How to Define a Target Audience (For Your Marketing Plans)
Whether you’ve just started your business or you’re looking to revamp your marketing efforts, there’s one thing you need to secure: getting customers. This is where your target audience comes in. Identifying and finding your target audience can help set your business off on the right path.
In this tutorial, you’ll learn the definition of a target audience and why knowing your target audience is important. We’ll also explore techniques you can use to discover who your target customer is. Finally, we’ll provide you with some additional resources to help with your marketing.
What is a Target Audience?
Simply put, your target audience is the group of people you’re making your products and services for. Other terms used to describe this group are “target market” and “target customer.”
Here are some examples of business ideas paired with a potential target audience:
Possible Target Audience
Newly engaged couples in your city
Lawn care service
Homeowners with yards who live within a 10-mile radius of your office
Small to medium-sized businesses that sell high-end products
Companies in the customer service industry
Martial arts gym
Adults in your city who want training in self-defense
Online meditation course
Stressed professionals in high-pressure jobs
It might not seem important to spend time identifying your target audience, especially if you’re excited to start selling your products and services. But if you avoid this exercise you might create long-term problems for your business. After all, many of your business decisions will depend on who your target audience is.
The Target Audience: The Key to Your Success
If there’s one thing on every small business owner’s mind, it’s how to increase sales or get more customers. But finding the right marketing approach gets in the way of accomplishing these goals.
According to a recent study from Staples, more than a third of business owners have trouble designing effective marketing materials. Additionally, half of business owners don’t know how to reach prospective customers.
The first step to resolving these marketing problems is identifying and getting to know your target customer really well. As a result of identifying and getting to know your target customer, you’ll know the following:
The products and services you’ll offer
What price points to set for your products and services
The type of marketing materials you’ll need (a website, flyers, posters, radio ads, blog posts, etc.)
The benefits and features you’ll highlight in your marketing materials
The exact key words you’ll use in your marketing copy
The design of your marketing materials
Where you’ll send or display your marketing materials
Where you’ll advertise
In other words, target audience definition will be the foundation of your marketing efforts and, possibly, your entire business.
Step 1. How to Identify Your Target Audience
Now that you know why a target audience is essential, it’s time to select your first audience group. Below are a list of characteristics you should consider identifying (use the attached worksheet for guidance):
Demographics are the criteria you use to describe a specific part of the population. Some example of demographics include:
You can also narrow down your audience based on geography or location. You can pick a neighborhood, city, province/state, or country. You can also specify via distance. For example, you can target customers within a 10-mile radius of your city. Or you can target customers within your city and the cities that surround it.
For those who want to run an online business for customers or clients worldwide, you might not need to set a location. Still, it’s possible that as your business grows, you’ll see some cities or countries where most of your customers tend to come from. You can specifically target those areas later or switch to other locations that can bring the opportunities you want.
Unlike demographics, a group’s psychographics are more difficult to guess externally, since these are more relevant to their personality. Here are some audience psychographics you can specify:
These could include topics of interest, hobbies, regular activities, and behaviors. Some examples:
Board game enthusiasts
You can also specify what your ideal audience believes about a topic or issue. For example:
People who value video games developed by independent developers rather than large development companies.
People who are concerned about the environment or climate change.
People who believe that work life balance is essential.
People who are always looking for the lowest price.
4. Pick at Least Two Identifiers
While you don’t need to identify all of the above characteristics, you do need to know at least two. Why two? Having only one criterion will be a very broad market — it’ll be as if you didn’t target anyone at all. On the other hand, filling out all the characteristics might be too narrow. It might also help to review the examples listed earlier in this guide. See if you can find the demographic, location, and psychographic identifiers used in each audience group.
Step 2. How to Use Target Market Tools
Even after following the steps above and filling out the worksheet, you might not feel sure about your selected audience. If you need help figuring out your target audience and learning more about them, the following tools can be useful:
1. Facebook Audience Insights
Facebook Audience Insights is a tool that can help you specify and learn more about your target audience. You start by selecting different audience criteria such as location, age, interests, and behaviors. Then, you’ll learn more things about them, including the size of your target market, and any trends in demographics or psychographics.
Let’s say you want to open a comic book store in Dallas. You can select “Dallas” for location, and under “Interests,” select “Comics.” Audience Insights then automatically reveals that Facebook users in Dallas who are interested in Comics tend to be in the 25 to 34 age group. There’s also a balance between male and female members of that target market. Facebook also gives you an estimate for the size of the market: around 100,000 people.
Facebook Audience Insights is most useful for giving you additional demographic and psychographic data that you can use to define your audience. It can also give you a general estimate of how big that potential audience could be.
One caveat you should know about the data is that most of it’s based on users’ self-reported data and behaviors on Facebook only. This means that you shouldn’t treat it as 100-percent accurate, but it can give you a good big picture idea about your target audience. If your intended audience doesn’t really use Facebook, then it might not be as useful to you.
2. Google Trends
Google Trends helps you determine interest in a particular keyword or topic over time. This can be helpful if you want to narrow down a location for your business idea, as well as any general trends.
Let’s say you want to open a board game shop in the United States. Type up board game related keywords into Google Trends.
You can then find out the top areas, cities, and states with the most interest in board games. You’ll also quickly see that interest in board games is seasonal — it consistently peaks mid-November (before Thanksgiving) and the peaks last until Christmas Eve.
This tells you that your target audience tends to be seasonal buyers, but that there is also some consistent interest in board games over the years.
Claritas MyBestSegments has two free tools that can come in handy when defining your target market, as long as that market is within the United States. Zip Code Lookup is most useful for businesses that want to target specific areas. Just enter a zip code in the form, and it’ll list the common marketing segments available for that area. You also get other demographic data breakdowns for the area, such as age, household income, household composition, and race and ethnicity.
Don’t forget to click on the market segments in the results. This will give you more details about the other interests, behaviors, and demographics of that segment. In the example below, the detailed view of the “Cruisin’ to Retirement” segment shows that they love to listen to talk radio and are typically suburbanites. This already gives you hints about possible advertising and marketing opportunities.
If you don’t want to search by location, you can also search by market segment and take it from there. You can head straight to Segment Details and pick a market segment close to the target audience you’ve chosen. The market segments are organized according to consumer behavior (PRIZM Premier), financial behavior (P$YCLE), and technology behavior (ConneXions).
Step 3. Test Your Target Market
When you’ve got your target market locked down, you can go through the following business planning processes more easily:
This would also be a good time to start testing your target audience to see if it’s a good fit for your product or service offering. Here are some ways you can do this:
1. Get Feedback From People in Your Target Audience
Do you know some people who might fall under that target market? If you do, you can talk to them about your business. Show them photo prototypes of your product or list the services you plan to offer. Find out what they think. Specifically, find out if they’ve purchased similar products or services before, what their major concerns were, and how satisfied they were with the experience.
You’ll know that the target audience is a fit for your offer if they seem highly enthusiastic, have purchased from similar businesses before, and they acknowledge that they have the problem that your business is trying to solve.
If you’re lacking in direct contacts who fall in your target market, look for online and offline groups that do. For online groups, you can search for Facebook groups, Reddit communities, or message boards that are relevant to the audience you’re aiming for. Offline groups might include special interest groups like gardening clubs or your local Chamber of Commerce. You can also take advantage of relevant public events, such as conventions or meetups, and ask around.
2. Set Up a Mailing List
You can also set up an online mailing list and get subscribers through advertising or by posting about it on social media or online groups. If you get several subscribers in a few days, you’ll know that there’s some interest in your offer.
Dan Benjamin, a podcaster and entrepreneur, recently talked about having a shirt designed, uploading a mockup of it, and setting up a mailing list form via Tinyletter for people who might be interested. Within half an hour, a hundred people had signed up, interested in the shirt. Only after that did he set up an online store for it.
Instead of a mailing list, you can also opt for a landing page. Apart from asking people to subscribe to an email list, you can also ask them to pre-order, or to get additional information (such as downloading an ebook or brochure or playing an informative video). The number of people who follow through on the page’s main call-to-action can give you an idea whether your target audience will respond to your offers or not.
You can review the following guides if you need more information on how landing pages work:
You can also direct your target audience to your social media page. This tends to be a good starter option if you’re in the early stages of your business and currently don’t have the skills or resources to set up your own landing page. The following tutorials can help you with this:
Once you’ve got enough followers, you’ll be able to see their group demographics. Does it match your intended audience? If it does, then you’re on the right track. If it’s wildly different, then you’ll need to make some adjustments to your intended audience.
You can also use a combination of the above techniques. You could buy an ad that leads to a landing page. Or you could go to an online group and after getting their feedback, ask interested parties to join your mailing list.
Remember: When you start acting on your marketing plans, your target audience might change — and that’s normal. As you grow your business and learn more about what works, you’ll refine your target audience. You might realize that there’s an underserved market that you want to reach. Or you might find that different subgroups within your target audience respond to different product benefits. If your target market isn’t responding in the way you intended, or if you realize that they’re not a good fit for your offers, either adjust your offers or rethink the way you define your target market.
Define Your Target Audience Now
It’s tempting to skip the steps above and proceed with more aggressive steps like buying ads on Facebook or printing out flyers. But the foundation of your marketing plan should be who your customers are. How you phrase your copy, the design choices you make, and where you choose to advertise all depend on the needs and interests of your desired audience. Once you’ve got a clear picture of who your target audience is, it’ll be much easier to come up with the rest of your marketing plan.