Online messaging is all about the customer these days. It’s all about providing them with valuable messaging and making connections from that messaging.

To reach today’s customers, you have to understand them, which means doing some market research. You need to speak to them in their own language, so they hear you. And you need to be specific, to show them you understand.

Understand Who Your Customers Are

If you don’t know who your customers are, you don’t know what they want and you can’t speak to them effectively. Do a little market research. Find out who your target audience is.

If your company creates social media apps for smartphones, your target audience isn’t necessarily retirees and octogenarians—it’s primarily Gen Xers and Millennials. That’s not discrimination against older generations, it’s just market research.

According to the Pew Research Center, the younger generations use social networking sites more than the older ones, particularly on mobile devices:

For internet users in general, almost 89% aged 18 to 29 use social networking sites, 82% of users aged 30 to 49 do, 65% of users aged 50 to 64 do and 49% of users aged 65 and older do. For mobile devices, the differences are more dramatic: 67% of those aged 19 to 29, 50% of those aged 30 to 49, 18% of those aged 50 to 64 and just 5% of those aged 65 and older.

There’s absolutely no reason why older generations couldn’t be into social media like the younger ones are. And, as you can see, they do use it. But, at the moment, they don’t use it as much as the younger generations, and they don’t use it nearly as much on smartphones.

So, if your company creates social media apps for smartphones, your target audience is primarily Millennials and Gen Xers, for the moment, anyway.

Speak to Them Directly

Speak to your customers with your content, and do it in their language. Write about the things that really matter to them, and in a way that shows you really do understand and really do care. And don’t talk about yourself.

For the social media app company: don’t write articles about how social media can help mitigate empty nest syndrome. While it’s true that some Gen Xers have kids in college or out of the house by now, a lot more of them have kids that are still in high school or younger. And many Millennials don’t have kids at all yet.

For Gen Xers, write about how it can keep you in touch with friends when you’re busy running the kids from soccer practice to scouts to piano lessons. That’s something everyone with kids knows about. For Millennials, write about how to keep in touch when friends spread out across the country, get married, starting having children.

Don’t talk about yourself—it’s not about you. Write every piece of messaging with the customer as the start, middle and end point. If it doesn’t address customer needs or wants, don’t write it.

Actually, you can apply this to your company as a whole. For example, if you’re marketing and research teams aren’t talking, they should be—otherwise, you may be creating things simply for the sake of creating things and not for any real value to your customers.

Be Specific

Good messaging has to be direct, focused on customers’ needs and specific. The details are what show your customers that you actually know them and what, exactly, you can do for them.

Actually, details are a staple of any good writing—it’s the old “show don’t tell” approach. If you read “John felt bad after what happened,” you have an idea of how John felt. But if you read “John cried for an hour afterwards,” you have a much better idea.

Be specific when you’re writing to your target audience. It lets them know that you understand them and can provide them with products or services that truly address their needs.

Also, be specific when you’re describing what you do. Many, many companies make the mistake of writing about what they do and never actually writing what they do. In other words, don’t write something that talks about what you do but never actually says what you do.

For example, many companies have mission statements and messaging that doesn’t really say anything. Ever go to a company’s website and you can’t figure out what it is they actually do?

Vague mission statement:

To help businesses achieve their visions through improved systems and processes.

Does the company sell systems or management services or both?

Specific mission statement:

To discover, develop and deliver innovative medicines that help patients prevail over serious diseases.

The first one is made-up; the second one is from Bristol Myers Squibb. Pretty easy to tell that the second one is a pharmaceutical company.

Connecting with Your Customers

To reach today’s customers, you have to understand them, speak to them directly and be specific so they know you’re one of them—or at least you understand them.

Today’s customers are internet-savvy and well-informed. If you don’t make real connections to them through your content, one of your competitors will. Comparison shopping has never been easier, and the list of differentiators has never been shorter.


By Charlie Smith