How well do you know your target audience?
I mean, really know them.
You may think you know them, but if I asked you to describe them, could you tell me what keeps them up at night, or where they hang out online and what they do in their spare time? Do you know what they aspire to in life or what drives them to buy your products and services?
Why it’s important to research a target audience
Marketers and business strategists are always banging on about how important it is to research your target audience.
For good reason.
The primary principle of powerful marketing is to get the right message to the right audience. So, regardless of what you sell, you need to understand their world if you’re going to succeed in business.
How does it make you feel when Facebook ads arrive in your newsfeed that you have absolutely no interest in? Or what about when you read that article on SEO that completely loses you? It probably makes you wonder why they bother.
One of the most common mistakes business owners make is trying to appeal to a everyone. They create generic messages that don’t appeal to the people they’re trying to attract, and they use language that their audience doesn’t understand. They’re hoping that by casting a wide net they’ll attract the big fish— but instead they waste valuable time and money attracting the wrong type of customers.
Imagine how much easier it would be if you could target your ideal clients —people you want to work with, who energise and inspire you, who want your service and are happy to pay for it.
It’s possible to achieve this through target marketing and target market research.
What is Target Marketing?
Target Marketing is the process of identifying a group of people your business serves, for example, business owners, women or overweight people.
This group of people are called a Target Market.
However, because a target market is an extensive and unspecified group of people, it’s necessary to break it down into a specific group (within that target market). This group will become your Target Audience.
The Benefits of Target Market Research
Whether you’re just starting or growing your business, you need to know who your clients are and how to attract them. Without clients, your business has no chance of surviving. Conducting target market research enables you to find the best clients to work with and has many other benefits. You will
- Develop better relationships with your audience.
Knowing what creates tension in their business and their lives means that you can empathise with them. This means that you’ll get higher engagement on your messages because your audience knows that you ‘get them‘. You’ll begin to develop trust.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
~Maya Angelou, poet
- Get more engagement on your content. Because you’ll know what interests and connects with them
- Be more productive. Creating marketing content will be easier (for the same reason as above)
- Know what motivates your audience to buy, so you’ll know how to persuade them
- Know where to find them online and off
- Better understand how your products and services fit the needs of your target audience, so you can tailor them to suit
- Learn other ways to serve your audience and develop new products and services that you may not have thought of.
How to Define your Target Audience
Now you know who your overall target market is, it’s time to break it down into a specific category of people within that group. The first step is to decide who will benefit the most from your solutions, who you’re most passionate about helping and who are most likely to buy from you.
These people will have commonalities based around a mix of demographics such as age, occupation or marital status, and psychographics such as aspirations, beliefs and, most importantly, a common problem or need that your business can solve. For example:
- new mums aged 18-35 who struggle with parenting
- overweight men over 40 who have irritable bowel syndrome
- MAMILs: Middle-Aged Men in Lycra who ride bicycles
To narrow this list down even further, you may want to include your own criteria for the types of people you want to work with—those who you consider to be your ideal clients. Or you may decide to work with people from one particular industry. This narrow focus is known as a niche.
Once you have compiled this list, the ‘people’ on this list become your Target Audience.
The next step is to research and discover what makes that target audience tick, and you can reach them.
How do you find a target audience?
The idea behind the research is to get as much information as you can on your target audience. The more you know and understand them, the easier it will be to sell and market to them. Therefore, knowing your target audience well is one of the most important things you can do for your business.
1. A great place to start is to research your client base
Look at the characteristics of your best existing or past customers and for commonalities among them. Then, create a spreadsheet to record your findings.
- Categorize by demographics: age, gender, location, profession, title and industry and then by psychographics: beliefs about your industry, hobbies, and interests. Include any other relevant or interesting information you find.
- Add any groups they belong to (networking, social, industry etc.) and any conferences or events they attend.
- Consider who are the easiest to work with. What qualities or behaviours makes them the easiest?
- Where do you meet your clients? Are there particular types of people or industries you seem drawn to?
- If they are past clients, look at what they purchased from you. Then, analyze what were they like to work with, adding anything else you know about them.
- What do you know about your website visitors and people who have downloaded your offer or signed up for your newsletter?
2. Go online to Research Potential Prospects
- Check out any Facebook groups your target audience may belong to—business groups, industry groups, special interest groups etc. Immerse yourself in the community to understand their problems and see the world through their eyes.
- When you find someone who fits the criteria of your audience, look at the questions they ask – is it something you can help them with? Look at the answers they give to others. Do they say anything revealing? Have they recommended any businesses? Check out what they post, what links they share, any advice they give and what they’re interested in. To search for a particular topic within the group. Simply click on the search tool and type in your criteria.
- Look at your 2nd and 3rd level connections on LinkedIn. Do they have commonalities within the criteria of your target audience? Then, dig a little deeper and look at their activity, what type of content they comment on, what comments they make, and what content they share? When a person shares content from a third party, it’s because it resonates with them.
- Add these to the spreadsheet.
3. Research your Competition
Keep a close eye on your competition. If their businesses are selling a similar product to yourself and have been doing so for years, they already know your audience very well.
- Look at their social media platforms and for the content that gets the most engagement. Also look at the people who leave comments. Can you learn anything about them? What type of content resonates with them the most? (This will give you an indication of the type of content you could consider posting).
- Add these to the spreadsheet.
4. Look for them when you’re out and about
- Practice the art of networking— Visit networking groups, conferences, trade shows and anywhere your target clients hang out. Talk to people who match your target audience—practice 80% listening and 20% talking. Use open-ended questions and pay attention to their body language. Sometimes it’s about reading between the lines.
- Add these to the spreadsheet.
Organize your spreadsheet
By now, you’ll have a lengthy spreadsheet with lots of columns.
Go through the list and highlight the common characteristics.
Organize that list into at least one profile (ideal client persona) based on those shared characteristics,
Evaluate your decision
Once you’ve done the research and decided on who your target audience is, it’s time to consider the following; ask yourself
- Has the research shown my target audience to be who I thought they were?
- Are there enough people in my target audience who need my products and services?
- Will my target audience benefit from my product and services? Will they see a need for it?
- Do I understand what influences my target market to decide to buy? what influences my target market to make decisions?
- Can they afford my product or service? What stage of business are they in? Are they a startup?
- Can I reach them with my messages? Are they easily accessible?
What if you have more than one Target Audience?
Your product or service may be of benefit to more than one target audience. This situation can be challenging and is where segmentation comes into play.
If there are more similarities than differences, the best practice is to have one Primary Target Audience (those you give the most focus to) and one or more Secondary Target Audience(s), who you give less focus to. These people generally have fewer demands for your product or service.
Secondary target audiences generally differ from a primary audience by having different buying habits and characteristics. In this instance, it may be the case that your ‘primary’ target marketing will pick up your secondary audience anyway. On the other hand, it might be better to create separate personas if there are marked differences between audiences.
There is much contention around separate personas because they can be challenging to manage, particularly for small businesses. This article from the University of Queensland covers the consequences of targeting multiple audiences in online ads. Although its focus is on a product (an online game), it’s definitely worth the read.
Researching a target audience may appear time-consuming, but it will impact every aspect of your business and save you a lot of time, heartache and sleepless nights in the future because it will take your business from this:
So go ahead and schedule a couple of hours in the coming weeks to do the reasearch. It’ll be the best thing you can do for your business.
I hope this blog post helps you with your target marketing. Please feel free to share it with friends and colleagues that may benefit from the information.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Just leave a comment below.