I've always been a huge proponent of defining your perfect customer. The customer who may only spend $5 per year on your products, but whose influence is responsible for 10% of your annual bottom line. The customer who serves as your company's un-hired marketing force, passionately promoting you to friends, family, colleagues, and perfect strangers. I've written at length on how to identify your perfect customer, regardless of your business' focus.
Finding a "perfect customer" for a blog, however, is quite a bit harder.
I have been writing on this domain since 2007. In that time, I've published more than 300 posts,[ref]The number is closer to 600 because I annually go back through my archives and cull out junk articles like "I don't have anything to say today."[/ref] started at least three ancillary blogs that have since been merged in here, started a publishing business, and changed industries from entertainment to healthcare to insurance to agency.
The topics on the site cover the gamut of my personal interest - from politics to sports to software to marketing to the outdoors to creative writing. I have opinions on just about everything, and since I like to talk - a lot - I like to share those opinions in this space.
But I'm still not sure who my audience is.
In the Beginning
When I first started blogging, I had no idea what I was doing. Some of my first posts were just essays I had written in business school, reformatted for the web.
I installed AdWords on my site, in the vain hope that advertising revenue would offset my hosting costs.[ref]Advertising has never brought in more than $1 for this site. As of last year I took the personal standpoint that my content here will always be free and always be ad-free. I do not sell advertising on this site and, aside from the odd affiliate link, do not advertise here in any way. That said, I do still pay for hosting and would absolutely love if you would donate to help cover my costs.[/ref] I used Google Analytics and almost did backflips when I finally breached the 10-visitors-per-week mark.
My dream has always been to produce meaningful content that makes it on someone else's top-of-the-web list. I don't need to be famous; I just want to know my writing isn't a self-serving exercise.
State of the Blog
Today, I'm happy to say I have far more than 10 visitors in a week. I usually average 250 visitors a day, mostly from the US. On a good day, another news site picks up a link and traffic spikes to anywhere between 4,000 and 9,000 visits for a day or two.
After reading how Chris Lema worked to build his blog to a million page views, I've set that number as an arbitrary goal for myself as well. When I finally reach that number (adding visits over a 12-month period), I will host a party in my blog's honor. Until then ...
I've started scheduling a unique post for each and every day of 2014. Forcing myself to write regularly is an exercise in patience, planning, and discipline - and I already love it.
The only downside? I still don't know my audience.
Who I Write For
I have always written this blog for one reader: me. I joke often about the number of times I've been stuck on a problem, Googled it, and been directed back to an article or tutorial I wrote a year or so earlier. It's funny how often we can forget things about which we were once so passionate.
So consider this site an extension of my memory. A way I can remember, years from now, how I felt and thought about specific topics.
Matt Mullenweg recently suggested bloggers should write for an audience of two:
First, write for yourself, both your present self whose thinking will be clarified by distilling an idea through writing and editing, and your future self who will be able to look back on these words and be reminded of the context in which they were written.
Second, write for a single person who you have in mind as the perfect person to read what you write, almost like a letter, even if they never will, or a person who you’re sure will read it because of a connection you have to them.
I haven't decided who my second person will be, but selecting a single person to fill this role is a fantastic idea. I have a few people in mind who might fit the bill; this will warrant further thought.
Since you're not me, and likely not the second person either, does that mean you won't get anything out of my blog? Absolutely not!
My friend Mike challenged my goal to write every day, questioning if I was producing quality or mere quantity. I'm sorry Mike, but if you or anyone else fail to find usefulness in my posts this year, then you're probably not my target audience.
At the same time, I have every confidence I will publish posts you'll find useful. I just ask that you put up with everything else along the way because, ultimately, it is useful to me and it's not going anywhere.