If you’ve ever played Apples to Apples, you know you’re more likely to win a round if you play a red card that has meaning to the judge – something that will hit their funny bone, not necessarily your favorite card. If the category is “goofy,” for example, you may pick “my brother” or “unicorns” depending on what you know about that person. In my household we call that playing to the audience.
The same rules apply for writing. The first question I ask when I begin a writing assignment is, “Who’s the reader?” I want to understand the reader’s mindset so I can connect them to what your company has to say. Playing to the audience is a way to get a consumer’s attention, but it’s also basic respect. When people enjoy and relate to what they’re reading, they’re more engaged and more likely to choose your product.   
It’s not all about you
A good way to get started is to write about your customer before you write about your product or service. Show that you understand their life, their concerns, and the choices they’re making. 
The only way you’ll know how to write for your customers and truly empathize is to understand them. If you’re a small business or you work with individual clients, you probably have a good idea of who they are. You may also have data about their shopping habits, and observations about how they make decisions. You can put this all to good use in your communications.
You should also be thinking about the customers you want to have. If you’re hoping to attract younger customers, put the time into really getting to know them. Your worst mistake is making assumptions about how your audience thinks and talks. Think about it – you don’t want to come across like that teacher who’s trying too hard to “relate” to the kids. 
Choose words wisely
Writing for your audience means choosing words and messages they connect with. If your reader is in the tech industry, speak their language – but don’t overdo it. Use terms they’re used to without going overboard with jargon. Respecting people’s time means making things easy to read and understand. If your customer wants complex reading material, they can choose a book by Umberto Eco. Nobody is reading company websites for intellectual stimulation.
Readability, however, doesn’t mean dumbing things down. It’s about remembering that we’re all human and we want to engage in information that’s interesting, useful, and valuable. Ask yourself if you would want to read what your company is sending out into the world.
When I told my daughter I was writing about Apples to Apples in this month’s article, she asked if my readers would understand the reference. She suggested a better example would be the game Cards Against Humanity. I argued that would be great if my target audience skewed toward Gen Z. What do you think? Is it Apples to Apples, or Cards Against Humanity for you?

Copyright Liz Behlke 2020