Defining your target audience will inform all of your marketing strategies, from creating a website to designing a social media campaign, to promoting your website for free. Let's take a closer look at the steps you'll need to take to define your target audience so that you can create the most relevant marketing content and accelerate your business growth.
What is a target audience?
A target audience identifies the consumers who are most likely to be interested in your business. Often, the shared traits or interests in this specific group of people draw them to your brand. Some of these traits can include:
Hobbies and interests
You can classify your target audience using many other traits. The more you begin to narrow them down, the closer you'll get to knowing your audience’s likes, dislikes, habits, and other usable data.
You might find that you have a broad or niche target audience. For example, a clothing company that provides items for men, women, and children would comprise a broad audience. By contrast, a wedding dress store will cater to a niche audience.
Why is it important to define your target audience?
When marketing a business, you want to maximize your efforts by reaching the consumers who are most likely to be interested in it. Aside from focusing your energy more efficiently, a target audience can also help you:
Increase your ROI by spending ad dollars on consumers who are most likely to to be interested
Establish your voice and brand identity
Focus your SEO marketing
Develop more personalized campaigns
Improve your products and services to better meet the needs of your target audience
Furthermore, a lot goes into the psychology of selling. Personalized campaigns can attract customers and convince them to convert. According to a report, 80% of consumers are more likely to purchase from a brand when it offers a personalized experience. However, you can't offer a customized experience and capture attention before knowing what interests your target audience.
How to define your target audience
Here’s how to define your target audience:
01. Gather data on your existing customers
If your business is already up and running, you can look to your existing customers to inform your target audience definition. We recommend gathering data from your social media and website analytics in order to answer the following questions:
What common traits do my existing customers share (demographics, interests, intent)?
How do customers find me?
Where do visitors spend the most time on my website?
Which of my products or services are most popular and with whom?
What information have my existing customers looked for related to my brand?
Business-to-Business (B2B) companies can further narrow their criteria by identifying their target audience's company size, buyer's job title and industry.
02. Look at the competition
Doing market research on your competitors’ audiences can help you determine who fits in yours. It will help you understand who your competition already targets, and if you share a target market. If not, maybe you have a unique angle that sets your brand apart. Ask yourself these questions about your competitor's audience:
How does your competition engage with its audience?
What common traits do your competitors’ customers share?
Which types of marketing strategies do competitors use?
Which market segments do your competitors not target?
What tone and voice does your competitor use in their messaging?
Uncovering the demographics your competition targets and learning how they engage them can help you understand what methods and messages already work with your desired audience.
03. Use social listening
You can employ social listening to effectively learn about your audience and what they think about your brand. Social listening is the practice of monitoring a group’s social media actions. You can gather data about what your customers talk about, what platforms they frequent and which keywords and hashtags they use. Companies such as Hootsuite, BuzzSumo and Buffer offer social listening tools.
While you look for relevant hashtags, keywords or brand mentions, you might uncover new hashtags or conversations that your audience uses regularly. Reach out to new customers using this data as a test to see if it works for your brand.
04. Discover your audience’s pain points
You shouldn’t just gather data on your customers' interests, hobbies and habits. You also need to understand their pain points so that you can position your brand as the solution. For instance, the folks at Uber saw many people found ordering and waiting for taxis daunting. In response, they designed their ride-sharing app as an intuitive solution.
Look at your audience’s behavior. Analyze your data to see if you can offer immediate solutions to any of their problems, through content, marketing or products. For more specific data, you can also run surveys or interviews to get a better idea of your audience’s struggles and obstacles.
05. Filter out who doesn’t fit in your audience
Knowing who you don't want to advertise to will help you narrow down who you do want to reach. If you sell prom dresses, for example, you can eliminate toddlers from your small business marketing efforts. When it comes to spending money on ad dollars, this analysis will help focus your budget where it’ll most likely convert.
06. Create a buyer persona
Your target audience refers to a vague group of people; for example, women between the ages of 25 and 60 who live in New York and love luxury fashion. A buyer persona goes deeper by representing your ideal customer in a semi-fictional way. Beyond demographics, a buyer persona also includes psychographic and behavioral information. The buyer persona of a high-end suitcase company with the target audience mentioned above could look like this: Jennifer is a 45-year-old fashion designer who lives on the Upper East Side and shops and Barneys and Bloomingdale’s. She often travels for business and cares to look sophisticated and chic when on-the-go.
As a brand, you should create different personas to match different segments of your target audience. Having a detailed view of your customers will allow you to understand your customer's needs and create more personalized interactions for them.
07. Regularly revisit your target audience
Your target audience is fluid. As people change, grow and face different problems, they may no longer find your brand relevant. Therefore, you must revisit your target audience periodically to account for any notable changes in your customer base and optimize your business strategy accordingly.
Ask yourself: Do my products grow with my audience? People in later life stages have different interests and needs than they did earlier in their lives. Create new offerings accordingly. You can also look at your data over time and pick up on any changes in your audience.
Target audience examples
Observing how well-known brands have put their data into practice can help you define your target audience. Let’s look at how Nike, McDonald’s and Coachella used their target audiences to develop their brand and marketing strategies.
As one of the most recognizable sports brands in the world, it might seem like Nike's target audience includes anyone with disposable income who purchases sportswear. However, Nike has made an effort to target specific audiences in their ad campaigns—particularly those other sports brands have historically underserved, such as young athletes, runners and women. For example, Nike runs multiple campaigns, such as "What Girls Are Made Of" and "Dream With Us," aimed at motivating young girls to participate in sports from an early age. Clearly, Nike had specific buyer personas for these marketing campaigns and listened to their audience's behaviors and interests.
McDonald’s greatly exemplifies why revisiting your target audience can unlock new business opportunities. While the fast food chain’s target audience has historically been children, it updated their strategy in recent years to focus on Millennials. To better serve the group, McDonald’s modernized the look of its restaurants, introduced the McDonald’s Cafe and added healthier options to its menu.
As a music festival, Coachella casts a wide net with their artist lineup, including artists of various genres. However, this inclusive strategy doesn't mean that Coachella isn’t targeting an audience. It actually understands what Millennials—their target audience—wants: Diversity of music. They’ve also collaborated with brands Millennials like. In 2016, H&M released a clothing line inspired by the “chill desert vibe” style often worn at the festival. By teaming up with H&M, Coachella reached more of its target audience and made the event even more relevant to its fan base.