March/April 2020

Simple Steps

Developing an Audience Profile

Allison C. Shields

It is easy to get off-track and lose sight of the big picture with your marketing by putting too much emphasis on the latest and greatest marketing tools, obsessing about the images on your site or constantly redesigning your logo, for example. While those things can be important parts of your overall marketing strategy, they shouldn’t be your main focus.

If you are having trouble with your marketing, if you feel as if your messages are not reaching the right people or if you just aren’t seeing the results you want, it may be because you haven’t done enough work getting clear on your audiences—the people your marketing is intended to reach. Even in a business-to-business practice, you are marketing to human beings—the decision-makers you need to connect with in order to get their work.

Alternatively, if you have a clear idea of who your audiences are, you may not be targeting your marketing appropriately. You may be confusing or turning away your audiences with messages that aren’t relevant to them.

Your marketing message should create an association for the people you are speaking to so that they immediately identify with it. Instead of focusing your marketing message on you, focus on whom you serve and what they struggle with or would like to accomplish.

Whom are you trying to reach?

To be more effective with your marketing, your first question always should be, “Whom am I trying to reach?” Whom is your audience for this message and this marketing effort?

Even if your practice is limited to one niche area, you have more than one audience. Audiences include not only your potential clients but also your current clients, former clients, referral sources and others. You may even have several different audiences within each of those categories.

Each of your audiences has different wants, needs and challenges. Some audiences (such as potential clients) will have needs and challenges directly related to the services you provide. But others (such as influencers or referral sources) may have different concerns. And you will have a different reason for wanting to connect with each of these different audiences. As a result, all of your messages will not be appropriate for, or relevant to, every one of those audiences, and all of your marketing activities will not work for every one of your audiences, either.

What does your audience look like?

The more intimately you know the audiences you’re seeking to attract, the better your marketing efforts will be. Creating an audience profile for each one is a good way to develop that knowledge.

The audience profiles will become the basis for all of your marketing. They will inform the blog posts you write, the subject lines of email messages, the titles of articles, the content of your website and LinkedIn profile, the presentations you give, the events you attend and the places you promote them.

You want each person to think you’re talking directly to them—because you are. When you use these profiles as the basis for your marketing, your target audience will automatically be more tuned in to your message because it contains information that is very specific and tailored to that audience.

To begin to create your audience profiles, step into their shoes. It may be helpful to think of a real human being who fits into each one of these audience segments as you create the profile to make it easier.

Start with how an individual within this audience would describe themselves. How would they talk about the specific problem that you could help them with? What words or terminology would they use? Make it as specific as possible, so that, if you were to hear someone saying it out loud at a cocktail party, you would immediately know that they fit squarely into that audience; that is exactly the kind of person that you could help or want to reach.

A good profile includes:


Demographics are objective statistics about your audience, such as age, nationality, sex, education or income. These may be more or less important, depending upon your practice area. For example, if you have a special education practice helping ensure students receive appropriate educational services, or if you have an estate planning practice focusing on high net worth individuals, demographics will be very important.

Professional traits.

Professional traits include things like company size, job title or description, years of employment and position within the organization (Whom does this person report to? Whom do they supervise?). Once again, how important professional traits are to your overall profile will depend on the type of practice you have and the audience itself. If you have a business law practice for example, it is a good idea to include professional traits in your profile, but that is probably not the case for a criminal defense practice.

Personal traits.

Next, consider your audience’s personal traits, such as hobbies, interests and values. Personal traits can be a powerful way to connect with your audience and can provide clues about what to include in your marketing messages.

Goals, challenges, needs and expectations.

What needs or challenges does your audience have? What are their expectations about service, communication and how they want to be treated? What are they trying to accomplish? What do they wish they could do or have? What are they worried about? What are they afraid of? Be as specific as possible—get to the “why” behind the goal or challenge. For example,

“I wish I could avoid going to court for my divorce (goal) … so that I can maintain a cordial relationship with my spouse for the sake of our children (why).” (divorce mediation)
“I am worried about what will happen to my son after I’m gone (fear) … because he has special needs and will require care for the rest of his life (why).” (estate planning)

Information sources.

In order to know where to publish content or where to go to market to your audiences, you need to know where they get their information. What kinds of events do they attend? What do they read? Whom do they consider experts or influencers? What tools, software and apps do they use?


Finally, think about what objections this audience might have about working with you or with lawyers in general. When you know what your audience is concerned about or objects to, you can address it upfront in your marketing to allay fears.

Once you have a clear picture of your ideal audience member in mind, it’s easier to concentrate on what is important to them, how to attract them and how to serve them well. You can be more focused in your marketing message and in choosing your marketing activities and strategies for maximum impact with each individual audience. Ideally, your target audience will hear your message and think, “You are exactly who I need.”

Allison C. Shields

Allison C. Shields is the president of Legal Ease Consulting, Inc., where she works with lawyers and law firms to develop strategies to improve marketing and client service, and increase productivity, efficiency and profitability. She is the co-author of several books, including LinkedIn in One Hour for Lawyers (ABA 2013) and How to Do More in Less Time: The Complete Guide to Increasing Your Productivity and Improving Your Bottom Line (ABA 2014).