Who are you marketing to?
If you can’t give a specific answer to that question right away, you need to define your target audience. Good marketing caters to specific customers. Knowing who those folks are can help you better perform marketing to your fullest potential.
With careful research and analysis, you’ll be able to identify your target audience and create marketing that knocks their socks off. We’ll teach you how.
Identify Your Audience With This Target Audience Kit
Before you learn how to research your target audience, take our kit with you. It includes these templates:
Audience Persona Template
Audience Survey Template
Customer Interview Questions Template
These resources will help you practice some of the tips we’ll cover in this blog post. Best of all, they’re 100% free.
Why Should You Define Your Target Audience?
When you identify your target audience, you’ll get better results out of the hard work you put into your marketing. To understand why, we’ll need to answer the question, “What does intended audience mean?”
Whether you call it a target audience, target market or intended audience, this group of people is the audience most likely to enjoy your product or service. You’ll achieve these two goals by researching and identifying your target audience:
You’ll get rid of the assumptions you have about your intended audience. It’s easy to assume that people interested in your product are just like you, but only audience data will tell you for sure. The research involved in defining your audience will show their true traits and interests.
You’ll understand what marketing collateral to make for your customers. When you know your audience’s preferences and problems, you’ll be able to make content and other marketing materials that cater to them.
These benefits will make it easier to do marketing that resonates with your audience, boosting your sales and revenue potential. After all, it’s one thing for someone to see your marketing and another for them to get something out of it.
What Types of Target Audiences Exist?
You can define your intended audience using traits related to their life experiences, preferences and purchase behaviors. Some marketers who have a good grasp of their audience divide them into groups based on these features in a practice known as segmentation. At this point in your process, just keep in mind that you can analyze your audience through categories like these target market demographic examples:
Attitudes and opinions
Purchase intent (likelihood to buy your product)
Hobbies and interests
What Questions Should You Ask About Your Target Audience?
As you identify your target audience, you should keep these questions at the top of your mind:
Who are they? You’ll need to know your typical audience member’s features to create marketing they’ll be receptive to.
What are their top problems (that your business can solve)? When you understand your audience’s problems, you’ll know how to present your product as the solution.
What content do they consume? Consider what content your audience likes so you can do marketing that touches on similar themes and subjects.
Where do they hang out (online and in real life)? Once you know where your audience consumes marketing, you’ll understand where to place your own marketing collateral for the most exposure.
How Do You Research Your Target Audience?
While it might seem daunting to learn the ins and outs of a large group of people, you have plenty of simple ways to go about it. Most importantly for small businesses, most of these methods are also free or low-cost.
Survey Your Customers and Content Readers
Wondering what your audience is like? Ask them yourself. Grab the audience survey template you downloaded at the start of this blog post, and follow these steps:
Set your survey goals. Write down the top five things you want to learn about your audience from your survey.
Create your survey questions. Try to keep them related to the list you created in the first step. Consider asking your audience about their demographics, online behavior and experience with your brand.
Set a deadline for your survey. We suggest a timeframe of two weeks to a month to account for anyone who can’t respond right away.
Promote your survey in your most popular channels. Try sending it in an email to your list, sharing it on social or highlighting it on your website.
If you can swing it, encourage people to complete your survey with an incentive. You could offer a guide or resource, branded swag, a discount code or a sweepstakes entry.
Interview Your Current Customers
While customer surveys give you broad information about the people who like your product, one-on-one interviews provide richer details about individual customers’ experiences. You’ll get deep emotional information from these conversations that’ll help you understand why your customers engage with your brand.
Keep these tips in mind as you plan and perform your customer interviews:
Set a clear goal for your interview: Just like you did with your customer survey, create an objective for your interview that your questions will tie back to.
Use open-ended questions: As we covered in our guide to interviewing subject matter experts, open-ended questions get better results than closed-ended ones. For example, a prompt like “Tell me how you like to use our product” will coax more details out of a customer than a question like “Do you find our product useful?”
Be open-minded: As HubSpot points out in their guide to customer interviews, sometimes a customer will talk about your product negatively — and that’s okay. In fact, these answers will help you learn what your audience doesn’t like and how to improve their experience.
End with a trusted journalism trick: Your questions probably won’t cover everything your customer wants to say because you’re both humans with different perspectives on life. Because of this fact, many journalists like to ask a question like, “Would you like to add anything that I haven’t asked about in this interview?” Journalists who use it often find that they get some of their most insightful answers from this question.
Use the template you downloaded from our target audience bundle to write down your questions and take notes during your interview. For more tips on interviewing customers, read our comprehensive guide to customer interview best practices.
Check Your Google Analytics Demographic Data
Google Analytics records demographic data on your website visitors related to their location, interests, gender and age. Access this info by clicking the Reports option on the left-hand menu, then going to Demographics overview or Demographic details under User.
Click the link in the lower right of each box in the Demographics overview tab or go to the Demographics details tab to look at details on your demographics’ engagement and conversion rates. While you might see a lot of people in one group visit, they may not be the most engaged with your website. Check which segments of your audience are actually consuming your website content and acting on it.
If you don’t see demographic data on your Analytics dashboard, turn Google signals on in your data settings.
Snag Demographic and Audience Data From Social Media
Most of the major social media platforms track basic demographic data about your followers. Learn how to find that info on each site:
Facebook/Instagram: Go to Facebook Business Suite and click the Insights option in the left-hand menu, then go to the Audience tab.
Twitter: Use a third-party tool — Twitter no longer has a native audience data dashboard.
LinkedIn: Visit Followers under LinkedIn Pages’ Analytics menu.
Pinterest: Click Audience Insights under the Analytics menu.
These social media demographics share details like audience ages, gender and even career seniority.
Get Data From Market Research Firms
When you need a broad overview of the populations who use your product, market research firm reports will give you a primer. While it can be out of a small business budget range to hire a market research firm to study your specific audience, these firms often sell or share research reports.
Here are two examples of free audience insights from the big names. Nielsen has this free report on African Americans’ views on representation in marketing. Gartner provides yearly marketing predictions to help you understand what marketing trends customers respond to.
Wondering where to find market research companies relevant to your audience and industry? Software Testing Help has an overview of the market research industry and some of its most popular members.
Analyze Your Current Customers’ Data
Chances are you have customer data on hand that can boost your audience research efforts. Do you have any of these sources of customer info?
A customer relationship management (CRM) software or similar customer database
Customer purchase history
Email list member information
Product and business reviews
Even something as simple as an invoice can tell you how your current customers interact with your business.
Use Social Listening
Social listening is the act of watching for keyword mentions on social media or the web. These keywords tend to relate to your brand or industry, including your brand name. You can use a dedicated social listening platform or search keywords individually on each platform you monitor.
Keep an eye on keywords such as:
Your brand name
Your competitors’ brand names
Your original product or service names
Your industry name
As you monitor how people talk about these subjects, look for the topics and pain points they mention. Are your potential audience members asking for something new in your industry? What do they praise or put down?
Watch Your Best (and Worst) Performing Content
Dig into your blog posts’ analytics to see what topics and approaches work best with your audience. While page views and bounce rates offer some valuable insights, content analytics include even more insightful numbers. Look at metrics like:
Click-through rate: Rate of readers who click your blog post’s call to action
Average time on page: Average time that readers spend on the blog post’s page
Conversion rate: The number of people who follow your call to action compared to the number of people who view your blog post
Depending on how much time you have, you can look at these numbers through your preferred analytics platform or perform a full content audit.
Find What Other Content Your Audience Reads
Your brand is just one source of content for your audience. What other companies and publications do they count on? What topics entertain and educate them?
Check what other content your audience reads by looking at:
Your competitors’ content
Trending content in your industry
Content popular with your social media audience and circles
After taking the steps we just went over, you’ll have a hefty amount of audience info to use. Now, how do you figure out what this information says about your audience? Here’s how to perform a target audience analysis.
Review Your Data for Common Themes
Look carefully through your data for patterns in the types of target audiences we covered at the beginning of this blog post, such as:
Age and gender
Pain points and challenges that your product can address
Lifestyle and hobbies
Internet browsing habits
Keep an open mind as you look for things your audience has in common. Something as small as a favorite website or use of language can clue you in to your customers’ marketing preferences.
Turn Your Data Into Customer Personas
Use the takeaways you got from your data to create marketing personas — fictional profiles that describe your typical customer. These tools make a great target audience example when you try to match your marketing to your audience.
A marketing persona includes details like:
A drawing or photo representing the fictional customer
Name and job title
Demographic info like age, gender, income level and education
Hobbies and interests
Product-related goals and pain points
Values and fears surrounding your product
Favorite content sources
The marketing persona template you downloaded at the beginning of this blog post includes room for all of this information.
How Do You Use Your Audience Data in a Marketing Strategy?
Now that you have a target audience, it’s time to put that data into action.
Create Marketing Materials That Target Your Customer Personas
Your target audience data and customer personas should inform your marketing from here on out. The info you have on your audience should influence these aspects of your marketing materials:
Copy: Use language that feels natural to the people reading your copy. For example, if you have a business-to-business product for executives, you’d want to use more formal and sales-focused language, but your typical business-to-customer audience will prefer casual language. When in doubt, talk the way your audience does.
Topics: Cover topics that fall in your content core — the intersection between your product and your audience’s interests.
Design: Use design elements that match your audience’s experiences and preferences. If you market to kids and their parents, for example, you might use a lot of primary colors.
Offer Ways to Solve Your Audience’s Problems
As you researched your audience and put together marketing personas, you identified the problems your customers face that your product can solve. Write your marketing copy and content with your product’s solutions in mind. Try these strategies for writing solution-focused marketing copy:
Name the problem your customer faces and relate to them
Highlight your product’s key benefit related to your customers’ top problem
Give an example of how your product can help your customer
Show off your differentiator — the one way you can solve your customer’s problem that your competitors can’t
Repurpose Your Content Everywhere Your Audience Goes
After you create content that appeals to your target audience, maximize its potential by repurposing it for multiple channels. In other words, take your content and put it into a format that works for another marketing channel (social media, email, etc.), then share it in that channel.
For example, you can turn a blog post into:
With your target audience information in hand, you can confidently forge on to create specially tailored marketing for your audience. Remember to build a review of your target audience into workflows like your content creation process to keep your marketing focused.
Melissa King is a freelance writer who helps B2B SaaS companies spread the word about their products through engaging content. She has six years of professional writing experience. Outside of the content marketing world, she sometimes writes about video games.