The Importance of a Target Audience – how I learned the lesson

On the way to Awesome Con to teach juggling
On the way to Awesome Con to teach juggling

Yesterday, I learned a lesson about the importance of working with the people who will best respond to your efforts. I have read a great deal about identifying your avatar and then producing and marketing to that avatar. The avatar can be defined as the ideal receiver of your product. It could be the ideal reader, the ideal customer, the ideal client, etc.

Something about that has always bothered me. I have never felt comfortable writing or creating towards some unrealistic ideal person. It feels somehow wrong, because I want to keep my work and products open and available to anyone who is curious about them. And I want to encourage all to read them, learn from them, and enjoy them.

But yesterday bopped me on the nose with the rolled up newspaper of the importance of a target audience. As a favor to my husband, I went to Awesome Con and taught juggling to people in the Kids Zone. We broke the forty-five-minute session up in two lessons for two sets of people. I was supposed to have help in teaching but no one else showed up, so I was on my own. The first group of 20 “kids” ranged in age from four to adult. I recognized the mistake inherent in trying to reach this great a variety of people, but the organizers had announced it that way, and so I tried to make it work.

The level of ability varied greatly. The four-year-olds could barely catch one ball. The adults got it but kept wanting the next bit of the lesson. And the kids in between were unruly and were more interested in throwing the balls at each other (and sometimes at me as was evidenced by the one the that was winged at my head during the lesson) than they were interested in actually learning how to juggle. So, I found myself rushing among the various factions trying to teach, appease, and demonstrate the various stages of learning how to do this ancient art. The result was that a couple of people, who were already primed to learn it because they had tried before or because they had natural coordination, learned and did it well. But, the rest was a mishmash with most having fun but few learning much of anything except perhaps the very first couple of steps.

What could have helped alleviate the issues? If I had had additional volunteers who could work with the various groups, that would have been great. We could have split up the groups and taught to them individually. Or, I could have invited only the youngsters or only the adults, etc. to learn at one time. Then, I could have taught to their skill levels and both they and I would have had a better and more productive time. In other words, I could have narrowed down each group (read audience) to one that had ideal characteristics to learn what I was teaching.

I can now see how the same thing is true for identifying the ideal audience for any product whether it is a book, movie, or other item.

I think the key for me is to switch up the nomenclature a little. It’s not about targeting the right audience/consumers for my work. Rather, it is about figuring out which group of people will be best for me to seek out and work with as I develop my art and business models. If I look at this entire undertaking as a sort of collaborative effort where we all work together to grow, learn, and evolve, then it becomes much easier to grok.

Have any of the rest of you had this sort of trouble with determining your target audience? Have you felt uncomfortable with the language of it? Sound off below.

Sending you all of my love.
Z


3 thoughts on “The Importance of a Target Audience – how I learned the lesson

  1. I never had a problem with distinguishing my target audience. I have 1 book for ages 0-6. I have mystery books for ages 8-12 and I have a fantasy series for teenagers to adults. I find it concerning to get myself pigeonholed within certain age groups or within certain genres/ subject matter I’m writing about. For the first 10 years of my writing career I was labeled a YA mystery author and went to book stores, did school appearances and libraries. Now what I writer is a bigger range and with adding fantasy into the mix my target audiences are more varied. Now, comes a time when I wonder – did I go too big? Because now it’s almost like – I’m all over the place instead of focusing on one specific target audience.

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    1. How interesting that you and I seem to have the opposite problems. Audiences do seem to want a single genre, for some reason. If you feel you went too big, perhaps it would be efficacious to pull back and course correct. Have you found that it has affected your earnings at all, or are you wondering about it because it is of concern?

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  2. yes, my earnings are zilch. But I haven’t really been promoting a whole lot either. So, that makes it difficult to determine exactly where the problem lies. But I have thought about scaling back, but that means I would have to choose either Mystery or Fantasy. Though I could put the 2 together.

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