Homing in on a target audience is one of the first things to do when you create a marketing plan. It’s just as important as your mission statement, your marketing mix, or even your budget. Your target audience will guide your marketing decisions, from the content of your ads to the platforms prospective customers are most likely to use.
In this article, we’ll define what a target audience is, explain how to find yours, and give you a few tips for marketing to them, too.
What’s a target audience?
Your target audience is the specific group that you want to reach with your marketing. These people typically share one (or more) similar characteristics that make them best suited for your product or service. By narrowing your focus and only targeting the folks who will be most receptive to your message, you'll be able to market more efficiently—and more effectively, too.
A great way to start thinking about your target audience is to research potential customer demographics and create a customer persona. A customer persona is a fictionalized representation of your ideal customer that will help you better understand the needs of your target audience.
Envision the kind of person you think would benefit most from your product or service, and ask yourself:
- How old is this person?
- Where do they live?
- What kind of job do they have?
- What are their interests?
- What needs do they have, and how will your product or service fulfill them?
If you’re having difficulty answering these questions, start with broad groups and narrow them down. For example, you may choose “millennials” as a starting point, and then consider other characteristics like job and gender.
Your target audience will look different if you’re selling business-to-consumer (B2C) products or business-to-business (B2B) products. In B2C, you’ll be marketing to a person in a certain stage of life or income bracket. In B2B, you’re more likely to be selling to a purchasing manager or even a CEO. The marketing approaches are similar, but the needs of a business likely won’t be the same as those of individual consumers.
Find your target audience
There are a few tried-and-true methods you can use to find your target audience.
Look at your current customers
If you already have an established customer base, research their demographics. To start, look for any commonalities in age, employment, and geographic location. The results can point you toward groups that are likely to buy from you in the future.
Even if the information your customers provide isn’t detailed, you can still use it to your advantage. For example, if you know the average salary range of your target audience, you can estimate how much money someone needs to make before spending on your product or service. If you’ve got information on their interests—like their favorite activities or websites, for example—you can use that to help you decide where to place your ads.
Track your analytics
If your business has a website, is active on social media, or if you’ve posted digital ads, chances are your data is already being tracked. There are plenty of data analytics options available in all price ranges, like Google’s free Analytics tool. Platforms like YouTube, Snapchat, and Facebook also automatically track data for you.
Pay attention to the demographics that appear in your analytics. Is your content attracting the target audience you have in mind? If not, what can you change to appeal to them? Studying the data can give you insight into audiences you might not have considered in the past.
See what the competition is doing
Your competitors are competitors for a reason—you likely share many of the same goals and have overlapping target audiences. And while you probably don't have access to their internal data or marketing strategies, there's a lot you can learn by taking notice of the things they do well.
Look at their social media profiles, for example. Who interacts with their posts? What keywords are they using, and how might those help them attract a certain audience? What other accounts are they following? Answering these questions can provide valuable insight into the target audiences of your competitors—and help you decide if you want to target those same people, too.
Think about who would benefit from your offering
Take some time to make a list of all the positive results your customer will get from the features your product or service offers. Include all of the ways your product or service can help a customer and which of their needs it can help fulfill.
Identifying the benefits of your product or service can point you towards the folks who would get the most out of it. For example, if you own a company that produces stylish, inexpensive furniture, a few of your benefits might be that your products are cost-effective and can make a new house feel like a home.
In this scenario, you might determine that the people who would value these benefits the most are college students moving into dorms, young couples, or first-time home buyers. These groups of people tend to be between 18-35 years old, which gives you a great starting point for developing a customer persona. Then, you can start thinking about more in-depth questions. What social media platforms do they use most? Where do they live? What is their furniture budget?
Use your target audience for better marketing
After you’ve researched your target audience, scoped out the competition, and combed through the data, you can use all of this knowledge to make informed marketing decisions. Here’s how to make sure that your target audience stays central to your marketing efforts.
Write it down
Your target audience should guide your marketing strategy, so it’s important to remind yourself of the customer’s needs during each step of the process. Clearly define your target audience in writing and keep it where you’ll be sure to see it any time you have to make an important decision.
Spell out exactly who it is that you’re trying to reach. Get as specific as possible—you can always change the parameters later if you find that your hypothetical audience isn’t in line with your actual customer base. Remember that your target audience should include age, location, interests, habits, salary, or any other characteristics that are important to your industry.
Test social ads
Once you’ve got a good idea of who your audience is, you can research social media statistics to figure out where those people are most likely to see (and interact with) your ads. For example, the majority of Twitter users are between the ages of 18-29, so if your target audience falls into that range, Twitter might be a good place to advertise.
Be sure to set a measurable goal you'd like to achieve with your ads. Do you want more website traffic? More email signups? More likes, follows, or shares to raise brand awareness? Knowing your goals ahead of time will help you determine whether your ads were effective later on.
As you're building your ads, think about what type of visuals and copy will resonate with your target audience. For example, if you're in the beauty industry and your target audience is interested in makeup tutorials, mimicking the format of a YouTube beauty tutorial could be a great way to reach them.
When your content is ready, it’s a good idea to start small and measure the response. Consider testing a few different variations to see what works best before putting significant marketing dollars behind a single campaign.
Measure and adapt
Once you’ve put your ad out into the world, keep a close eye on the reporting data; it will tell you if you’ve hit the mark or need to reconsider your strategy.
Let’s say your goal was to get more website visits, so you created an Instagram ad with a link to your custom landing page. To measure success, you could track the views and bounce rate for that page. If views go up, people are seeing the ad and responding. And if the bounce rate is low, that means your landing page is successfully guiding them to other sections of your site.
The data can also expose gaps in your strategy. Maybe a Twitter ad wasn’t posted at the right time and didn’t gain the momentum you thought it would. Or maybe your landing page didn't generate as many clicks as you hoped and needs a quick redesign to make it more informative or enticing. Finding these gaps during testing will help you adjust your messaging and connect more effectively with your target audience.
Staying flexible and adapting to new information is the best way to market to your target audience. Each new ad you create is an opportunity to improve upon what you've done in the past and to learn how you can get even better in the future.