What is Target Audience

FAQ: What Does “Target Audience” Mean in Digital Marketing?

In marketing, there are a ton of different terms thrown around pretty much constantly. Some of them are relatively obvious, mundane, or self-explanatory. Others are common beginner knowledge, which never ends up defined because everyone assumes everyone else already knows them. Still, others are niche, esoteric knowledge.

Today’s topic is about the middle ground, an essential term we all use all the time but which you might need help understanding, especially if you’re a newcomer to digital marketing.

It’s the Target Audience. Read on to have all of your questions about target audiences answered.

What Is a Target Audience?

The simplest possible definition of a target audience is “a group of people you want to reach with your marketing.”

There are other definitions as well, of course. You want to reach these people, but why? Well, because they’re the people most likely to buy your product.

What Is A Target Audience

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Knowing who your visitors are and what they need will help you create content that resonates with them.

  • You can define a target audience in several ways. Generally, it’s a specific group with similar interests or characteristics. The most important thing to remember about a target audience is that it’s not a “one-size-fits-all” group. You can segment your audience into different subgroups based on age, gender, location, interests, income level, etc.
  • Finding your target audience can be challenging, but it’s an essential first step in any successful digital marketing strategy. Start by asking yourself questions such as: Who am I trying to reach? What do they care about? What motivates them? With this information, you can develop a profile of your ideal customer and start building your content accordingly.
  • By focusing on your target audience, you’ll be able to create more effective campaigns and better understand how to connect with the people you’re trying to reach. Identifying your target audience is the key to creating an effective digital marketing strategy.

Example #1

Consider: you operate a business selling cars. Do you go down the street waving a sign saying you’re selling cars to attract the attention of anyone passing by? You could, sure. Some people who pass by might even want to take you up on that and buy a car. Some may be walking, need a car, and have money for a car. Others are currently driving, but their car is dying, and they need to buy a new one.

The trouble is that most people who see your sign aren’t interested in buying a car any time soon. They aren’t part of your target audience. They weren’t looking for a car, and most of them already have one, so it’s a much harder sell and will require more eyeballs to result in a conversion.

Example #2

A store that sells shoes could reasonably expect that 99% of the people on the planet are its target audience.

After all, who doesn’t want to wear shoes? Some people refuse shoes for their personal beliefs, and there are certainly plenty of people who already have shoes, but most of those people are perfectly willing to buy more shoes sooner or later when their current shoes wear out.

But, what kind of shoes does this company sell? If you sell athletic shoes, try to market them to someone with a chronic illness preventing them from jogging, marketing to people over 90 with limited mobility, or marketing to people with no interest in athletics, these are all bound to fail. Those people may want to buy shoes, but not athletic shoes.

Similarly, you have a much more limited potential audience if you sell high heels. For example, the vast majority of men have no interest in high heels. Marketing your high heels to men is unlikely to be successful without a very interesting marketing campaign.

Example #3

Another example relevant to many businesses is geographic relevance.

Suppose you’re a local business offering retail items for sale in a physical location. In that case, you can market to people who live in your area – neighborhood, city, county, maybe state if you’re big enough – but a local business in Ohio isn’t going to benefit much from advertising to potential customers in Nevada.

Note that the exception to this is, of course, the internet. You aren’t nearly as restricted by geographic boundaries if you can ship products and sell them via a website. You may still be limited to certain countries (international shipping is a pain), but your potential target audience gets much more extensive.

Why Is Your Target Audience Important?

As you can intuit from the above, your target audience is essential because it focuses your marketing.

Why Target Audience Is Important

For example:

  • Focusing on your target audience has repercussions throughout your marketing. When you focus on a narrower audience for paid ads, you end up paying less, because you aren’t paying to show your ads to people who aren’t in your target audience.
  • It also increases conversion rates. How many will be interested if you pick 100 people off the street and try to sell them a product? It depends on the product; a bottle of water or a candy bar might sell 50-90 depending on the price, whereas a car probably won’t sell any, and a yacht definitely won’t. On the other hand, if you picked 100 people out of a line waiting for a long restaurant and tried to sell them food, most of them would probably go for it; you already know that they’re hungry and the kind of food they’re thinking of getting.
  • A target audience also helps you with messaging. When you know who you want to market to, you can learn what those people are interested in, what they like to learn about the products they’re buying, and how to convince them best to pull the trigger and make a purchase.

If you want to sell food, you don’t just go into a crowd and start shouting that you’re selling food; you look for hungry people to sell food to.

Do You Only Have One Target Audience?

Nope! “Target audience” is shorthand for a complex system of interconnected audiences.

Take the shoe store example above. Your “target audience” is everyone who would buy shoes, sure. If you sell athletic shoes, your target audience is everyone interested in purchasing athletic shoes.

Multiple Target Audiences

But you can further narrow that down. Athletic shoes come in many different forms. Some are better for running, some are better for sports, some are better for wet conditions, and some are better for indoor athletics. You may sell all or just some of them. You can refine your audience to each group looking for specific athletic shoes – the runners, the pickleball players, and the cyclists.

You can have as many different target audiences as you have products. Moreover, if your products have many possible uses, you can have more audiences. They will generally be relatively narrow, and that’s a good thing. The narrower an audience is, the more accurately you can target them, and the cheaper it will be to market to them and convince them to buy your products.

What Defines a Target Audience?

A target audience starts off as “the group of people most likely to be interested in buying your product.” From there, you have to define that group of people.

This group largely comes down to demographic and interest characteristics. Here are some of the common factors you can consider:

  • Age
  • Location
  • Income Level
  • Education Level
  • Position at Work
  • Prospective Budget
  • Device Used to Access Your Site
  • Previous Purchases
  • Brand Loyalty
  • Ethnicity
  • Marital Status
  • Children or Pets
  • Religion
  • Many more characteristics

Some of these will have more impact than others, which also depends on your product.

In general, you can break down target audience characteristics into specific groups. Demographics include things like age, ethnicity, and location. Interests include things like hobbies, preferences, and media consumption habits.

Behavioral factors include product usage, preferred social networks, and marketing channel. There are also some product-specific categories relevant to your brand.

Behavioral Factors

For example, most of the above categories don’t matter if you want to sell a bagel.

Some, like cultural and ethnic backgrounds, may; certain cultures put more cachet on bagels as a traditional food than others. Income level doesn’t, nor does education level nor the device used to access your site. Dog owners and Cat owners likely enjoy bagels in equal measure.

On the other hand, if you sell a mid-class B2B accounting platform, more of these are going to matter.

Work position is essential, budget and income levels can be significant, and so on. You’re primarily targeting the decision-makers in other businesses, after all.

Note: always sanity-check your target audience. If you sell motorcycles, you’ll have a ton of interest from males aged 12-18.

After all, what young male doesn’t love a fast, cool motorbike? But none of them can buy your products because it’s not legal for them to drive a motorcycle at that age. Marketing to them won’t get you a return on your investment, so you should exclude that age range to save marketing dollars.

A crucial part of target audiences is developing buyer personas to represent your target audiences. These personas act as genericized stand-ins for people who are likely to be interested in your product. They have different general interests, different demographic qualities, and different levels of response to other messaging.

How Can You Identify Your Target Audiences?

If you want to identify your target audiences, there’s good news: there are many different ways to do it.

Ways To Identify Target Audience

For example:

  • You can look at your existing customers. What kinds of people are they? Are they the people you would expect to see? What characteristics and interests do they share? You want real data here, so consider sending out surveys to your customers.
  • You can check your analytics. Hundreds of analytics companies and products are out there using different tools and techniques to provide audience information. Google Analytics can give you some information, and other forms of analytics – especially audience analytics platforms like Brandwatch, Audiense, Infegy, Choozle, and Helixa – can give you more detailed information about the people visiting your site and using your products.
  • You can also check social media analytics. Facebook Ads generally maintains a ton of aggregate audience information you can use to generalize your audience. You can learn a ton from these social platforms, but you need active and well-followed accounts to have the data available.
  • Another way to scope out target audiences is to check your competitors. Who else is fighting you for audience attention, and who are they targeting? While they may have no more idea than you do, chances are they’re leveraging some tools and techniques to identify and target their audiences, and you can copy their homework.
  • You can also proactively listen to what people say about you and your industry.
  • Follow relevant subreddits, search for applicable terms on Twitter, follow news sites, and join discussion groups on Facebook and LinkedIn; these are all excellent ways to learn about your target audiences.

Whenever you’re analyzing your target audiences, you want to ask yourself: is this audience as narrow as it can be, or could it be divided into valuable sub-groups? Remember, in most cases, the more limited your target audience is, the more effectively you can target those people.

How Should You Use Target Audiences?

Target audiences come into play in two primary ways.

  • The first is in paid marketing. Platforms like Facebook Ads and Google Ads have robust targeting systems to narrow down who you’re reaching with your ads. When you create ads tailored to a specific target audience, the raw number of people you reach is lower, but the cost to reach them is also lower, and the conversion rates will be much higher.
  • The second is in content marketing. When you create a piece of content, it’s not enough to know a target keyword; you also need to know who you’re writing to. This understanding helps you tailor your content to the reader’s worldview. For example, this entire blog post has been written with the aim of reaching other business owners and marketers who are relatively new to the field. Hence the examples are fairly pedestrian and marketing-focused. It’s more engaging to the people most likely to be interested in us and what we have to sell.

What is that, then?

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Well, we’re a digital marketing agency with a whole host of related services, from web design and advertising to branding and content marketing. We do everything related to digital marketing, whether helping you build out a new business idea from scratch or kicking your existing business into high gear.

If our expertise throughout this post has impressed you, why not check our service pagess? Or, if you’re not quite ready to pull the trigger yet, feel free to browse the rest of our blog. If you have a question we have yet to answer, we’ll be more than happy to answer it in the comments or even write a whole new post about it, should it warrant it. All you have to do is ask! There’s something for everyone, and we’re constantly publishing more content.

Tim Woda

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