How do you identify your target audience?

How do you identify your target audience?

It’s imperative for you to understand and identify your target audience. Otherwise, you may end up wasting all of your marketing budget, time, and energy. In fact, identifying your target audience should be the first step in any business plan.

It isn’t just about knowing who you are selling to. It is more about understanding their needs and wants. What are your customers’ biggest problems? What do they like to spend their money on? What social media sites do they frequent, and what channels can you reach them on?

Once you understand who they are, it will be much quicker and easier to determine the best approach to sell to them.

​​Let’s delve into this topic and see what you can learn to enhance your marketing efforts and attract and acquire the customers you want.

This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about identifying your target audience and insights and tips from experts and business owners who have found success in doing so.

This is a long piece, so here’s a table of contents so you can navigate to the answer you’re looking for:

What is a target audience?

A target audience is a group of people you expect to be interested in something you’re selling, usually a product or service.

If you’re writing a book, your target audience might be people who love science fiction or people who are into short stories. If you’re selling clothes, your target might be guys who wear suits to work every day.

For instance, look at this email newsletter by Burberry:

Targeted-email-example

In this case, Burberry’s target audience might be young women looking for cotton trench coats.

Target audiences can be vast (just about anyone might be interested in buying clothes) or extremely specific (only people who like the TV show “Battlestar Galactica” would want to read your book).

Think about what kind of person would need or buy your product or service – what genre of books do they like? What kind of clothes do they wear? How old are they? What’s their gender? How much money do they make? Where do they live? Who are their friends? Is there anything else that connects them as a group, like being part of an organization or having gone through the same experience together?

To narrow it down further and figure out your target audience, the main areas you need to consider are:

  • Demographics (based on gender, age, marital status, education, ethnicity, etc.) – For example, family households may prefer kid-friendly restaurants with playgrounds or video games, while couples might like romantic restaurants with candlelight dining areas.
  • Psychographics (characteristics relating to consumer’s personality, values, attitudes, interests, and lifestyles) – Psychographics help marketers understand who is interested in their product or service and why they are motivated to buy it.  For example, while a consumer might be willing to pay $20 for a subscription to a magazine about cooking, another consumer wouldn’t. This could be because one consumer cooks at home every day for his family and makes it his hobby to try new recipes and techniques, while the other consumer eats out five nights a week and only cooks when he has to.
  • Geographics (based on a country, city, state, or zip code) – For example, if you run a single-location pizzeria in Santa Barbara, California, your target market will be different than if you were located in New York City. Targeting a local customer base allows you to offer products tailored to their tastes. For example, in New York City, pizza often has thin crusts and is often sold in wide slices.

Target audience vs. buyer persona

Target audience and buyer personas aren’t always clearly defined and are often used interchangeably. But they’re actually pretty different!

Your target audience is the group of people you think will be most receptive to your product or service. It’s usually a broad group of people who share common characteristics (such as age, income level, location, etc.). Your target audience can be pretty large, so long as they all have something in common with each other.

A buyer persona is one specific person within your target audience. You may have several buyer personas for each subgroup within your target audience. Your company’s marketing strategy and materials should speak directly to these buyer personas, no matter how many of them there are.

For example, let’s say you sell athletic shoes. Your target audience might include people between the ages of 18 and 34 who live in urban areas.

On the other hand, you might have four different buyer personas: a young man who enjoys running marathons; a young woman who uses her sneakers for going to the gym; a college student who wears them while working out; and someone who just wears sneakers as casual footwear.

Why is identifying the target audience useful

There are many reasons why identifying the right target audience is useful, including:

1. It will help you design a well-targeted message.

Because you understand who your readers are and what they need, you can tailor the right marketing message accordingly. You can also use this information to create marketing campaigns that speak directly to those people, help them solve their problems, and address specific pain points.

Identifying your target audience also helps you narrow your focus to directly address the people who are most likely to care about what you have to say and be less confusing to those who aren’t.

This sponsored Facebook campaign by Jasper, one of the most popular copywriting apps, is a great example.

Jasper-ad-campaign-target-audience

The ad campaign speaks directly to Jasper’s target audience (marketers) and conveys the features they’re looking for (high-quality blog posts) along with how the product can solve their problem (save hours every week).

This resonates so well with the right target audience because they know what their customers want and are looking for in a product.

2. It helps you save time and money.

You don’t want to spend hours or days crafting marketing materials that won’t resonate with your customers. Identifying your target audience helps ensure that what you’re creating resonates with them. It also saves money because it prevents you from spending time and money on products or services that won’t sell well in the marketplace.

Identifying the target audience also helps when choosing advertising channels such as Internet search engines, social media platforms, etc. It allows advertisers to focus on those channels that will bring in more conversions or sales at an acceptable cost per acquisition (CPA).

3. It helps you create a better experience.

When you create a product or service, you have to think about who you’re making it for. This is especially true when it comes to websites and other digital products.

If you don’t know who your target audience is, how can you possibly create something they’ll like? It’s like trying to hit an invisible target.

If you have a clear idea of who your users are, you’ll be able to create a more targeted experience that’s better suited to them. You’ll also be able to tailor the design itself to their needs, creating something that works best for them and meets their expectations.

It helps you stay focused on the most critical aspects of your product or service. If you’re designing an online store, it’s easy to get carried away with flashy features like 3D animations or interactive videos; however, these things often add little value to your target audience if they aren’t relevant or useful to them in some way (e.g., by helping them make informed purchasing decisions).

Take email marketing software like MailChimp, for instance.

MailChimp’s target audience is primarily beginners or small businesses looking for an easy way to create and send email newsletters. MailChimp has created a simple user interface (UI) that lets them create campaigns in just a few minutes to cater to this audience. Even their marketing content directly addresses the pain points of growing businesses.

Target-audience-benefits

MailChimp also provides plenty of resources and tutorials that teach you how to use the service properly. Everything from writing a compelling email subject line, creating beautiful HTML templates, tracking your results, and more can be found on their website. This makes it easier for beginner users who don’t have much experience with online marketing or design work.

4. Defining a target audience helps you understand what platforms your customers use

We’re all familiar with the concept of a target audience — it’s the group of people you want to reach with your marketing efforts. But defining a target audience isn’t just about knowing who you want to reach. It also helps you understand what platforms they use and what content they share.

This can help you decide how much time and money to devote to each platform, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

For example, if you’re a travel agency and want to reach out to people interested in traveling to Europe this summer, then Facebook is probably not the best place for you. Your target audience is more likely to be on Twitter or Instagram – mobile-friendly platforms that allow users to share images and videos easily.

If your business sells products and services, you may want to focus on Google AdWords and Facebook Ads because these platforms allow businesses to create ads that appear only when people search for a specific product or service.

5. It improves the ability to focus on customers’ needs

When designing a product or service, the first thing to consider is who you are designing it for? The answer to this question will determine how much effort you put into making your product or service as useful as possible for them.

If you don’t know who your target audience is, then you can’t really do anything about it. You might produce something that looks great, but if nobody buys it, then it’s useless.

6. It increases the likelihood that you’ll attract loyal customers.

If you know who you want to sell to and what they need from you, you’re much more likely to attract people like them into your business and keep them coming back for more.

Without this knowledge, there’s no way for you to reach out effectively or provide them with exactly what they want – which means it will be harder for you to get repeat business from these customers later on down the road (or build up any kind of customer loyalty at all).

How to identify and find your target audience

We’ve already discussed how identifying your target audience can be one of the most important things you do as a brand. It’s how you know what you should be selling, what kind of content to create, and even how to advertise.

But how do you figure out who exactly your target audience is? Here are some expert tips on how to identify and find your target audience:

1. Communicate with your existing customers and online followers

Your customers and potential customers will be the best people to tell you who they think they are.

The most effective way to get this information is by asking them directly. You can do this by posting an informal survey on social media or sending out an email with a few questions.

Jean Gregoire of Lovebox says,

“Engaging directly with your social media followers provides insights into the challenges they face and how well your product is solving their problems. Talking to your target audience where they hang out online is the new customer service tête-à-tête.”

Gregoire further shares his own experience with finding target audiences for their company,

“We regularly engage with our followers on Instagram and Facebook. Doing so helps us discover what they like about our products, what issues they experience, and what improvements they want. This feedback allows us to fine-tune our target audience to consist of a wider group of consumers exhibiting similar characteristics, needs, and viewpoints. We can then market more effectively to a broader audience that is most likely to buy our products.”

Brian Casel of ZipMessage adds,

“There’s a reason why your existing customers resonate with your products. By probing a little further, you can zero in on their likes, dislikes, and the appropriate demographic that they fit into. From here, it’s all about putting this information to the test and fine-tuning your marketing strategies to target an audience that closely matches your current customer base.”

Here are some more ways to communicate with your online followers to find your target audience:

  • Post questions on surveys and polls: Ask them questions about the products or services you offer, the price points, etc. This will allow you to get feedback from potential customers and prospects.
  • Ask a question: Ask an open-ended question that will lead them to tell you more about their experience with your brand. An example would be “What do you like most about my store?” or “What surprised you most about my store?” You can also try using a scale like “How likely is it that you would recommend this product to a friend?”
  • Use a survey tool: There are many survey tools available online, including SurveyMonkey, Typeform, Google Forms, and Qualaroo. These tools make creating simple surveys that ask for feedback on specific topics easy. They also allow respondents to enter comments in response to questions, giving you insight into their experiences with your brand.

Digital Advertising Specialist Ashley Monk also suggests that “hopping on the phone, Zoom, or meeting in person and transcribing them can be even more effective than surveying.”

Monk further adds, “This allows you to hone in your messaging and get granular on the exact phrases and terminology your customers use.”

2. Find Who is Not in the Audience First

To identify your target audience, it’s best to start with those NOT in your audience.

Phillip Akhzar, the founder of Arka, says

“A unique tip for finding one’s target audience is to define who is most likely not a member of the audience first. For example, an aspiring shock comic will figure out very quickly that their jokes will not work at a kid’s birthday party the same as they would at a college bar.”

Figuring out what does not work for who helps narrow one’s focus to what really matters. Finding audiences where it works is just as important, but it takes time to get to that level.

You can use this same method for anything:

If you’re running a business that sells products or services, then who’s not in your target audience? People who don’t have enough money. People who aren’t interested in what you have to offer.

Suppose you’re a yoga studio, then who’s not in your target audience? Someone who doesn’t have time for yoga. Someone who hates exercise. Someone who thinks yoga is too expensive.

If you’re an author writing about books and publishing, who’s not in your target audience? People who don’t read books (the majority of people). People who don’t want to write books (maybe they think they’re not good writers). People who don’t know how to write (perhaps they think they’re not good writers).

3. Analyze Your Social Media Engagement

You can analyze your followers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn to find out their age group, where they live, and what they like to share on social media. This will help you create more engaging and relevant content for your business that can be shared with your target audience.

You’ll also be able to gain insight into:

  • Who your target audience is
  • What their interests are
  • Their behavior towards your products/services and your content.

Michael Nemeroff of Rush Order Tees agrees,

“Social media insights can help you create a marketing persona by offering the age, gender, location, what type of posts they interact with, what time is most appealing to them, and even what your audience has in common to be able to effectively strategize your products and content towards their behaviors and interests.”

Before that, you should also know where your target audience spends maximum time. Pew Research has curated a chart depicting the use of different social media platforms by demographic groups in the US.

Socialmedia2019 useofdifferent

Once you have a rough idea of the preferred channel for your audience, you can narrow down the list by understanding your audience demographics & psychographics.

Take Facebook’s Audience Insights tool, for instance. It helps you learn about the people who interact with your business on Facebook.

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You can get an insight into demographic information like age, gender, location, and interests of people who like your page or engage with your posts. It also shows you psychographic information like past purchase behavior and brand affinity, among other activities.

Also, consider the following when analyzing your social media engagement:

  • Find out who is sharing/liking/commenting on your posts
  • Find out who is following/unfollowing/blocking you on social media
  • Find out which posts are getting the most shares and likes from different age groups

Collen Clark of Schmidt & Clark, LLP also suggests using Facebook Lookalike Audiences to find a target audience similar to your existing customer base.

You can leverage Facebook’s algorithm to find people sharing similar characteristics to your existing customer base to make it easier for you to find new potential clients.

How does Facebook Lookalike Audience work?

Facebook’s Lookalike Audiences feature is one of the best tools for finding new customers. It helps you reach people similar to your existing customers or people who have engaged with your page in the past.

You can use this tool to reach people who aren’t already connected with your brand but have the potential to be interested in what you have to offer.

For example, if you run a fitness studio, you could create a lookalike audience based on people who have liked any fitness group or page. This would help you find new potential clients who may not yet know about your business but would be interested in it if they did. You can then target them with ads promoting specific services.

Clarks adds,

“The Facebook Ads Manager has capabilities for you to tailor paid ads and tap only those who match your existing customers’ demographics, interests, and behaviors to optimize your ad spending. Using lookalike audience targeting for your ads can save you a great deal of time if you do not wish to survey your current customers and significantly expand your business’ reach.”

4. Analyze Competitors’ Audiences

Gigi Ji, the Chief Brand and Marketing Officer of KOKOLU, suggests looking at your competitor’s audience and who consistently engages and shops with them if you want to find your target audience but don’t have much to go off when it comes to your own brand.

Gigi adds, “This is an excellent strategy for identifying your target market and identifying where your competitors may be falling short and leaving a void for you and your brand to fill.”

You can start by looking at how competitors advertise themselves and what kinds of content they publish on social media. If you’re selling clothing, look at how other fashion brands market themselves online and in print media if you’re selling clothing. If you’re in the food industry, check out how restaurants advertise their menus and specials on websites, Facebook pages, and Instagram accounts.

Once you’ve identified some key players in your industry, take note of their demographics: age range, gender; location; education level; marital status; income level, etc. These factors will help you determine how to reach out to potential customers so that they’ll buy from you instead of someone else.

Pro Tip: Conduct market research using stellar market research tools like Google Analytics and Semrush Audience Insights. You can particularly use Semrush to reach your target customers by determining how your audience compares with the competition.

For example, Semrush Audience Insights will give you insights into:

  • The relative size of each of your audience
  • How much your audiences overlap with your competitor’s audience
  • The size of the relevant audience you are yet to reach
  • Other websites your audience are likely to visit

You can compare up to 5 domains, and the Audience Overlap graph displays each of the domains’ audiences and where they overlap.

Traffic analytics audience insights

(Image Source)

Below the Overlap chart, there is a list of Audience Insights. This will give a more detailed look into your target audience and the behavior of your competitor’s traffic.

Traffic analytics audience insights table

(Image Source)

The table shows the domain’s ordinal number, additional domains visited by this audience, unique audience members (visitors), and the percentage of the shared audience (those who visit both websites).

When you pull together this information, you can get a clearer picture of your audience.

5. You Can Never Segment Your Audience Too Many Times

You know who your audience is. You know who you want to reach. But if you’re trying to hit too many targets with one marketing campaign, you might miss the mark entirely.

That’s why it’s important to segment your audience before you design your marketing initiatives. And if you do it right, you can find out exactly how each cohort responds to different types of messaging.

Segmenting your audience means finding commonalities.

Segmentation is a process that helps marketers understand their target market better by identifying similar characteristics among customers or prospects.

For example, suppose you’re trying to identify potential buyers for your luxury timepieces. In that case, you might segment them based on their age range, income level, geographic location, or interest in fine art.

To segment your audience effectively, you need to find commonalities between different groups of people who fit into a specific category — like “millennials who live in New York City and love fashion” – so they can be targeted with unique messaging that resonates with them specifically.

Devin Schumacher of SERP adds,

“In every target audience, regardless if you are an e-commerce business, a film studio, or producing a school play, there are countless unique characteristics about each of the people you’ll be targeting that you can create endless combinations.

For example, if you want to test out a new product on your existing customer base, but only a specific age and gender. That’s just layer one. Next, you can add their location, whether they have children or not, if they own a vehicle or are married or single. Each of these characteristics provides a different lens through which to analyze the received audience data.

Once you have dialed in the perfect set of characteristics, you will be able to easily identify your target audience and tailor your product from there. This is incredibly useful and saves time by not needing to start over and redefine your audience every time.”

But be careful not to segment too much, or you may lose sight of the real issue in your business.

6. Create Character Personas of Your Target Audience

Character personas are fictional representations of your ideal customer. They help you get inside the head of your customer and understand what they want and why they want it.

Character personas help you understand how your customers think, feel, talk and act. They describe what motivates them, what their challenges are, and why they buy from you instead of someone else.

According to Ashley Monk,

“Identify the market you want to step into, and then create a customer profile accordingly. Look for companies that serve similar markets, and create a persona that better identifies them. This persona can include factors such as age, gender, demographic, and interests to better understand how to market to them.”

Amrita Saigal of Kudos adds,

“Create personas based on your target audience – hypothetical characters with target demographic information such as geographic location, salary, interests, hobbies, personality traits, values, etc. Especially in the beginning of my business, as we built out our marketing strategies, it was important for our team to stay focused on who we wanted to attract to our brand and ultimately purchase our products. These personas served as a reference when creating marketing material or brainstorming ways to reach your target audience.”

Here’s what a typical character persona would look like:

User-persona-templates-examples

This character persona does a good job of conveying what Catelyn wants.  When you build similar character personas, you’ll have a better idea of who your target audience should be.

7. Use the Fab Matrix to Identify Your Ideal Audience

Alex Wang of Ember Fund suggests using the FAB Matrix to learn about your target audience.

“It assesses three components of your product: its features, advantages, and benefits.

Features are the elements of your product, and advantages are what the features allow a customer to do. For instance, adjustable free weights have the feature of changing their amount of weight and the advantage of taking up far less room in a home gym.

The final component of the FAB Matrix, benefits, is the key to identifying your target audience. Who benefits the most? In the example of adjustable free weights: young, physically active people with small apartments benefit the most – so they would be your target audience.”

Let’s elaborate a bit.

When you’re trying to find your audience, getting lost in the details can be easy. You might be a designer who wants to create a product for women over 25 who live in New York City and work at Microsoft. But that’s too narrow!

Instead of focusing on the specifics, use the Fab Matrix to help you find your audience. It’s based on three simple questions:

  • Features: What is your product or service?
  • Advantage: What makes your product or service different?
  • Benefit: How does that difference benefit your customer?

Here’s what that looks like in practice:

For example, let’s say you want to create a new kind of beach towel. You might put “waterproof,” “lightweight,” and “dries quickly” in the Features column. In the Advantages column, you could write “easy to pack” and “stays put.” And in the Benefits column, you might write “no more soaking wet towels!”

Next, try filling out each category with as many ideas as possible. When you’re done, come up with one sentence describing each feature, advantage, or benefit. Then write down which audiences would be interested in each statement.

Once you’ve answered these questions, you will be better able to identify your target audience – who you want to buy your product.

Time for you to be a detective and figure out who you want to reach!

Detective-daffy-investigate

The key takeaway should be that your target audience matters more than you might think. Target audience research is not just some vague demographic that looks good on a business card; it’s a handy tool for advertising, digital marketing, including targeted marketing and social media marketing, and promoting your work in general.

The information in this guide should more than provide you with the essentials to conduct the right target audience analysis. Just remember that knowing your target market is just a start – you have to tailor everything you do to fit the audience’s pain points and needs.

Hopefully, this guide will help you become increasingly cognizant of your target market and what they are looking for when they come across your business online or in person.

Deepti Jain

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