One of the first steps in marketing planning is to identify the target market – not only their demographics and psychographics, but their pain points and problems.

TargetAudienceThe next step is to use this knowledge in putting together marketing communications.

Makes sense, doesn’t it? For the most part, it does.

But even professional marketers can get tripped up “writing to the target market.”

Here are three traps to be aware of.

1. Are you writing to a “target market,” or to a person?!

The words “target market” instantly bring to mind the image of a crowd of people – hundreds, maybe thousands! – who, because they’re in a crowd, remain faceless and anonymous.

Marketing writing – emails, sales letters, even white papers – need to be addressed in the writer’s mind to a single person, an “avatar” created to be typical of someone in that group. This is particularly true in direct mail and email, which are among the most personal media. “Dear Mom,” grabs your attention in a way that “Dear League of Concerned Mothers,” simply doesn’t!

2. Are you writing for that person, or for yourself?

Words are the tools of the trade for writers – and we really like them! The second trap is liking them TOO MUCH!

Here are three tests writers can use to check on their level of addiction to words:

  • You look forward to a game of Scrabble with your children or grandchildren because you know you will beat the pants off them.
  • You have within easy reach more than one dictionary and even a couple of thesauruses (thesauri?) that you happily refer to at least once every day.
  • Google Translate is bookmarked on your computer.

There are likely more test questions, but the point is, if you like words, you like using them.

The real question: What words does your ideal customer use and respond to? You can find his or her vocabulary in “Letters to the Editor” of magazines they read regularly.

3. Are you writing to make something happen?

A strong marketing piece needs to contain at least three things in order to make something happen.

Features and benefits. You’re probably familiar with features and benefits, and how they need to address the pain points of your audience. A good marketing brief distinguishes between features and benefits, making the work a lot easier for the writer (and the graphic designer, for that matter).

Offer, another familiar term. Without an offer, your reader has no reason to respond to your marketing communication. Even so-called “educational pieces,” such as newsletters or white papers, need to include a relevant offer if you expect them to generate good sales leads.

Call to action. Finally, to make something happen, your marketing writing has to have a “call to action.”  Whereas the “offer” might be a free demonstration of your product, the “call to action” tells the reader what to do in order to get it. For example, “Call today to set your appointment.”

Getting back to your target audience, would your ideal customer be comfortable making a phone call to a sales person? Or would she prefer a less demanding response, perhaps an email? You’ll improve your chances of making something happen when you choose the right call to action.

For clearer messaging and better response, try substituting “ideal customer” for “target market” whenever you can. It’s a simple adjustment that can have big rewards.

One final thought: No matter what kind of document you’re creating, be sure it fits appropriately in your Sales Process. A lead generation document is one step in the sales process, and it’s very different from a mail order document, for example, that is designed to make the sale on the spot.

For more on the sales process and its relationship to the target market, read my next article, “The Well-Documented Sales Process.”