How to Identify Your Target Audience for Better Marketing

by Steve Hogan

Last updated on September 27th, 2018

target audience introduction

What is a target audience? And why does your specific target audience matter? That’s what we’re going to cover today.

When you’re in business, you serve a specific segment of the population. Too often, when an entrepreneur gets asked who the target audience is, they answer, “Everyone.” That’s almost never the case.

Instead, you have to narrow down “everyone” to a smaller group of people who both want and have the means to get your product or service.

For instance, if a consumer lives in an area to which you don’t ship products, he or she doesn’t belong in your target audience. Similarly, a consumer who can’t afford what you sell isn’t part of your audience.

We’ll break this down in more detail later, but for now, understand that the target audience is the group of people to whom you direct your marketing and advertising efforts. They’re the ones who might actually convert into customers.

Let’s explore target audience in more detail break down the process of defining your target audience into easily manageable steps.

What Is Target Audience Segmentation?

Imagine for a moment that you’re designing a Facebook Ad campaign. You don’t want everyone to see your Facebook Ads because you’ll just want money. Instead, you want to serve up your ads to your target audience.

Facebook allows you to narrow down your audience based on demographics and other qualities.You might set an income range, target males or females, eliminate anyone who doesn’t have children, and so on, depending on your marketing agenda.

However, you also know that your product or service might appeal to different segments of your target audience.

Let’s say you sell sporting goods. Part of your audience might consist of teenage boys and girls who play sports. Another could incorporate professional athletes. Yet another segment might encompass middle-aged men and women who want to get back in shape.

Target audience segmentation allows you to create buyer personas. Each of these groups represent a different part of your target audience, so you serve them different ad creative and marketing assets.

What is the difference between target market and target audience?

Many people mix up target market and target audience or use them interchangeably. They’re actually different marketing terms.

A target market is anyone who might be interested in your products or services. Your target audience is the group of people—one of the groups described above, for example—to whom you direct a specific marketing asset or ad.

What is a target audience in marketing?

It’s people who might respond to your marketing asset by converting. A marketing asset might be a landing page, Facebook post, squeeze page, or product page. It might be an email you’ve written to an audience segment or a direct mailer you’re sending out.

Your target audience is a part of your target market. You want to use segmentation so you send the right message to the right consumer at the exact right time. Just as you segment your email list, you must also segment your entire audience for marketing.

Why Is Defining Your Target Audience So Important?

target audience why

Imagine visiting a car dealership. You partner up with a salesperson, but he doesn’t ask you any questions about your specific needs and wants. Over the next hour, he shows you sports cars and sedans, waxing poetic about the fine leather seats and gorgeous beltlines.

Finally, exasperated, you say, “I’m a mother of four. I need a minivan my kids can’t destroy.”

That should tell you how much defining your target audience matters. Trying to sell a two-seater sports car to a mother of four won’t win you any sales.

Sometimes, the segments are less dramatic, but you must treat them as important.

Consider the landing pages on your website. If a consumer visits one of your landing pages, you want to create an instant connection. The imagery, headline, body, and CTA should all appeal to what this particular consumer wants. If it doesn’t, the consumer will click away.

You master this by defining your target audience and sending prospective customers to marketing assets that will resonate with them. You don’t just throw landing pages and emails against the proverbial wall, hoping at least a few of them stick.

How To Define Your Target Audience in 6 Steps

Ann Handley of Marketing Profs once said, “Even when you are marketing to your entire audience or customer base, you are still simply speaking to a single human at any given time.”

It’s great advice for any entrepreneur who is gradually coming to terms with what a target market or audience is.

Handley’s making a good case for narrowing down your audience as far as possible. If you’re just speaking to a single human being — the person on the other side of the computer screen — you need to know everything you can about that consumer.

What are his or her pain points? Fears? Insecurities? Objections? If you know this information, you can deliver a message that’s both resonant and persuasive.

If you’re struggling to define your target audience, you’re not alone. Let’s break it down into six easy steps.

Step 1: Survey your current customer base

Surveys are highly underrated. They give you tons of pieces of data you can use to define your target audience as long as you prepare effective questions.

According to a SurveyMonkey study, the average market research survey is about 13 questions long, while all surveys range from four to 14 questions.

Just remember that your customers lead busy lives. If you give them a survey that takes too long to complete, they’ll give up.

Consider erring on the side of brevity while asking more probing questions. Fill-in-the-blank questions tend to offer more insight than true/false or scale-style questions because the survey taker has to put more thought into his or her answers.

To get you started, you might ask questions like these:

  • What is your main frustration when it comes to [your niche]?
  • How much are you willing to pay for [product] with [list of features]?
  • What social media sites do you spend the most time on?
  • Do you have any pressing questions related to [niche]?

Use the answers to your survey questions to build buyer personas, then to create landing pages, emails, and other marketing assets. For instance, the last question might be used to generate blog post ideas with a related CTA for a landing page at the ends of each.

Step 2: Interact with your audience

There’s a reason content marketing has become so essential to every entrepreneur in every industry. Not only does it drive website traffic, but it also opens up topics for conversation.

For instance, do you answer comments on your blog? Neil Patel, co-founder of Crazy Egg, answers every question. He doesn’t always give detailed answers, but he lets his readers know he’s listening.

target audience step 2 neil patel

You can take the conversation far beyond simply connecting with your audience. Pay attention to questions, criticisms, and anecdotes. They can give you insights into what your target audience wants, thinks, and needs.

Do the same thing on social media. Don’t just enjoy the ego trip when you get 10 comments on a Facebook post. Answer every single person who commented, then take notes on any tidbits that might help you better understand your target audience.

Step 3: Turn frustration into motivation

target audience step 3

Now that you’ve surveyed your audience and begun participating in conversations, mine your notes for pain points and objections. Figure out what problems your existing customers and followers have.

Maybe you’re in the SAAS industry with a CRM tool. You figure out that your prospective customers are unimpressed with their ability to connect with their own customers via multiple channels. That’s a frustration.

Turn it into a motivation. If your SAAS product offers a better way to deal with cross-channel customer service, use it as a selling point as you communicate with your target audience. You understand the frustration, so reverse the equation and give your customers a useful alternative.

Keep a running list of frustrations and motivations. That way, you can keep returning to them as your business evolves.

Step 4: Know who your target audience isn’t

You’re getting a better idea of how to define your target audience now, but you also need to know who to exclude. This comes in handy when you’re advertising via search or social, in particular.

Weed out potential customers who don’t fall within your target audience description. Determine who doesn’t deserve your time and attention.

For instance, maybe you’re marketing exclusively to women. That cuts out roughly half the population right there.

Or maybe it’s less dramatic. If you’re not catering to consumers over age 50, you need to know that.

Step 5: Check out the competition

You never want to copy the competition. That’s a recipe for disaster.

However, if you keep tabs on your direct competitors, you can further refine your target audience.

Check out their homepages, landing pages, squeeze pages, and product descriptions. Figure out what they’re not doing so you can give your target audience something they want.

Step 6: See how your audience navigates your website

Above, we talked about using your website as a way to communicate directly with your visitors. However, your website can provide far more data and insights.

Use a tool like Crazy Egg to monitor audience behavior. User behavior reports tell you where visitors click, how far down each page they scroll, what percentage of visitors click on a particular link, whether your signup forms are receiving sufficient attention, and more.

Crazy Egg also offers Recordings, which allow you to monitor a website visitor’s precise navigation through your site. You’ll see when the mouse pauses over an interesting testimonial, for instance, or where a signup form looks confusing to the visitor.

You’ll get tons of relevant data and insights to help you further narrow down your target audience and address their needs directly. If they’re not paying attention to your CTA, for instance, consider moving it higher up on the page or redesigning it to have more visual impact.

Understanding Target Audience: 2 Real Examples

Let’s look at the ways in which target audiences have helped real companies grow their brands and engage their customers.

1. Huggies

Outbrain posted a target audience case study on Huggies, a brand of baby care products. According to Outbrain, Huggies wanted ways to get their content in front of new people while still targeting their core audience base.

Outbrain used native content to give Huggies more exposure to its target audience via established publications.

target-audience-1-huggies-outbrain

The campaign resulted in 20 times more visitors than the brand was getting via search traffic alone.

When it comes to sponsored or native content, you have to know your audience. Which publications might reach people who have never encountered your brand before?

2.  Fun and Function

Fun and Function, a website that sells products for special needs kids, needed to decide whether it should expand into schools. The project would require creating an entirely new catalogue dedicated to the educational market — or, at least, a different catalog cover.

According to Inc. magazine, Fun and Function evaluated every aspect of the expansion, but ultimately determined that the cost-benefit analysis went in favor of not expanding into schools. This is a great example of a company using its target audience to make tough decisions.

Fun and Function understood its target market intimately. It also knew that it’s products could prove beneficial for special needs kids in educational settings. However, the company had to back off the project — even if temporarily — because of the cost involved.

When researching expansions, you have to consider whether the potential elevated traffic and sales will outperform the costs associated with it.

Conclusion

Knowing your target audience matters more than you might think. Don’t assume that everyone is a potential customer. Instead, narrow down the specific people who will not only want your product or service, but also have the means and motivation to buy it.

Conduct customer research. Communicate with your audience via your blog and social media platforms. Test content in other places, such as guest posts.

The more information you collect about your audience, the better you can serve them.

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Steve Hogan

As a former English major, Steve is a firm believer in clear, educational and entertaining content. He's a big fan of Gary V, Seth Godin and Jay Acunzo.

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