audience, recording your ideas on sticky notes and putting them in the section for that audience. If you have more than one answer for a prompt, that’s great! Use another sticky and add it in.
Here are the prompts:
- Based on what I know about this audience, they are most likely to come across my work when they’re looking for:
- This audience is motivated by a desire to:
- They are held back by a fear of:
- I can help this audience segment most by:
If you’re having a hard time, it can help to create a marketing persona to stand in for each customer segment before you get started.
Once finished, bring together the ideas that each customer segment has in common. These are the common ground that you can create content around.
As much as possible, avoid marketing to the outliers — triggers that only speak to one group or another. Tie your communications together with a theme like Chris did with the idea of nonconformity.
Before we move on to the final framework, I’d like to offer one word of caution. Oftentimes, entrepreneurs or nonprofits default to an ensemble cast, because they’re afraid to admit there’s one group they particularly want to serve. There is power in admitting that your organization has a star, and trying to market to an ensemble when your heart isn’t in it often results in your other audiences feeling they’re getting short shift.
Audience Framework 3: The Spin-Off
Sometimes it’s impractical to try to market to your different audience groups with one business or organization.
We started to explore this a little with Chris Guillebeau, who spun off content around leveraging cards for travel from his main web presence. As another example, my friend Megan Auman is a successful metalsmith and jewelry designer with a thriving business selling her collection. When Megan started teaching other designers and artists what she’s learned about wholesaling, marketing and running a business, she created a separate web presence for that work.
Megan has a different mission for each audience group. On MeganAuman.com, her mission is selling her designs to the public (with a secondary goal of selling wholesale), which is reflected in everything form her design to her site navigation to the home page copy on that site.
Whereas, through Designing An MBA , Megan provides business, brand, and marketing strategy and education for your high-end handmade business.
It’s not just that the audience groups are different, the very purpose behind each business is different. Note the differences between the two sites — and how Megan used a few common elements to tie them together under her brand umbrella.
Running two or more websites is not for everyone, but you know it’s time to spin off an audience segment when you have more than one mission.
Which framework is right for your organization? Are you creating content for a Star, an Ensemble, or is it time to for a spin off?