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  • Writer's pictureNat Sharp

How to define your target audience

Updated: Apr 13, 2023

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Do you know your target audience?

Spending time gathering data on your business and doing market research with customers and prospects is the first part of your marketing journey. From there, you can build a map of your market and how it's segmented.

It’s at this point you start to make vital choices about who you’re going to target and which direction you’re going in as a business. This can feel daunting, but running a business involves making crucial decisions. As marketing guru, Seth Godin is famous for saying “not everyone is your customer”.

I find targeting one of the most difficult parts of building a marketing plan because you will have to make tough commercially sound decisions on who you’re going to target. You'll need to weigh up demand, take up, and profitability. This isn’t always who you had in mind and your heart and head may be telling you different things but remember nothing is set in stone forever.

But get the targeting right and the rest of the strategy and investment in tactical marketing activity will bring huge benefits.

What is a target audience

To begin with, let's start by defining what is a target audience. A target audience is a particular group of people in the market that a business is going to try to reach with their marketing. They’re normally grouped within the segmentation phase due to them sharing similar behaviours, attitudes, and demographics. Segmentation is the process of where we divide customers into smaller groups. This can be done by demographics, geography, psychographics or behaviour.

Targeting is often a part of the process that is neglected as it is easy for businesses to think they know everything about their customers and make assumptions based on limited or no evidence. So let us look in more detail how you can be sure you're targeting the right people and finding out everything you can about them.

Why it’s crucial

Making the choice of who you’re going to target ensures your resources and budget is maximised. You may have limited people in your business to manage marketing along with a small budget, so you want to do one or two things well, aimed at one target group. Trying to do too much will add extra strain and you won't see the benefit of multiple things in a small way.

Your positioning, which is the next step in your marketing plan should be based on your main target audience. Without doing this, you run the risk of your audience not knowing what you stand for and you could confuse them or turn them off. The chances are one core group of potential customers could influence others so this is another good reason to be focused.

Your channel selection should also be based on your main group of customers. The more defined the better so a very broad or the wrong target audience could take you in a different direction.

Interview your existing customers

Start by speaking to your existing customers. Ask them a series of questions to better understand their motivations and pain points. The idea is to get a strong picture of their day-to-day life, be it at home or work. Find out what is most important to them, what they look for when buying a product or serve and what turns them off. You may find it easier for an outsider to complete this exercise. You can hire a marketing consultant or market research agency.

Crunch your data

If you’re already a well-established business, the good news is you have a wealth of data at your disposal.

Look at the following sources to spot trends and identify your most valuable and engaged group of customers:-

· Google Analytics

· Social media research

· Examine your lead sources

· Look at billing data and identify your most profitable customers

· Look at prospect data and marketing mailing lists

Look at annual and monthly patterns to understand your audience's behaviour at different stages of the customer journey – from when they are researching and getting to learn about your business, to when they are your most valued customer.

Conduct further research

Target audiences do evolve. You could be dismissing or discounting a new group of customers, so in an ideal world, you should conduct research with other prospects, particularly if there have been significant market developments. They're likely to have different views and opinions and could open up the doors to new opportunities you haven’t considered.

Develop a persona

It is only at this stage you should create a persona. Doing this at the beginning of the planning process means you are second-guessing and making assumptions about your target audience.

You can create a persona by writing down all the characteristics, behaviours, and attitudes of a typical person in the target group. This will include their demographics, lifestyle, background, media habits, and what they like and don't like. It's in this persona you can find things to influence the positioning and messaging of your product or business.

Test, learn and evolve

You can always test the response with different audiences to fine-tune your ideal customer.

Audiences will naturally evolve particularly as markets become more mature, so don’t rule something out because you think they are not your target audience.

I would certainly recommend going through this exercise on an annual basis and your sales or business development teams should be looking at and reporting on this data frequently.

For more marketing advice and insight, check out my Sharp End blog. For a free 30-minute consultation to discuss any element of marketing for your business, then please drop me a line.

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