It's important to remind ourselves, whenever we're doing the research for content we're creating, why it is that we're taking the time to understand our audience. When we help our readers solve problems, we assist them in living better, richer, more satisfying lives. And when we help them often enough, some will begin to trust our advice enough to allow us to help to an even greater degree, with our products or services. We research our content and audience thoroughly so that we can provide value.
Join their circles
Where does your audience hang out on the web? Are they reading blogs or members of niche forums and groups? Find out where they're at and take an active part in their conversations. Give freely and generously. Answer questions without ever trying to sell them anything.
Discover their perspective on the world
What's important to your audience? What are their values? Who do they admire and follow? Have you ever done a little people watching, perhaps at your local Starbucks? Social media sites let you do that. You can see what your potential customers are talking about, what their attitudes are, what they like, what they don't like, challenges they've faced with competitors, etc.
Finding the conversations they're engaged in
Tools like Wordtracker or Google Keyword searches will help you discover the terms your target market is using in searches to discuss the kinds of products and services you offer and the unique problems they're facing. Not only are these keywords helpful to include in your content to make it findable, they can help you find the conversations your audience is engaged with in blogs, groups, forums, survey/review sites and social networks.
Find their pain
You've tracked down the conversations they're involved in. Now it's time to find your prospects's problems; all those complaints, the whining, annoyances, inconveniences and disappointments. You'll discover what's not being done right in your industry and what those customers wish their current provider was doing for them.
Offer the remedy
Discovering unsolved problems and dissatisfaction is your opportunity to shine. You have information they desperately need. Use this information to create brilliant content that speaks directly to your readers in a way that nobody else can. Not only do you know their problems, but you understand who they are and the way they see the world.
Don't even think about pitching anyone on these sites! Initially, offer answers and assistance directly on the sites. If they come back with more questions, answer them within the thread, for everyone else to read. Soon people will see your helpful answers and begin asking connecting with you directly on these sites. As your credibility has been established on the sites it should be okay to include links to additional articles and posts you've written on the subject.
They join your circle
Visitors that follow links back to your site should find a wealth of additional information in the form of articles, blog posts and free downloadable items. If you've done your research well, you'll have anticipated exactly what they're looking for and they'll eagerly join your circle by subscribing to your updates and list. You're now in the position to influence their purchasing decisions with the benefits you offer, delivered regularly in the helpful information and updates you send out to your subscribers.