What do members of your target audience pay attention to? It’s a question to ask when you need to connect and create authority for the content you publish. While reading an article in Worth magazine I was intrigued by what owners of iconic restaurants reportedly put their attention to. The restaurants, listed as being in the top 10 nationwide, all have a 25-year history of success in an industry where failure is common. The number one rated Canlis in Seattle has an outdated interior but the view of Seattle’s skyline and mountain landscape is stunning. Peter Canlis, the founder’s grandson, unabashedly says: “To say we don’t struggle with how to change would be dishonest, but for us to obsess over it would be a waste of time.”
Chez Panisse owner Alice Waters believes it’s not just about cooking food. “We have a bigger mission in the world – feeding people ideas.” Co-owner and chef Andres Taylor at Hugo’s in Portland Maine talks about building a community. Most of the owners pay attention to customer expectations, but not so much to trends. Staff loyalty and menu consistency are an important part of success for some. Spago’s owner Wolfgang Puck believes in innovation, taking the view that restaurants are entertainment. Local artisan farmers are part of the team at The French Laundry, owned by Thomas Keller. The Inn at Little Washington maintains a 14,000-bottle wine cellar. Yet owner Patrick O’Connell believes in elevating food, service and atmosphere “to the same level.”
How can you find what your target audience pays attention to? Here are three suggestions.
Ask them. This can be in the form of a question such as “What do you consider to be a constant high priority?” or “What do you attribute your success to?” Let them continue talking. Listen for when their voice quickens or changes to a tone of certainty. That’s what they pay attention to.
Review their website. Most savvy companies put what’s most important on their Home page. You don’t have to look far. It is emphasized either through its placement, by its size or color – elements that draw attention.
Listen to conversations on social networks. Find forums, join Google hangouts or Twitter chats, and follow their Facebook engagements. I like to see conversations, not just posts.
You may need to distinguish between segments of your target audience. If you are targeting a foodservice audience consider restaurant owners, chefs, and food suppliers. After interviewing a number of professional chefs I have found that they pay attention to flavor, seasonality, and eating as a celebration. Food suppliers such as GFS Marketplace position service, pricing, and loyalty as priorities on their website. Whereas Sysco emphasizes ingredients, sustainability, and local flavor on their website. Traceability and social and environmental stewardship are included as well.
A lot of content is based on what companies think their audience pays attention to. Or the effort is simply to gain their attention. But when content tickles a recognized issue, you’ve connected with your target audience.