It’s finally happened. You’ve landed your dream gig.
You’ll be writing for an existing business blog in your favorite industry. The work is consistent, and the pay is amazing.
Then, when you’re in the middle of discussing potential blog topics with your new client, it happens.
You discover they have no idea who their company’s audience is.
Your stomach drops as you realize this gig isn’t going to be as smooth as you envisioned. Your dream job is quickly turning into a nightmare…
As a fellow freelance blogger, I’ve been there. And the truth is that while there is a way to solve this issue, you need to be cautious. Learn from my experiences in how to build a blog audience for a client who’s been doing it all wrong:
Why your client can’t build their blog’s audience
Whether you’ve been a blogger for a decade or a month, you’ve heard this important piece of advice:
Write for your audience.
If you fail to follow that advice, your blog will never succeed.
Unfortunately, some business owners struggle with this concept when establishing their blogs.
In some instances, a client knows exactly who their audience is. But their content isn’t providing the results they thought blogging would produce. This can happen because the content isn’t being properly marketed or blog posts are too sporadic to earn regular visitors.
If this is the case with your client, you’re in luck. Your skills as a professional blogger will quickly solve their issues. But if your client has been writing for the wrong audience, you have an uphill battle ahead of you.
The problem with writing for the wrong audience is that there will never be much conversion of readers into subscribers or customers. Your client has been writing for a group of people that, even if they engage and share posts, will probably never purchase products, download software, or sign up for demos.
So how can you tell the difference? Ask yourself 3 simple questions:
- Are blog topics planned in advance and posts published consistently?
- Is there engagement (e.g. social shares and comments)?
- Are conversions (e.g. sales or sign-ups) low?
If the answer to all these questions is a resounding yes, then your client is most likely writing for the wrong audience. They have great topics, regular new posts, and reader engagement. But a low conversion rate signals a major issue.
The hard part of this problem isn’t spotting it. It’s convincing the client that the problem exists.
I was once hired to write blog posts for a company specializing in custom laser cutting services. Many of their customers ordered laser-cut parts to build custom robots. Others designed parts to be used on prototypes or for custom engine work.
The owner had written hundreds of blog posts himself. But he’d decided the work took up too much of his time, for too little reward. His blog wasn’t working for him so he sought out a professional to fix it.
I’ll let you know how everything played out with that client in a moment. But for now, here’s what to do should you find yourself in a similar situation…
Realize you’re on a sinking ship
If you find yourself with a client who’s been writing for the wrong audience, don’t ignore the situation. You’ve been hired to solve an issue.
Maybe the client thinks the issue is as simple as not having time to keep up with their blog. But you and I know that writing for the wrong audience is a complicated situation that’s difficult for some business owners to come to terms with, especially when they’ve invested years into writing their own blog posts.
If you confront them about this error, they’ll probably think you’re wrong. They’ll think you’re clueless. They won’t listen.
The ship is going down either way. Their blog isn’t performing well, and having a professional write the exact same type of content isn’t going to change that.
If you decide to work with a client and not address this issue, you’re doing them a disservice and risking your reputation.
Define their ideal reader
You’ve acknowledged the problem, but this doesn’t mean you should take it up with your client just yet. First do some research, to help determine who your client’s target audience is.
With most new clients, I have them describe their ideal reader. But in this situation, the client has been writing for the wrong target audience, so their concept of the ideal reader is probably way off.
Instead of immediately asking your client about their target audience, take a few minutes to brainstorm. Think of as many traits as you can and be descriptive. Consider things that can affect people’s career choices, personal lives, and behaviours, such as:
- Education level
- Financial class
- Hobbies and interests
- Problems or challenges
Your client provides something. What type of person has a problem that can be solved most easily by what your client provides?
Let’s go back to my client for a moment. He was writing blog posts that were geared to those interested in laser cutting techniques and technological developments, instead of writing for people in need of specific laser cut items.
Who needed laser cut parts? Robot builders. Inventors. Custom machine builders.
And yet my client’s posts weren’t attracting those people. The readers commenting on his blog didn’t need his laser cutting services — they were more interested in how his lasers worked or how to troubleshoot their own laser cutting processes.
Once I described the type of person who wants to buy custom laser cut parts, it was easy to see that my client’s existing blog content was off target.
Do the same brainstorming for your client. The better your narrow down their ideal audience, the easier it will be to create content that meets their needs.
Check out the competition
Now it’s time to gather data on several of your client’s competitors.
Do they state how many readers their quarterly newsletter has? How many Facebook shares do their most popular blog posts have? Are their social media and blog pages filled with reader comments, questions, and engagement?
Once you have a few competitors on your radar with the type of blog engagement your client is looking for, put together profiles of those competitors’ readership. Scope out a commenter’s Facebook profile or look them up on LinkedIn. Chances are, they’re a good match for the target audience you described above. Now you have your proof!
Present your findings
Now that you have all your data, it’s time to present it to your client. Don’t expect them to nod their head in agreement right away though. This is going to take some explaining!
If you’re not sure how to approach a new client with this conversation, here’s how it might sound from your end:
Hi, Client. I’ve been having fun brainstorming new topics for your blog and I can’t wait to get some fresh content going for you. But before we set up your content calendar, I wanted to go over the goals of your blog with you.
I know you mentioned that your blog hasn’t brought in the sales you thought it would. I agree that your blog should be doing much more for your business, and I can get it there. I took some time to research the market and what your competition is doing. Here’s what my research showed.
Competitor A has 500,000 subscribers to their newsletter compared to your 10,000 readers and Competitor B received over 1,000 shares on their last post. At the moment, engagement is low for your blog posts.
I compared their readers to yours and believe the issue is that the current content is being directed at the wrong audience. Your past blog posts have been geared towards those who have a shared interest in your products/services, but no need for them. I think it would be better if future posts were written with <insert your researched target audience here> in mind.
Your past blogs are incredibly creative, and I love their tone. I think that with a few tweaks, I can have your blog getting you the results you want. These tweaks could cost you some of your current readership — but remember, your current readers aren’t converting because they don’t need what you offer. Instead, I can write for the readers who are ready to engage, embrace your brand, and boost your bottom line.
Always end with a compliment and remind them of what this change will do for their business. Some clients may take offense and think you’re attacking their work. But if you make your point without dragging them through the mud, they should be able to admit it’s possible that the old blog posts were off target.
Act sooner, not later — and don’t back down
Here’s one pitfall to avoid: don’t allow the project to fail by doing too little, too late to resolve the problem.
I’ve made this mistake before. Remember my laser cutting client? I presented them with my research, and they completely agreed with me. But here’s where I went wrong…
They suggested what they thought was a new and innovative topic that would appeal to their new audience. But in reality, it was the same type of post for the same type of people, just with a different name.
I knew that. I knew it wouldn’t work. And I wrote it anyway.
It flopped. Instead of realizing that they hadn’t made the change that was needed, the client blamed me. And they were right to do so, because by backing down when I should have spoken up, I allowed that project to fail.
Writing for the wrong audience is a tough habit to break. You may have to show some tough love and hold your clients’ hands as they work through the transition.
Track and analyze
If your client took a chance on you and went with your suggestions, show them this was the correct choice by providing updates on how their new content is performing.
Before you write your first blog for the client, make sure you have every starting number and piece of data you need as a benchmark to make accurate comparisons:
- How many people are signed up for their emails or newsletter?
- How many page visits are they getting a month on their site?
- What’s their most viewed or shared blog post of the past year?
- How many comments did their most recent blog posts get?
- How many social shares did their most recent blog posts get?
Now you make the magic happen. Come up with great blog post topics that your client’s target audience will love to read about. Research like crazy. Deliver new blog posts regularly. (Make sure your client knows how to promote them, too.)
Then, see what happens — go through the data again and look for changes. If you’ve done your job right, your client will be blown away with the new engagement level — and now that they’re engaging the right people, they should see their conversion rate go up as well!
If you want to be seen as a professional blogger, you’ll have to wear several hats. It’s not enough to just pump out blog posts on demand.
When you see a mistake in your client’s blog, such as writing for the wrong readership, it’s up to you to help them build a blog audience that grows their business. Don’t you agree?