What is a Target Audience?

Your target audience refers to the specific group of consumers most likely to want your product or service, and therefore, the group of people who should see your ad campaigns. Target audience may be dictated by age, gender, income, location, interests or a myriad of other factors.

Depending upon what you sell, your target audience might be niche or broader. For example, if you were a shoe vendor your target audience would be broad, since men, women and children all wear shoes. On the other hand, perhaps you specifically sell high-performance running shoes. Then, your target audience would be more niche – elite athletes between the ages of 20-40 who have expressed an interest in running, or have run a marathon. Either way, it is important to define and segment your target audience in order to determine the creative messaging that will resonate with them, and pinpoint the channels they prefer.   

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The Importance of Knowing Your Target Audience

As a marketer, understanding your target audience is vital. This information will define every marketing plan and strategy you execute. Airing an ad during the Super Bowl might seem like a great way to be seen by as many people as possible, but it is also expensive. Furthermore, only a quarter of the viewers would actually be interested in your product. Knowing that your target audience reads a certain publication or watches a certain show means that your ad will be seen by fewer people, but the right people. For example if you sell running shoes, ads in running magazines may be a better fit for your target audience. Selecting the right media is essential for achieving marketing ROI on your efforts.

In addition to increasing ROI, understanding your target market allows you to build relationships and better communicate with consumers. You can develop creative that speaks to specific personas, and develop brands that coincide with the interests and values of those most likely to purchase the product. This is especially important at a time where consumers expect every ad to be personalized and highly targeted. In fact, 80 percent of consumers say they are more likely to do business with a brand that offers personalized interactions.

The Difference Between Target Audience and Target Market

A target market is the set of consumers that a company plans to sell to or reach with marketing activities. A target audience is the group or segment within that target market that is being served advertising. This makes target audience a more specific subset of target market.

To go back to the running shoe example, your  target market is marathon runners, but say you are having a deal at your Boston location. The target audience for an ad promoting the sale would be prospective runners in the Boston Marathon, not all marathon runners.

Target audience can often be used interchangeably with target market, as it is a specific subset of the largest market group. However, target market does not always mean target audience.

Understanding the Roles of Your Target Audience

An important step in understanding your target audience is to go beyond learning their demographic information, and understand what role they play in the path to purchase. These roles can often be divided into the following categories:

The Decision Maker: This is the person who ultimately makes the purchase decision. In some cases, the decision maker is the same as the supporter, but in other cases they are different. When different, you must acknowledge this and gear ads to the decision maker. Take, for example, the successful Old Spice commercials. The brand wanted to revamp their product to appeal to a younger generation. While researching, the team discovered that while men may ultimately wear their product, women were making the purchases, leading their creative team to focus on this target audience.

The Supporter: The supporter may not have the power to make the decision, but they will have a  heavy influence on whether or not an item gets bought. For example: A child may not directly make a purchase, but if they want something for Christmas, they influence that decision. This is why it is important to develop messaging that speaks to consumers in both of these roles.

Steps to Figuring Out Your Target Audience

To determine your target audience, you must spend time analyzing the data you receive from consumer engagements, evaluating current buyers and purchase trends and optimizing as new information is revealed.

The following steps should help you realize your target audience:

Customer Base Analysis/Client Interviews
One of the best ways to determine who your target audience is to look at who already buys your product or service. How old are they, where do they live, what are their interests? A good way to learn this is through engaging on social or distributing customer surveys.

Market Research/Industry Trends
Look at the market research for your industry to determine where there are holes in service that your product can fill. Look at trends for similar products to see where they are focusing efforts, then hone in further on your products unique value.

Competitive Analysis
Marketers can learn a lot by looking at competitors to see who they are commonly selling to, and how they go about it. Are they using online or offline channels? Are they focusing on the decision maker or the supporter?

Persona Creation
Creating personas is a great way to drill down into the specific segments that make up your target audience.This is especially helpful if you have a product that appeals to a wide swath of consumers. Personas allow you to determine the general demographics, personalities and needs of your target consumers. The persona of “Fran First-Time Runner” will speak to different needs than “Sam Seasoned Pro.” Personas are created based on data, surveys, digital engagements and any other information marketers can pull from to give a more complete view of the buyers. This might include favorite hobbies, television shows, publications, etc. It is recommended that marketers develop between three and five personas.

Define Who Your Target Audience Isn’t
There will certainly be consumers who are close to your target demographic, but who will not act on messaging. Try to be specific in determining who your audience is and who it isn’t. Is your demographic women, or women between the ages of 20 and 40? Knowing this will keep your teams from devoting ad dollars to segments that will not yield returns.

As you gather more data and interact with customers, you will get an increasingly accurate understanding of your target audiences. Based on this information, you must constantly optimize and hone personas to achieve the best results.

Creating Personas with The Right Demographics

We’ve already established that creating personas can be another great way to understand audiences. Market research paired with client interviews can give you better insights into what your clients read, think and value. This offers important understanding into which sources your audience uses and trusts. When building these out, consider using the following demographics and identifiers:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Hobbies
  • Income
  • Education level
  • Profession
  • Marital status
  • Who they trust
  • What they read/watch

Additionally, look into the following:

  • Your current customer base
  • Who your competitors are targeting

Reaching Your Target Audience

Once you’ve created personas, the next step is to find media that targets these specific segments. Below are some tools to get you started:

Media Kits
Media kits from publishers give a clear idea of the audience segments they reach. These can be broken down by job titles, income levels or hobbies depending on the brand. When selecting where to invest ad dollars, marketers should ensure that secondary audiences aren’t included in these totals. For example, magazines are often passed along to friends and family. This long shelf life is beneficial for marketers, but should not be included when deciding on where to buy as they are estimates. Use the paid subscribers when making decisions or negotiating on cost.

Nielsen Ratings
Using statistical samplings, Nielsen is able to predict how many households view a certain show. Although prime time may seem like a great bet to reach wide audiences, you may discover that more niche shows in the early or late fringe will reach your target audience for a fraction of the cost. This is especially true as more channels and shows make television highly fragmented.

Social media allows you to target ads based on various demographics and interests. Although the audience can be very precise, different demographics consume media differently. Some users may not be receptive to business related ads on Instagram, but may respond more positively on Facebook. It is also important to measure the success of different types of ads on these platforms – like display versus native. Test various platforms to see what drives results.

Third Party Information
Marketing analytics platforms such as the Marketing Measurement and Attribution Platform can help you identify what outlets your target audiences frequent or television shows they watch. When selecting a partner, investigate how these companies identify how to reach the target audiences. Are they using outdated data or do they have media partnerships?

Reaching your Audience at the Right Time

When marketing to today’s empowered consumers, it is not only about knowing where to reach them, but also when to reach them. As consumers become more adept at tuning messaging out, marketing in the right moment will pay dividends.  

There are several important considerations to ensure right-time marketing across various channels:

With the invention of DVR, viewers no longer have to sit through commercials. This means that even with the right target audience, you can’t necessarily guarantee views on commercials shown in the middle of any show’s break. When negotiating television slots, focus on either being the first commercial before a break or the last one at the end of a break. Even better is live television (including the late-night news or sporting events). Since these are live, it’s guaranteed that more people are watching at the moment rather than pressing the fast forward button.

Since listeners often switch radio stations at a commercial break, make sure to book ads at either the beginning of the break or the end if possible. Also, be sure to pay attention to DMAs (Designated Market Areas). DMAs are provided by Nielsen and are based on signal strength. For example, the Boston market also includes Rhode Island and Southern New Hampshire. It is important to keep this in mind, because although radio is a great way to reach local consumers, it may also include listeners outside your target region.

When booking an eblast with an outlet, consider its timing. Fridays are a common day for people to take off, so sending an email out on a different day may increase your open rates (unless the data says otherwise).

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