How to Define Your Target Audience
Are you wondering how to find your target audience and create content that actually resonates with them?
Or are you looking for ways to identify, analyse and find your target market quickly and accurately?
Great. You’re in the right place.
Defining your precise target market can be frustrating. On the surface of it, summarising your ideal market segment seems like a simple, no-brainer kind of task.
You’re a sofa company. You’re looking for people who want to sit on sofas…right?
Well, sure. But so is every other sofa company.
So, what is it that’s going to make you communicate and connect with your audience more effectively than your competitors are?
Correctly and thoroughly defining your target audience is a good place to start.
To build a solid business foundation in any market, requires you to segment your potential customer base. Doing so helps you to mobilise your resources towards satisfying the needs of that particular group.
Without defining your niche market, you’ll be creating conflicting marketing messages that haphazardly try to please everyone. These messages will ultimately fall on deaf ears. As we’ve talked about before, your customer is selfish and doesn’t want to feel like a small fish in a big pond.
You also need to remember that not everyone is intent on buying from you.
Regardless of whether everyone in some form or another is looking for a sofa, it’s going to be a very different type of person who chooses to buy from Loaf than from DFS, for instance.
So, who is right for your business – and more importantly, why are you right for them?
Markets everywhere are highly dynamic. And market shares are fickle. Markets change. Customers change their preferences.
Or maybe you fail to change your marketing strategy to sync with your market segment and can no longer identify your target market needs.
For you to retain customers, remain competitive and secure your target market, you need to have a deep understanding of what motivates your buyers. And therein lies the disconnect.
Many business owners and marketers commit the branding sin of going on and on about their product’s features. They forget the most important thing: why those features exist in the first place.
They forget to speak to the customer.
To demonstrate how their product or service’s features will help solve the buyer’s problem. They do not understand their customers’ needs – their buyer personas.
What is a Target Market?
In his post for the Huffington Post, Goldman Sachs compares operating a business without a plan to driving without directions. You’re not sure where to turn, or even where you’re headed.
An intimate part of a business plan is having a clear understanding of your perfect client. That is, you can comfortably demonstrate the who, what and – most importantly – the why of your product or service.
Essentially, you should be able to pinpoint:
- What features your business, product or service offers
- How those features are different from everyone else’s
- What the benefits of those features are, or what problem they’ve been created to address
- How those benefits matter or help solve your customer’s problem
- Who is likely to buy from you given the benefits above. Be sure to include their age, financial status, marital status, education level, employment status, and so on
Marketing without first defining your market segment is a lot like driving without directions.
You spend a lot of time and waste a lot of fuel on making all the wrong turns.
What is a Buyer Persona?
We’ve talked a lot about customer and buyer personas in The Ultimate Small Business Branding Guide. But to refresh:
A buyer persona is a character representing your ideal customer. Contrary to popular thinking, buyer personas are not fictional and generalised characters of your target customer.
They should be based on both your existing target market, as well as your prospective customer moving forward.
If you’re stood staring at that whiteboard wondering where on earth to begin, here’s the good news:
Creating client personas is not that challenging if you know the right questions to ask. The right answers should help connect the dots and give you your buyer personas.
So, how do you know what to ask?
Why You Need to Identify Your Ideal Market Segment
Many businesses and marketers feel market segmentation restricts them to a tiny market. And that choosing a tiny market would not make commercial sense.
It’s also possible to feel that segmenting excludes many potential customers.
These are legitimate concerns.
The excitement of launching can make you assume everyone else feels the same way as you do. The truth is that you might be assuming too much.
You can benefit from identifying and analysing your focus market when:
- You’re working on marketing your business
- You’re looking to start a new business
- You’re rebranding your company
- You’re expanding your product lines
- You’re expanding into a new market
Here, you need to identify the people who are willing, able and genuinely interested in buying a product like yours for several reasons:
- To figure out if there’s a need for your product, service or idea
- To analyse if the need in the market makes commercial sense to invest in
- To be able to identify your competition and what market share they command
- To figure out what you can do differently to carve a profitable market share and be competitive
- To decide which marketing methods you can use to bolster visibility as a new player and how you can use those to increase reach or engagement
- You are already in business but want to improve conversion
Refining your target market analysis when you are already operational has several benefits as well:
- To find out how you can use your ideal customers’ favoured marketing methods to increase effectiveness
- To inform you whether you should switch and tailor your marketing messages. (This can help you connect with a specific group of potential and existing customers.)
- To learn what buyers use your product or service for. (You can use that knowledge to further refine your potential customer base.)
- To help understand your existing customers pain points. (What exactly do they wish you’d include in your product or service to solve their suffering?)
- You are already in business but want to increase your competitiveness
Jumping into your competitors’ market pool isn’t the smartest move. But, prior research will help you figure out what customers are not getting from their seller. Which would help you to understand how to plug those gaps and fulfil those dissatisfied customers.
Defining your core market helps you to focus your efforts on satisfying a specific set of customer needs. So, you can ensure continuous improvement and become an authority in your area.
That, in turn, helps you build trust. And establishing trust gets you loyal customers and repeat business.
How to Identify and Analyse your Target Market in 2021 and Beyond
So, how do you ensure to relish in the benefits of segmenting your focus market?
Here are 6 ways to help you decode your target market, both online and off:
1. Stop Making Assumptions
Remember that old saying about assuming?
Well, it’s a pretty timeless one.
So, don’t be surprised if what you think of your focus market is wrong. Instead, let the data do the talking.
Collect the research to inform your decision rather than relying on Angie from PR’s opinion on your market segment (just because she binge watches Judge Rinder, doesn’t mean she knows what all criminal barristers are like, or what legal practice management software would appeal to them).
Here are some surprising stats that might catch you off-guard:
- Did you know Audiense found that about 21% of confessed English National Opera fans also followed Snoop Dogg?
- The most popular post on Creative and Coffee, a cooking blog, is “How to Toss A Burger Like A Badass” and is most popular with men?
- An increasing number of women fashion stores are styling up to appeal to men too. They figured more men are coming in to buy items on behalf of their partners or for themselves.
- It would not be surprising to find out that many kids get, not what they or their parents want, but their nannies’ wishes. This is especially so for children whose parents are young professionals with significant income and restrictive working hours.
If you’ve got a brand strategy in place, we’d assume that you already have a rough idea of what you’re selling, why you’re in business and who you’re selling to. If your brand has an operational website, it’s also highly likely that you’ll have some valuable data that you can tap into to find out who you’re actually communicating with.
Just a head’s up: it might not be who you think.
It might surprise you to know who’s actually resonating with your brand vs the customer persona you had in mind when you set up the organisation. And those unexpected demographics shouldn’t be ignored.
As a starter for 10, you can access your website’s audience data to find your prominent demographic groups. Google Analytics handily separates your audience information into demographics and interests, so you can use this information to start padding out your personas.
2. Find Out Your Potential Customers’ Pain Points — and Offer A Viable Solution
A mistake many businesses make is to assume buyers care about their brand.
Buyers care about the problems you can help them to overcome.
Or, the values you can help them align with.
Intercom’s Des Traynor once said: “Products solve problems – not people”
You make a mistake every time you talk about yourself instead of addressing what you’re doing to alleviate the suffering of your customer.
And you also need to research exactly what it is that your clients love about your product or service. Most of the time, it probably won’t be what you expect.
A good example:
Popular thinking attributes Apple’s massive success to producing superior hardware and software. But experts know better.
Apple’s diehard flock (a.k.a. “fanboys”), ultimately desires and values the emotional fulfillment an Apple device gives them. This includes perceived quality, superior technology and the feeling of being a part of an advanced movement/society.
In fact, the company sells millions of over-priced devices (compared to say, Samsung Mobile). They also offer a closed operating system (unlike Android’s inclusive platform). But instead of making Apple enthusiasts feel isolated, they actually manage to achieve the exact opposite.
Clever and effective marketing, backed by a crystal clear understanding of their customer, helps Apple to make buyers feel part of a special, privileged group.
And it’s this emotional connection that helps the Silicon Valley giant continue to steer clear of their competition (even when they infuriatingly position the Lightning port underneath the mouse…)
They end up selling dozens of millions more devices in mature smartphone markets than any other smartphone maker.
Every time you write a marketing message that makes you smile or nod your head, ask yourself – would my target audience react in the same way?
Creating accurate buyer personas can help you to avoid confirmation bias – as well as the innate bias you’ll have towards your brand, which is completely normal, but could also be a key contributor towards distorting your marketing efforts.
We hate to break it to you, but just because you and your stakeholders think your tech product is the most innovative and intuitive on the market – doesn’t necessarily mean that ‘Early Adopter Eric’ agrees.
3. Create Accurate Buyer Personas
Successful businesses use buyer personas to craft a compelling story that relates to their core customer, as well as connect with them emotionally.
Once you do that, you can create more compelling and relevant content for your customer persona.
So, ask yourself whether you’re creating the right buyer personas. This will help you define the ‘who’ aspect. Asking who your buyer is helps to analyse and answer a number of vital targeting questions, such as:
- Age. E.g. What age/age group or bracket does your product or service appeal to?
- Financial status. E.g. Can your market segment afford your offering and how often will they buy your product?
- Gender. E.g. What gender is likely to make the larger section of your market? And is it possible the smaller section has higher potential in terms of growth, loyalty, expenditure and so on?
- Occupation. E.g. What do they do for a living and how does that affect their purchase decisions?
- Life Situations. E.g. Dig into the people’s details such as their job title and function, employer or employee, family life, marital status, location.
- Psychographics/AIO variables/Emotional Needs. E.g. What do your potential ideal customers value, find exciting, shareable and interesting? What’s their dominant behaviour or personality, what opinions do they hold regarding certain things and lifestyles?
On top of thinking about demographics and psychographics (which will come in mighty handy for things like LinkedIn or Facebook ads), you should also be asking empathy-driven questions that will help you drill down to the true, tangible value of your product.
That tangible value is what’s going to help you to create a brand that’s memorable, clearly positioned and relatable to the right people.
We love asking the following simple questions:
- What are your customer’s values/what do they care about?
- What do you want them to care about?
- Why should they care?
- Why don’t they care?
- Why would they be loyal to your business?
- Why would they avoid your business?
By tackling these questions early on, you can work to overcome any potential barriers or align with any specific customer cravings through your communications.
And of course, your targeting campaign becomes easier.
With these juicy insights, you’ll be able to follow up with crafting a marketing strategy and brand messaging that talks your audience’s language and speaks directly to their struggles. Messaging that amplifies their aspirations. And connects the dots between what they need and how your product or service can help them get it.
4. Take Steps to Define and Become an Authority in your Core Market
It’s highly likely that your organisation doesn’t just have one, but multiple target audiences.
For example, who does a pizza shop target?
It could be anyone from students to parents via a home-delivery service, workmen who are in a hurry and between jobs, or young professionals who have little time for ‘proper’ meals.
It could even be vegetarians who struggle to find quick and tasty alternative takeaway veggie options.
The moral is: it can be tricky to serve a multifaceted focus market. In such a case, understanding each sub-segment is essential for the long run. You’ll want to ask which section of buyers pays you the most and start with focusing on that segment of customers before appealing to the others.
Yes, you can target those looking for vegan pizzas or cookies after that.
Peter Thiel had good advice for this type of situation.
According to his reinvention of the John Gall ‘Law’ on working, ‘simple systems’, you’ll want to do one thing first – and do it right – before exploring further options. This is essential if you seek to replicate your initial success to other areas.
“Taking on too much initially sets up a startup for failure. Instead, focus on monopolizing one market first before expanding to the other segments” – Peter Thiel
You might recall the earlier days of Facebook and Amazon. While Facebook initially targeted students of prestigious US colleges exclusively (you couldn’t even sign up unless you had a specific college email address), Amazon focused their efforts on selling books online.
Once they had monopolised their core market, they set out on a solid foundation to colonise other segments.
Still, traditional market segmentation can become complex, fast. Particularly when demographics and geography don’t matter much and interests overlap.
So, how do you decode your target customer segment in those circumstances?
5. Why Not Just Ask?
Sometimes, the most obvious solution is the most overlooked.
One of the best ways to find out about your core market is simply to ask them!
Sure, it might seem scary or time-consuming. You might prefer to go away and theorise about ‘Student Samantha’ rather than retrieve answers that don’t quite fit the persona (or the product) you have in mind.
But in the long run, defining your target audience based on an idealised version of your customer isn’t going to get you very far.
So, try running a survey on your social media channels or website home page. Ask your visitors to share their frustrations. And find out what they love about your product. What is it that’s putting them off or keeping them coming back for more? What do they use your product or service for? And what else do they hope to experience in terms of future improvements?
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have that information first-hand?
Then, just ask!
You can also set up face-to-face meetings to interview real people about the same issues. You could interview prospects at trade shows and niche seminars.
When working from home, conducting meet-ups via Skype, Zoom or free WhatsApp calls can work their magic too.
Or, you can use online tools such as SurveyMonkey to gather up insights from volunteers. Some people prefer disclosing some forms of information anonymously through online surveys, particularly if they don’t feel like they’re being compelled to sign up to a purchase commitment.
Tasmania-based agency, For the People hosted community workshops, visited historical sites, ran stalls at markets, started a Facebook group and even pulled up stools in pubs and cafes throughout the region to gather unique and highly personal customer insights for Derwent Valley’s rebrand. The result was incredibly emotive and intensely customer-centric marketing messages that put the local community (Derwent Valley council’s target persona) right at the core of the brand.
If you don’t have the time or the in-house resources, try using a third-party researcher. That way, customers feel free to give their honest opinions and not pressured to give half the story.
Your researcher can conduct interviews and interact with actual customers in focus group set-ups and other one-on-one events relating to your area of business.
We’re under no illusion, by the way, that surveys are something people jump at the chance to get involved with. In truth, they’re often the last thing customers want to participate in and the first thing to be banished into their junk mail.
However, if people feel that they’re either being rewarded (let’s say, with free products, services or experiences) or are being empowered to become a more intrinsic part of your brand (in the case of co-creation, when a business allows consumers to submit ideas, designs or content), then they may be much more inclined to get involved.
Ultimately, people are willing to contribute their honest opinion if they feel it will reward them with increased value.
Providing incentives to encourage survey participation can be a good move if your company doesn’t mind too much about the cost of freebies.
However, you’ll need to keep an eye on whether your participants are chipping in solely to get the goodies (definitely not unheard of, particularly on social media) – which may skew responses and lead to inaccurate intelligence.
Regardless of how you go about it, just remember:
Instead of focusing too much on generalised attributes and theorised behaviours, gleaning a genuine understanding of the problems from the people who experience them is the real golden ticket.
And the best way to truly ‘get it’, is to ask those people directly.
6. Learn from Your Competition
When you’re just starting out, you might not necessarily want to reinvent the wheel.
So, learning from your competition – what they’re doing well, as well as what they’re not doing so well, can help you to tap into a group of unsatisfied customers that are willing and able to switch to your solution. That is, if you can provide a better solution than your competitor, of course.
Similarly, what they’re doing right could help you understand the aspirations of your targeted market.
You can find out:
- How they describe their business and position their brand in the market
- How is their pricing and are their customers able and willing to pay that much? Think you can offer something extra for the same price or higher?
- What marketing methods do they use most and which ones seem most effective for them?
- What are their future plans?
Yet, this type of information can be challenging to gather without some level of digging or insider insight. But looking around, there are tools you can use to capture that data and feed to your targeting strategy.
This is especially true if your competition has a significant online presence.
Here are some online software solutions that you can use to legitimately spy on your competition and gather intelligence for your targeting campaign:
- Google Analytics
- Similar Web
These tools also double-up as ways to capture, record and help you decode other aspects of your segmentation efforts. They include the demographics, geography, interests and financial statuses of your potential customers.
Check out this post we wrote about how to perform a brand analysis on your brand’s competitors if you’re struggling to get started.
Conclusion: How to Define Your Target Audience
Defining your target market helps determine the core needs of potential customers.
Understanding those pain-points will help you refine your product, service or marketing campaign to address them. This helps you to connect with people who are looking for a product or service that can solve their problem.
You can learn this from analyzing the competition. Or by asking potential customers through primary research. Also, first focus on solving the problem you find before looking to expand your market scope.
Still need more information on how to find and define your target market?
We have just the resources to help you decode your ideal niche. Let us know if we can help.
Have you managed to define your target audience? How did you do it? Let us know in the comments below.
19 min read