You can’t engage your audience if you don’t have strategies to connect with them once you lure them in.

A big part of online marketing involves creating content. Article marketing, writing website copy, producing email newsletters, and all call on your ability to get a message through to your readers. To get that message through, your audience has to be receptive. To do that, you have to connect with them on some level.

You can accomplish that using several tried-and-true methods. To bring that theory into reality takes creativity and real finger sweat. But it is within every online marketer’s reach.

Know Your Audience
To connect with your audience, it helps heaps if they trust you. To gain trust, you have to know your audience. Are they elderly housewives and moms in a rural area? Are they young urban professionals? Are they a broad mixture of all types of people? It can be tough to know, but you have to do the best you can. Research and some educated guesses can get you a long way.

Think of it as a political campaign (without the questionable positions and character assassination, of course). That is, if you want to ‘get elected’ you have to know the kind of ‘voters’ to whom you’re trying to appeal. Once you do, you can focus your message in a way that is right for that audience. That creates a strong connection.

Yin and Yang
To an extent those two ideas tug you in opposite directions. You want to tailor your content broadly enough so that it can appeal to anyone who might read it. But you have to be specific enough with the audience who is most likely to read it that they find something of value in your content.

You are, in essence, ‘selling’ your content to ‘buy’ some of their time, in the hopes that later they will buy your actual product or service. To do that, you have to work along those two tracks at the same time. That’s a tricky balancing act. It takes planning and creativity to stay on the balance beam as you walk to victory.

Know Your Stuff
It should go without saying that you have to know what you are talking about. That’s part of building trust. Your audience will be eager to hear what you have to say if they believe you are the right one to be saying it. To earn that, you have to become an expert in whatever it is you are selling.

That does not necessarily mean you have to have to be a professional travel agent in order to recommend Honeymoon Vacations. (Of course, that doesn’t hurt.) It could mean just that you have been on one (or two or six) vacations yourself. It might mean only that you have taken the time to study the subject well and can present information convincingly.

That expertise, in whatever form and wherever it comes from, makes you the ‘go to gal’ on the subject. When people want to know something about the subject, they look to you for answers. That reputation is priceless because the connection it forms between you and your audience then becomes solid and long-lasting.

Email subscribers will not just sit on your list, but be happy to be there. Magazine readers will be eager to open the next issue that hits their inbox or mailbox. Website visitors will have you in their favorites and visit often and stay awhile when they do.

Be Appealing
The most fundamental twin needs visitors have are for information and guidance. That’s why they go to your website, open your emails, and so forth. But that content can fall on blind eyes if it isn’t presented in a way they find appealing. To be appealing you have to give it to them in a form they like. That will vary from audience to audience. But for the vast majority it means reaching out to them as real people.

Real people like to be talked to, not talked down to. Approaching them (through your writing) in a conversational style makes them relax. It opens them up to your message. Every good salesperson knows you have to get your customers to trust you before you ever speak a single line of your pitch. A conversational tone is one great way to do that.

Address your audience personally. For example, instead of writing “Online marketers want tips they can turn into traffic,” write “You want tips you can turn into traffic,” when your audience is, in fact, online marketers.

If you can tell a good joke, that’s great. Humor puts an audience in a good mood. But if you can’t do it well, skip it. Not every good public speech opens with a funny anecdote. Some bad ones do, and they start out badly because the speaker just doesn’t have the knack for putting one over. Not everyone is Jack Benny or Steve Martin or Jon Stewart. (See what I mean about the importance of knowing your audience?)

Part of the way you can ‘put stories over’ is by being believable. That’s as true in written content as it is in live speeches. It’s another way you build trust with the audience. Your readers have to be willing to at least give you the benefit of the doubt, if not wholly embrace your every word.

Provide Details
Beyond offering an engaging style and trustworthy content, you have to get specific if you want to connect to them. Your visitors are busier than ever. They want practical, useful info in easy-to-digest bites. To do that, you have to get down to the nitty gritty. You have to zero in on a small number of key messages, and then be concrete about them.

It’s one thing to say “Nutri-Box is the finest supplement ever devised!” Yeah, who hasn’t heard that kind of hype a million times? It’s another to say, “Nutri-Box provides three healthy ingredients — Folic acid, Chromium, and Beta Carotene” then go on to explain how each is vital to good health.

That’s not hype, it’s useful information. If it comes from someone viewed as an expert, it will be taken seriously. Being viewed as an expert translates directly into increased income for all the reasons we talked about above.

Make It Zing, but Keep It Real
Cynics say that marketing is all sizzle and no steak. Someone else might argue that steak is filling and sizzle is phony. The fact is, both these components are crucial to connecting with an audience. You have to have something worth selling (even if that is just your words), and you have to make it appealing. Both those lead to good word-of-mouth. Fall down on either task and you encourage negative word-of-mouth, a sales killer.

Create eye-catching article titles and email subject lines. Create what novelists call “a hook,” a simple but compelling statement that makes your reader want to read more. The same idea works for website copy and infoproducts. Identify a problem shared by most in your audience and draw your readers in with the promise of solving it painlessly. Then deliver on the promise.

Wrap Up
There are several ways to keep your audience interested to the end, and leave them smiling while you’re taking your bows. One effective way is to summarize, perhaps with bullet points, the main ideas you presented. State the ‘take away’ in bold. Another is to close with a memorable anecdote that encapsulates the “moral of the story.”

Or, you can just say “Thanks for listening; I hope you got something useful out of what I had to say.” You’ll know soon enough whether they were happy they spent time with you. You’ll see traffic increase or fall. Revenue will rise or stay flat. Or, blunt comments — pro and con — will tell you whether or not you hit the mark.