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How to Define Your Target Listener To Level Up Your Podcast

How to Define Your Target Listener To Level Up Your Podcast

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How are you doing in podcasting as a guest, host, or both?

In podcasting, understanding your audience deeply and personally can be a game-changer. In this blog post, Jerry Dugan explains why you must create a listener persona (avatar) for your target audience. By defining your target listener, you will unleash accelerated show growth, success, and impact. Get ready to connect more authentically with your audience, make informed content decisions, and select guests who resonate seamlessly with your show’s mission!

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We’re going to talk about how defining your audience with incredible detail through an avatar will help you get the most out of your efforts and make the most impact with your podcast. Because if you can define who you’re trying to reach, you will be very specific. You’re going to hit that niche; you’re going to be talking to a niche group of people. I’m a firm believer, as an army veteran, that the person who tries to defend everywhere really defends nowhere.

And the same goes for our marketing efforts with our podcast. The podcast that tries to be everything to everyone reaches nobody. So, we’re going to talk about what an avatar is. Why do you need to have an avatar? How do you create an avatar? And then my own story of how an avatar has impacted my show.

What Is An Avatar?

So, first things first, what is an avatar? It’s not the movie about aliens on Pandora, where Sam Worthington saves the day by repeating the Dances with Wolves theme. This is something else. It comes from a Hindu word about how a spirit can manifest into physical form. And so that is where the word avatar comes from.

“The podcast that tries to be everything to everyone reaches nobody.” – Jerry Dugan

That’s what we’re going to be using. So, how do we take your ideal listener and manifest that ideal listener in the form of a person or a biography? So that, in a nutshell, is what an avatar is. Now, to give you an example, I’ll share my target audience and avatar with you. So my target audience is specifically Christian men who are married, have children, are in their 30s or forty, and are Christian men.

And on a professional level, their careers or their businesses have checked all the boxes of what success should look like. However, despite having everything look good on the outside, these men feel stuck in a rut deep down. And what they want to do in their life is to have meaning, impact, and purpose without losing their faith, family, or health. So they’re looking for answers around how do I do that? How do I pursue my dreams, achieve my dreams, have a family, have a strong faith life, and stay healthy?

Start With Target Audience, Then Your Avatar

So, that is my target audience. What does my target audience look like as an avatar, though? And to help you understand that, I’ll tell you about my friend AJ. So AJ is 36 years old and married to his college sweetheart. They have two kids.

One is in elementary school; the other one is in middle school. And they both work, both parents work. And AJ specifically works in mid-level management. So he’s a director, and he leads a team. He has the office with the power desk and is moving on.

Career-wise, this guy is on track to become an executive. In the next few years, he earned a six-figure income. He’s got the two-story house, the two-car garage with the two cars in it, and one of those cars probably is a minivan. Now everything looks good. He’s checked all the boxes.

He’s successful. However, deep down inside, AJ wanted to do something else with his life. He feels that his current job, although it pays well and pays the bill and provides for his family, doesn’t serve a purpose in his life. He spends most of the day just putting out fires for other people. There’s nothing strategic about it.

Define Your Target Listener As Someone Who Wants MORE

He doesn’t see himself doing much more than clocking in out and being a cog in the machine. His hour commute back and forth sucks the life out of him. Because he’s stuck in traffic, he’s barely moving. So it’s like, what do I do with my time? When he gets home after work, he has no energy to depend on his wife and to engage with his kids and what activities he does with his family.

He’s mentally, emotionally, and just, albeit not present; he’s checked out, and it takes a toll on his family. His relationship with his wife is waning and splitting apart. His children think they’re not good enough because Dad doesn’t want to spend time with them, and he’s missing out all around. He doesn’t get to have the impact he wants at church. So AJ is looking for inspiration.

My Avatar Is Seeking To Grow

He’s looking for practical tips that he can apply, starting today, to take one step to get out of his rut. And my show, hopefully, is the thing he listens to on the drive to work, where he can listen to stories of people who felt just the same way he did, how they got out of their ruts, and how they applied a specific practical piece of advice that he could also take and use for himself. And so the result, hopefully, for AJ. He does take a leap of faith and pursue his dream to do the thing he wants to do, to have the impact he wants to have with his life, and also have a loving relationship with his life partner and leave a lasting legacy for his kids and his community, so that’s my avatar.

It’s not a guy named AJ. And now, chances are you’re a seasoned podcaster, and you already have an avatar that you already go after, or you’re brand new and have one. But if you don’t, I invite you to create one, abide by it, and pay attention to your avatar. So, how do you create an avatar? But before we get there, why do you need an avatar?

Why Defining Your Target Listener Matters So Much

Two main reasons for me. The first thing is it protects me from shiny object syndrome. Because when it comes to marketing my show, when it comes to upgrading the performance, and how to format it, I get excited about podcasting and want to try everything. I want to use the tools that will make things easier. I want to use the tools that will create videos. And I want to be on all the social media platforms because they’re just fun to learn.

Don’t Be a Jack of All Trades

The reality is I’ve become kind of a jack of all trades and a master of none of them. And when I reengaged with my avatar, it helped me hone in on where is my target audience. And it turns out they’re not on all the things. They’re only on a few things deeply. So, the second reason to have an avatar and follow your avatar is that you now focus on the areas, platforms, and avenues that’ll genuinely impact the people you’re trying to reach. That’s what an avatar is and why you should have one.

“Your avatar helps you focus on the areas and platforms that will truly make an impact with your target audience.” – Jerry Dugan

So, let’s talk about how you create an avatar. Now you heard from me already. I gave you an idea in detail of who my target audience is. So that’s the high level you need to start with. Who is your target audience? If you were to describe your ideal listener customer or client in detail, what would that look like and be able to define that?

In my case, it was Christian Men in their thirty s and forties. They’re married, they have children, and professionally, they have all the boxes checked for success. So maybe for you, it’s people who love to do quilting. I have a friend who has a quilting podcast, and she is explicitly reaching out to people who quilt for a hobby or their business. And that’s pretty darn niche.

You Must Know Your Target Audience to Define Your Target Listener

That’s a target audience. So that’s the high level. Now, you want to get deeper. We want to manifest your target audience in the form of a person. So, give the person a name.

For me. It’s AJ. Stands for Avatar Joe. You don’t have to do the same thing. You don’t have to have an avatar.

It doesn’t have to be known. Some people call their avatar Ray. You see, it doesn’t matter. Just give the person a name. So, that helps to begin the personification of your avatar.

Two main categories to look at:

Demographics and psychographics. So demographics are kind of the basic information about your avatar. Where does your person live? Does the person have a gender?

Are they married? Do they have children? Are they in a polyamorous relationship? Whatever it is? What are the basic informational blocks for your avatar?

What kind of work do they do and what type of income do they earn? From there you can now start and what kind of music they like. What kind of social media do they engage on? What kind of clothes do they wear?

Get More Detailed, Then Do It Again

You can get down to the details for your avatar. There’s no limit to where you can take your avatar story. And from what I understand, the more detailed you can get, the better. Now, the psychographics, as you start pulling those demographics together, you begin to write a little bit of a story of what’s going on in the heart and mind of your avatar. So, what motivates your avatar?

What dreams and aspirations does your avatar have? At one point, my avatar, AJ, aspired to write a book but felt like and wanted to live as an author, publishing books and inspiring generations of men for years and decades. Now, that is the dream. The barriers could be things like he couldn’t give up the money needed to support the family. And so there’s the fear of loss of financial support.

There’s the who am I to write a book?

Impostor Syndrome and Your Avatar

What barriers does your avatar experience? So those are part of the psychographics. What are their dreams and aspirations?

Do they face any barriers? What is the help they are seeking that your show can provide? So, once you start to piece all that together, you can tell the story of your avatar. And just like you heard me tell you, you could do the same thing. So, what is the story of your avatar?

It Takes Time to Define Your Target Listener

And don’t just spend five minutes whipping this together. If you need to take a day, take a day. If you need to take two days, do that. You can also write a draft today and then the next week, say, no, that’s not the real story of my avatar. Go ahead and rewrite it.

Are you allowed to change avatars as the show you produce goes on and thrives? Yes, you can. It doesn’t have to be the same avatar for the life of your show. As you grow, as your audience grows, the shift for your avatar can also happen. Almost said AJ.

An Essential Step In Defining Your Target Listener

It’s essential to actually once you have your avatar, it is vital to use and reference your avatar and treat every single episode and post that you make as if you’re communicating with that avatar. And it helps reduce the nerves for you.

You don’t have that pressure of trying to impress everybody. You’re just trying to get the attention of your avatar and helping that avatar make an improvement and transform their lives in some way. So before I paid attention to my avatar for the show’s first five years, my co-host and I just interviewed folks who sounded interesting to us. It’s like, oh, hey, you just ran a marathon. Join our show.

Filter Possible Content Through Your Avatar

Oh, you’re a marathon runner. We’re not marathon runners, but we’d love to have you on our show. Oh, you survived, I don’t know, the Holocaust. Please be on our show. And if you had a powerful story or just an exciting story or skill, we threw you on the show.

We never really thought about it. Is this really what AJ needed? One of the things that we still have to this day, or I still have, is that I look at to this day when I look at my top five episodes. My show is about reaching Christian men looking to have the career or business they have always dreamed of and not lose their family, faith, or health. Number two of my top five episodes is about how a woman entrepreneur can open a Mother’s Day out program. It has nothing to do with the target audience I’m reaching.

You Have The Data! Start Defining Your Target Listener

But if you are out there and you want to start that show, I guess I’ve got the data to prove there is a demand out there. And I get it like one email a month asking me, how does this lady open up a Mother’s Day Out program? And I have no idea. So I just put them in touch with the guest I had on at that time. So we were making an impact, but we weren’t making an impact with the people we wanted to make, and we didn’t have the growth we wanted to make.

My Journey…

It’s seven years later, and I’m finally getting it honed in and understanding where my target audience goes for their social media cravings and engagement. And so before we paid attention to our avatar, we were on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, and a little bit on Twitter, but it was very sporadic. We didn’t engage in conversation as we thought, and as I thought about my avatar, AJ, I realized AJ’s a professional. He’s looking for improvement in his career. He’s looking for life balance.

“Define your audience with great detail through an avatar to make the most impact with your podcast.” – Jerry Dugan

Where do you find that? Well, it turns out LinkedIn. And so, I shifted my focus to LinkedIn for me and my show. That’s what made sense.

And ever since then, I’ve seen engagement shoot up. I’ve seen my email list grow, listenership grow, and even the newsletter on LinkedIn performs way better than my email list outside of LinkedIn. Still important to have that outside.

Conclusion: Define Your Target Listener

But the point I’m making is, after I started paying attention to my avatar, to AJ, the engagement went up, the numbers have been going up, and this has all been in the last year. So, from a personal standpoint, it pays to pay attention to who your avatar is. So, with all that said, the better you can define who your target audience is and then manifest that target audience into a personification, a bio, or a person, the more impact you’re going to have with the efforts you make to promote your show and create your show and therefore the more influence you’re going to have in the world. The reason why I share this with you is because life is just too short to have your podcast live in a rut.


About Jerry Dugan

Jerry Dugan is the host and producer of Beyond the Rut, a show that shares encouraging stories and practical tools to help listeners pull themselves out of their ruts and into lives worth living. He brings a blend of his life experiences of overcoming hardships with professional expertise on facilitating training and coaching leaders to help you create your own path and live a life that is beyond the rut. Jerry is married to his wife, Olivia, and they are now enjoying the empty nester life living in Dallas, Texas.


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