I was recently hanging out at my local Starbucks when a man started asking me what I was working on. As we talked, I learned that he was a communication major at a local university, so he was no stranger to marketing and advertising.
He told me one thing that really bothers him is when he can tell the ads he’s being served are clearly written by someone who doesn’t know the product or service that they’re trying to advertise. And I have to agree. As a marketer, it’s annoying to see ads like this. As a potential customer, I think it looks unprofessional when I see ads that were clearly written by someone without complete knowledge of the product/service.
With that said, there are some very technical industries out there. Jumping into a new account can include learning many new intricacies and industry terms. It can require a lot of reading, studying, and learning on the account manager’s part.
So as PPC pros, how can we avoid our target audience feeling like our ad messaging is mismatched, uncomfortable, or written by an “outsider”? Here are some suggestions and ways I have been working to make sure my ad copy is more audience-specific.
Know Your Audience’s Vocabulary
One of the most helpful documents I have come across recently is a shared document that a new B2B client provided. It included a rundown of their business, their target audience, and a list of industry-specific terms and why those terms were important to our audience members.
On new client calls, I always ask for a rundown of the clients’ business (along with loads of other questions) so I can ensure what they feel is important matches up with our research. However, I have found that it can be infinitely useful to have the all of this information in a document that can be added to, shared, and referred back to if something is forgotten. If you’re looking to create a document like this for your accounts, here’s a list of questions I recommend asking:
- Who is your target audience?
- Are there sub-segments in that audience? If so, what are the differences between these folks?
- Are there industry-specific terms that the layman wouldn’t understand and what are the meanings behind those words?
- Is there a history of this industry that needs to be understood? Example: In the real estate industry, some companies were severely impacted by the recession. That is worth discussing with your real estate clients to get a full understanding of their business and how that impacted their market.
- Are there specific rules or regulations that need to be understood when advertising for this client? Example: Going back to the real estate example, some real estate licenses require specific language on ads.
- How does this product or service look to solve the customer’s problem?
- What sets your product or service apart from competitors?
Having all of this information in one document can make sharing with teammates and referring back on a regular basis infinitely easier.
Know Your Audience’s Geography
I’ve lived in a number of different states over the past few years. One thing I’ve come to find is that each city effectively has two names: the name the rest of the world knows that area by and the slang term the people who live there actually use.
For example, the area I’m in Virginia now is called “Hampton Roads”, but when my family visits, they would never tell people they’re visiting “Hampton Roads” because very few people would know what that means. However, in local advertisements, Hampton Roads is often called out because it encompasses several different cities within our region.
Knowing the geography of a location, not only the actual city limits but the slang terms of those locations can be a very important piece to creating compelling ad copy. It might be a small piece, but it can make your ads look clueless if the geography is mismatched.
Here’s a couple of questions to ask to make sure you’re covering the bases when it comes to geography:
- What do local media outlets refer to the geographic area as? (Tri-State, Metro, etc.)
- What cities, counties or other regions reside in that geographic area?
- Do you have multiple locations or states that you’re actively advertising in?
- Do you have specific states you’re not allowed (or would prefer not) to advertise in?
- What geographic or location-specific language do you think would resonate best with your audience?
Read Like An Industry Nerd
Most industries these days have their own publications, blogs, and go-to resources on the web. Understanding the tone that the industry uses to talk about itself can be very helpful. Once you have a list of “vocabulary words” common to that industry, you can use that to help make more sense of the information you find. Here’s a list of questions to ask to get you started down this road:
- What websites does our audience utilize regularly?
- Are there blogs, magazines or other resources that you would recommend for additional information?
- Is there any kind of comparison site or article that outlines differences between your company and competitors from a third party?
- Do you have any additional sites you would recommend for a better understanding of this audience or industry?
Understand the Customer’s Problem…Then Move Beyond It
I wrote about Amy Harrison’s Feature/Results/Impact ad copy strategy a while back, but this method continues to be an important strategy for me, especially for niche audiences. There is very often a disconnect between us as marketers and our target audience because they don’t realize there’s a problem.
Here are a couple questions to help you fully develop your ad copy after gathering information and learning about your audience:
- What can your product or feature do for the customer? Be as specific as possible.
- Do these folks know they have a problem?
- What result will this audience gain from your product or service?
- Why is the gain important?
I hope that all of these questions are helpful the next time you encounter a new product, service, or audience that you aren’t familiar with. If you’d like to do some more reading on working with technical industries, I recommend this article.
What questions do you ask when you are writing ad copy for a niche audience? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.