7 Steps to Discover Your Target Audience

January 23, 2024

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One of the biggest mistakes we see businesses make is assuming their products or services are for everyone. The best brands around the world all know that the secret to deliciously good results lies in knowing exactly who you’re trying to reach with your marketing efforts. 

So many businesses fail because they’re trying to target the entire world with their messaging. And spoiler alert: it doesn’t work very well. 

Instead, if you want to improve your marketing results, you have to cast a smaller net and zero in on your target audience. Here’s everything you need to know to do just that.

What is a Target Audience?

A target audience is simply a specific group of people who are likely to be interested in or benefit from a company’s products or services. And consequently, they’re who the business targets with their marketing initiatives. 

In other words, your target audience should be comprised of your ideal customers. Identifying your target audience lets you focus your marketing and budget on the people most likely to purchase from you and personalize your marketing messages to cater to them.

And personalization is incredibly important, in fact: 

  • Around 71% of consumers expect personalized experiences from brands.
  • Ninety percent of consumers want personalized offers based on their interests. 
  • And personalization increases marketing ROI by up to 300% 

Having a defined target audience helps you provide that personalization that customers expect. It’s how most of the world’s biggest brands continue to hit home runs with their marketing campaigns. 

For example, let’s look at Nike, the sports apparel company that sells athletic shoes, equipment, and accessories. Unlike some other companies in the sports apparel arena, Nike is laser-focused on their target audience: young aspiring runners and athletes, and thus, create advertising directed right at them. 

A target audience is often confused with a few different terms, including niche, target market, and brand personas. So let’s differentiate them a bit. 

Target Audience vs. Niche 

A niche is a specialized segment in a market, whereas the target audience is the people within that segment. In other words, the niche is the service you specialize in, and the target audience is who the service is for.  

For example, suppose you’re an app developer for small businesses in Dallas. In that case, your niche is small business app development for Dallas business owners, and your target audience is those small business owners. 

It’s important to note that these terms are often used interchangeably – even by marketing experts. 

Target Audience vs. Target Market 

A target market generally refers to a larger group than your target audience. In fact, your target audience is usually inside your target market.

For example, using the same hypothetical above, your target market would be small business owners, whereas your target audience would be small business owners inside Dallas.

Again, these two terms are often used interchangeably in the marketing world. It’s also worth mentioning that you can have several target audiences within one target market. For example, you might target female business owners in Dallas or millennial business owners in Dallas with separate marketing campaigns.  

Target Audience vs. Brand Persona 

Your target audience looks at an entire group, whereas a brand persona looks at the individuals inside that group. A brand persona is a fictional character that represents individual people inside your target audience. Often, companies will come up with fake names and backstories to personalize their brand persona. 

For example, millennial small business owners in Dallas may be your target audience. However, your brand personas are Matthew, a 33-year-old solopreneur who loves outdoor activities and traveling, and Sarah, a 29-year-old boutique shop owner who enjoys reality TV and concerts. 

Brand personas are really helpful for understanding pain points and getting granular with your marketing efforts. As a note, you’ll want to create them once you’ve identified your target audience. 

So, What’s Included in a Target Audience?

Now that we’ve defined a target audience and differentiated it from other marketing terms let’s talk a little more about what types of information a target audience should include. In general, your target audience should define the following: 

  • Where they are – aka your ideal customer’s location 
  • Who they are – aka demographics information, like age, gender, income, profession, marital status, education level, etc. 
  • Why they buy – aka their pain points and purchasing behavior
  • How they buy – e.g., are they online or in-person shoppers?
  • Interests – aka their hobbies, like gaming, sports, skateboarding, etc. 
  • Subcultures – are they a part of any subcultures, like music scenes, religious groups, wellness behaviors, fashion scenes, etc.?   

This may seem like a lot of information to uncover and understand. However, the more thorough your target audience is, the more effective your marketing initiatives will be. 

How to Identify Your Target Audience 

So, how do you decide who your target audience should be? And how can you ensure you have all the details you need to define? Following these seven steps should help. 

Step One: Look at Your Existing Customer Base 

The easiest way to understand your target audience is to look at your existing customer base and see if you notice any apparent similarities between your best customers. If you have a CRM, you can sort your customers into segments pretty easily. 

However, if you don’t have a formal CRM, consider creating a secure excel file or Google sheet, and fill out all relevant information you have about your customers. Then, sort and sift through the data to find commonalities and overlaps. 

Step Two: Do Some Customer Interviews & Surveys

If you don’t have tons of relevant customer information, consider distributing customer surveys or engaging with them on social media. You can even do small giveaways in exchange for survey participation. 

Running polls on your Instagram stories or simply asking questions in your posts can be a terrific way to get conversations going and learn a bit more about your customers and audience. 

Step Three: Complete Market Research 

Once you’ve gathered all you can from your existing customers, it’s time to conduct some market research. Market research is the process of researching and gathering information about consumers’ preferences and needs. 

To start, you can look into industry trends, peruse social media, hold focus groups, do one-on-one interviews, conduct product research, look at your Google Analytics or UX data, and more. Your goal is to uncover as much information as possible about your industry, product, and, most importantly, the people interested in them. 

Step Four: Look at Your Competitors 

Your biggest competitors can be the best source for understanding your target audience. Who are they targeting with their marketing efforts? What are their social media followers like? How are they marketing (online or offline, organic or paid, etc.)?

Your competitors can either illuminate your target audience or show you which part of the market they aren’t already hitting. For example, you might notice your competitors primarily target middle-aged male business owners, showing you that younger female entrepreneurs aren’t being served. 

Step Five: Eliminate People Who Don’t Fit 

Sometimes, it’s easier to figure out who doesn’t fit versus who does. In these instances, using the process of elimination can help you get closer to identifying your target audience. 

The best way to work this process is to go through the list of things that should be in your target audience (listed above) and work your way through. For example, you can start by eliminating locations where your target audience doesn’t live until you get a better idea of where they do. Then, continue working through the list. 

Step Six: Create Some Personas 

It’s imperative you do the other five steps first. If you go straight into creating your brand personas, you’ll build your characters around guesses about who your target customer is instead of who they actually are. 

However, when you’re ready, HubSpot has a terrific tool to help you create brand personas here.

Step Seven. Analyze and Revise 

Once you’ve created your target audience, it’s time to start marketing directly to them. Create ads and content specifically for your target audience and brand personas. Then, watch the performance.

As with any type of marketing, it might take a little tweaking to get your target audience totally dialed in. You can use social media analytics, Google analytics, engagement, and your sales to analyze your results. Then, revise until you get it right! 

Start Creating Your Target Audience Today 

The clearer your target audience is, the more personalized your marketing can be. And personalized marketing results in lower spend and better results. 

Remember to base your target audience on actual research and data. You don’t want to guess about this. Too many companies think they know their target audience, only to figure out their gut instinct was wrong. 

So, start working through these seven steps today, and figure out who’s waiting to hear from you.