A few weeks ago several of you asked how to find the right audience and draw them to your blog. I started working on that post and realized I was jumping the gun a bit. Before you can go out and find your readers, first you need to know who your reader is.
Back when I first got into marketing a mentor told me a story that stuck with me. A TV news stations was having trouble drawing in viewership. They realized they couldn't fix the problem until they knew who their viewer was. Instead of creating a spectrum of demographic information that provided generalizations, they invented "Margaret". Margaret was the single representation of their average viewer. Female, age 37, a wife with two school aged kids, she was smart enough to go to college but never went. She reads Better Homes & Gardens and Entertainment Weekly. She drinks diet soda because she's 15 pounds over weight and constantly try to lose 20 pounds.
The news station created a picture of Margaret and hung her in the meeting room. Whenever anyone pitched an idea for a story segment, the first question was always "Is this something Margaret wants to see?". If not, they didn't run it. Of course, because this story had a message, the news station turned around their ratings and went on to become Nightline (just kidding on that last part).
But here's the deal. You can't go out and try different methods of making your Margaret come to your website and engage in your community until you know who Margaret is. Once you know who she is, you can figure out what she's looking for. And when you know what she's looking for, you can tailor your content to her. Hello there, WAM principle. We meet again.
So how do you know who your reader is and what he/she likes? To start, you can ask them. People like to talk about themselves. Contact any readers you already have and ask them about themselves. You can also talk to people who are fans of authors similar to you. Go to their websites and see who the frequent commenters are.
Another, more James Bond like option, is to stalk the library and book store aisles. Check out the people looking in the section your book is in. Who are they? What clothes do they wear? What other books are they checking out? Go ahead and get out there, secret agent man.
Book review and fan page sites are another wealth of information. Find an author whose work is similar to your own and see if they have a fan page. The people active on these sites are a gold mine of information. Just don't be the new community member who comes in and starts asking a bunch of unrelated questions. Come in sit, sit down and get comfy. Watch what happens and you probably won't even need to ask questions.
Once you know who your reader is, finding and marketing to them will be much easier. More on this in the next few weeks.
I will end with one final thought on this. The more specific you can get about who your reader is, the better. There are a bagillion fifteen year old girls around the world. You need to know if your target audience reads Seventeen or Marie Claire. Does your teen reader shop at Old Navy or Hollister? Go ahead, get to know your reader.