Even if you’ve got the best products and the slickest operation, your business won’t be a success if you’re marketing to the wrong audience. Think plastering snowplows on a Miami beach billboard, or advertising beef on a vegan recipe website.
Identifying the right target audience for your business — and understanding the needs of buyers within that market — is a foundational part of running an effective marketing operation.
In this article, we’ll cover not only how to find your target audience — but how to engage them too.
In this target audience guide, you’ll discover:
- What is a target audience?
- Examples of a target audience
- What is target market analysis?
- Why should you identify a target audience?
- Considerations before you identify your target audience
- How to find your target audience
- Tips for creating content that connects with your target audience
- Frequently asked questions
A target audience is a defined group of potential customers for your products or services. To make your marketing messages land with your target audience, you need to know who they are and what they’re interested in.
Your target audience is often just one part of your broader customer base. By choosing to market only to a target audience instead of to all reachable customers, businesses can avoid using up marketing resources on prospects who are unlikely to be converted because they are a poor fit for the product or services being offered.
Taking the time to identify this audience pays off. According to a 2020 analysis by HubSpot, audience targeting is among the most effective marketing optimization tactics.
A target audience is a smaller group within a target market that you might identify as a great match for your products.
For example, a company that offers home improvement services, such as new windows, might have the potential to advertise to all residents of a given local area.
To optimize its marketing outcomes, however, the company could focus on a target audience of homeowners, since most renters are not able to make decisions about home improvements.
When targeting this audience, the company could use various strategies to serve a particular audience that falls within certain age and income brackets who would be more likely to own a home.
These strategies could include:
- Social media campaigns
- TV or radio advertising
- Email marketing
- Direct mail
Target audience v target market: what’s the difference?
The target audience is almost always much more specific than the target market. To create marketing messages that resonate with your audiences and drive conversions, you need to first define your target market. From there, you can further refine that group, and define your target audience.
A target market is the set of consumers that a company plans to sell to or reach with marketing activities. A target audience is the group or segment within that target market that is being served advertisements.
A specific group of people with shared characteristics.
A specific, well-defined segment of the consumers that you plan to serve with your products or services.
Typically influences decisions related to marketing and advertising messages.
Impacts all your business and marketing decisions.
More focused and detail-specific.
Broader than your target audience.
Involves a group of customers.
Involves a specific customer.
A market analysis can help you identify how to position your business to be competitive and serve your customers.
It will assess how your product or service fits into a specific market and where it will gain the most traction with customers, helping businesses establish strategies for effective marketing and sales techniques.
You want to understand your market size, who your customers are, where they come from, and what might influence their buying decisions, looking at factors such as:
What to include in your target market analysis.
A thorough marketing analysis should answer the following questions:
- Who are my potential customers? Consider everything from likes and dislikes to age, gender and economic status.
- What are my customers' buying habits? Do your customers have disposable income, or are they likely to be budgeting?
- How large is my target market? Whether it’s a segment of 1,000 or 1,000,000, audience size info is essential.
- How much are customers willing to pay for my product? This will help ensure you get your price points right.
- Who are my main competitors? Checking out the competition can help you differentiate your products and services.
- What are my competitors' strengths and weaknesses? What can you do differently to stay ahead of the curve?
How to carry out market analysis.
1. Research your industry.
In-depth market analysis can help you uncover trends, project growth and assess barriers to success. It can also show potential investors that you’ve studied your business landscape and can provide evidence that your plan should work. Think about the popularity of competitor products, industry growth and more.
2. Identify your customers.
Using your industry analysis, drill down into exactly who you’re targeting with your products. Is it a B2B or B2C audience? How much income do they have? Are they the key decision makers in their setting? Consider creating audience personas to help.
3. Check out your competition.
Next, think about how your competition works — and how you can do things differently. Consider a comprehensive SWOT analysis, covering Strengths, Weaknesses, Objectives and Threats. Check out their stores, website, media coverage and more to get a handle on their products and services.
4. Gather more data.
You can’t have too much data when you’re analyzing the market. Check out wider economic and social trends to see how they might impact your plans. Read trade journals, head to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and carry out your own market research.
5. Put your analysis into action.
You’ve done the research — now to put it to work. Armed with new insights into your industry, as well as the hard data to back them up, you can find new ways to improve your business. But remember — market analysis isn’t a one-time thing. You’ll need to check back in regularly to get up-to-date info.
Choosing and catering to a target audience offers several advantages:
✓ It helps increase conversion rates
Targeting your audience helps you increase conversion rates without placing more ads, running more campaigns, or increasing marketing spend. Given that the average conversion rate for a website can be as low as 2.35 percent, targeting your marketing efforts toward an audience that is most likely to be converted is an important step towards achieving higher conversion rates.
✓ It aligns sales with marketing
Market targeting helps you qualify leads from the start, which in turn strengthens your brand’s sales process. If you target random prospects, it’s likely many of them will not be interested in what you sell or may not be qualified to make a purchasing decision, leaving you with many unqualified leads.
✓ It can help improve a brand’s image
A company that publicly markets products or services to uninterested or unqualified prospects may appear out of touch. This can harm the brand’s reputation and ultimately makes it harder to convert interested potential customers later on.
✓ It can reduce costs spent on advertising
Cost-per-click rates can add up to be hundreds of dollars in some industries, which is no small price. With targeted marketing, you can display ads only to users who are likely to be interested in them. That means you can run fewer ads, which lowers your marketing costs without reducing your conversion rates.
Did you know? By using data from its customer database to analyze data such as the style preferences and home layouts of existing customers, 3 Day Blinds was able to target its marketing efforts toward groups that were the best fit for its services based on their income levels and the numbers of rooms in their houses. The results included a 79 percent reduction in cost-per-booking and an 850 percent increase in leads per click.
To most effectively define a target market, you need to understand your own business and how it fits into the market you’re focused on. That means addressing the following questions before you commit to a target audience:
- What’s your value proposition? Knowing what you sell is not enough. You need to know what unique benefit you offer to customers and how that value sets your business apart from competitors.
- Who are your current customers? Understanding your existing customers goes a long way towards helping you identify which markets to target.
- Who is your competition? Understanding who your competitors target in their marketing will also give you insight on how to target in your own campaigns.
1. Identify your target market.
Your target market should be based on analysis of several specific factors that inform which audience is the best fit:
- Audience demographics. Characteristics such as gender and age often play a key role in determining the likelihood of a prospect making a purchase.
- Audience income. Income can be an important qualifier for conversion. If you’re a B2B marketer, assessing your audience’s average income means determining how much revenue a company generates and whether it aligns with what you are selling. For B2C marketers, income-based audience targeting focuses on individual and household income data.
- Audience location. Some prospects may never make a purchase from you simply because you are too far away to serve their area.
- Audience psychographics. Psychographics refer to characteristics such as personality, opinion, or lifestyle. If you know that your best-fit buyers love the outdoors or belong to a certain religious group, for example, psychographic data may be helpful for your audience targeting.
2. Research your target audience.
After you’ve determined which audience to target, invest time in researching that audience’s preferences and behavioral trends to align your marketing campaigns with them.
These insights will help you determine which marketing channels (such as online ads, social media campaigns or billboards) will be most effective for reaching your target audience. They can also help you determine which types of messaging will influence the audience with the most impact.
There are several ways to glean these insights about your target audience:
The most straightforward way to learn more is to create surveys that ask users in your target audience about themselves. Surveys will generate strong quantitative data on these topics.
Digital marketing channels.
Data that you collect from digital marketing channels through Google Analytics, Google Ads, Facebook Analytics and similar platforms can provide powerful insights into your target audience’s behavior. It will show you information such as which days and times during the week your target users are most active and how much time they spend engaging with different marketing channels.
Social listening refers to analysis of your social media channels for feedback from users. Through compliments, complaints, and other mentions of your brand on social media, you can gain insight into what your target users like and dislike.
Using the findings from the research described above, you can build personas to guide your targeted marketing efforts. A marketing persona is a profile of an ideal customer you are trying to reach — it defines their demographics, such as "ages 31-40, married, male." It also identifies what the user's key goals are as they relate to your product offering and how you can help the user meet those goals.
Depending on the complexity of your target audience, you may need to create multiple personas to describe all of the customer types you hope to engage.
Did you know? By overhauling its marketing platform and strategy, Schwab was able to focus on marketing to advisors who were the best fit for its business. The brand targeted independent advisors whose clients were interested in the types of financial products Schwab offers, and whose income aligned with those offerings. Schwab marketers personalized their engagement tactics and prioritized the alignment between their marketing and sales teams — this target marketing led to more qualified leads generated, and a 500 percent increase in engagement rates.
Digital marketing is about targeting the right people with the right content at the right time. Once you know the marketing personas you are targeting, you can build marketing content tailored to their needs. Your content creation strategy should be tailored to the personas you are trying to reach.
There are many methods of outreach, each holding importance in your overall strategy.
Here are some things to remember as you build out this strategy:
1. Keep special audience traits in mind.
The content you create should align closely with your audience's demographic, geographic, psychographic, or similar traits. If you are targeting prospects in a certain geographic area, for example, your content could incorporate references to local landmarks in order to increase engagement. Or, if your audience speaks a particular dialect, tailor your language accordingly.
2. Know your audience's platform.
Your content should be designed to reach your target audience on the platforms where they prefer to engage. If your target customers are heavy users of social media, then social content is an obvious marketing channel to pursue. If prospects read the newspaper, place ads there. If they go to industry events, invest in marketing through that channel by setting up a booth or perhaps contributing a speaker to a relevant event.
You may wish to target your audience through TV ad campaigns or through the airwaves. Targeting enables broadcasters to customize content for a specific audience, resulting in better engagement. TV audience targeting allows brands to distinguish between frequent and infrequent or non-exposed viewers.
3. Provide value to the user.
Your content should do more than just push the user towards a conversion. It should provide genuine value, like teaching the user something new or explaining how they can get more use/benefit out of a product.
4. Be interactive.
More than 92 percent of marketers agree that interactive content delivers the best results. Where possible, strive to create content that users can engage with collaboratively or interactively, such as a social media discussion.
5. Integrate your content.
Marketing integration, which means using consistent branding, messaging, and style across all marketing content and channels, improves conversion rates while also making campaigns easier to manage. Strive to keep all your content consistent within each audience that you target.
6. Be persistent.
Generating leads or convincing a prospect to buy usually requires multiple interactions. In fact, it takes eight touches on average before a customer converts. To deliver sustained, repeated engagement, you must be persistent in your marketing content efforts. Release new content regularly, adjusting your strategy as you go based on observations and feedback you receive from users.
Use marketing automation to target the right audiences.
To identify the best target audiences and understand their needs most effectively, you need as much data about marketing performance and customer behavior as possible. You also need comprehensive visibility into the marketing and sales process.
Marketo Engage has a marketing automation platform that delivers these insights. By allowing you to map and measure customer journeys, analyze data about existing customers, personalize marketing content across channels and manage marketing budgets, Marketo empowers you to determine which audiences to target, understand the personas in them, and tailor your marketing campaigns to their needs — all at scale.
To see for yourself, request a free Marketo interactive tour.
What are the best tools to help with target audience analysis?
For a better understanding of your audience, it's helpful to use methods that fall under this category when conducting both primary and secondary research. Examples of quantitative research include social media analytics, surveys/questionnaires, and trials with experimentation. Google tools can provide you with data on the actual visitors trafficking your site.
How long should target audience analysis take?
A typical audience analysis project takes six to seven weeks. It often depends on how extensive your analysis is and how narrow you want your target audience to be. If you want to collect a lot of data, quickly, you’ll have to invest in a larger team to ensure you are analyzing all customers.
Why is target audience analysis important?
Audience analysis is important because you can’t effectively communicate with an audience you don’t understand. For businesses, reaching the right people and crafting a message that resonates with them specifically is crucial for achieving any success. And beyond gaining a basic understanding of who your audience is, target audience analysis helps you answer several strategic business questions.