A brand simply doesn’t exist without its audience. I know, how very Captain Obvious of me, but for brands in their content marketing developmental and goal-setting stages, it’s imperative to know: Who exactly are you targeting with your content?

The answer can be found by making a few qualifications. First, you’ll need to determine the demographics of your target audience. These factors can help indicate what type of content your audience wants, based on very generic descriptors like age, health and income.

But demographic only scratches the surface of your content marketing needs. You must go beyond demographic into behavioral – or psychographic – traits of your audience. This includes lifestyle habits such as hobbies and values. This is what will enhance your content marketing when it comes to content formats or distribution platforms.

Let’s assume you’re targeting females between the ages of 25 and 40. Your demographic specifics tell you she’s married, her household income is $100k and she does not have children.

You can create some basic content with the above, but knowing her behavioral traits will help you create sharply-honed, well-received content. As an example, let’s say her behavior traits indicate she’s health conscious, tech savvy and environmentally friendly. Based on this, what types of things can we safely assume about her?

Behavioral trait: She’s environmentally friendly.

Content assumption: While basic demographic information will indicate a desire for home cleaning content, the above behavioral trait will let you know you should focus on green household cleaning content.

Behavioral trait: She’s tech savvy.

Content assumption: This means she probably spends a lot time on her phone or mobile device. This makes visual, short-form content a likely preference.

Why Assumptions are Necessary

According to CoSchedule, “making assumptions about our audience is one of the worst things…content marketers do.”

We tend to agree when it comes to assumptions like, “My audience loves my brand,” or “My audience sees the world in the same way we do.”

But, what if your audience is relying on you to make some assumptions about them?

Let’s say your research tells you the majority of your audience is made up of 20- to 30-something beauty fanatics. Using this information, you can probably make a few safe assumptions.

For example, have you ever noticed that “health and beauty” is often a combined category? That’s no accident. Although they’re separate in nature, readers looking for beauty content also tend to be interested in health-related content. So in this case, supplementing beauty content with fitness and nutrition content would be a win with your audience.

How to Make Safe Assumptions

Defining your audience is no small feat; it becomes surprisingly granular once you’re beyond the basics of age, gender and marital status. Start with the basics and the bigger picture will start to come together.

Start by segmenting your audience into large, overarching categories such as “gardeners” or “fitness enthusiasts.” You’ll probably have a few groups across various categories, and that’s OK.

From there, start finding behavioral traits to break them down even further.

A good place to start is an insight tool, such as ComScore, eMarketer or Adobe Audience Management. This type of market analysis allows you to plug in target audience characteristics, and the tool yields a better understanding of audience behaviors and habits.

Other resources for audience analysis include focus groups and consumer surveys. Both are low-cost options for honing in on specific audience traits. We recently did a focus group that yielded some pretty surprising results, such as the growing use of Pinterest as a search engine. This led us to increase our focus on Pinterest-specific content.

Additionally, brands can look to the content that their audience is already consuming elsewhere. Top-performing content, social trending topics (we love BuzzSumo) and competitor content analysis will help extract more data about your specific audience.

Create Your Personas

So you have a laundry list of behavioral traits, but where to go from there?

Organize your data into “personas.” These are made-up individuals who represent a larger subgroup of your brand’s audience. Put together, they make up a representation of the audience as a whole.

For example, we recently looked into the personas that represent our typical brand partners’ audiences. We combined facts with common sense, resulting in six personas ranging from “Rugged Debonair” to “Smart Mom.”

These personas tell us (and our content partners) just about everything we want to know about our audience. Most importantly, we can now easily identify each persona’s preferred content format, their online habits, where they get their news and how to shift our own tone and voice based on who we’re trying to target.

Let’s run through one of our personas: “Gen X Dad.” Based initially on demographic (35 to 44 years old, making $75-$100k per year), we used insight tools and focus groups to draw up a fully fleshed out personality: a gainfully-employed college grad who’s highly involved in his children’s school and extracurricular activities.

What content marketing decisions can we make from this persona?

Well, we know he enjoys spending free time with his kids, so he probably likes to participate in and share photos of their birthday parties with friends and family. Voilà: snackable content all about baking an easy birthday cake.

We also inferred that his family’s future is top of mind, so he’s likely to be financially responsible. This means targeted content about stock basics, college savings and bill hacks.

Just keep in mind: audience assumptions like these will help your content marketing appeal to some of your target audience, but only that subgroup specifically. You may have multiple personas, and you’ll need to craft a content marketing strategy that appeals to each one, either individually or as a group.

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