Imagine you’re in an archery contest while blindfolded. How likely are you to hit your target — or any target? Obviously, you’d be unlikely to succeed, and any accuracy would be pure luck. Like archery, marketing requires a clear view and a firm understanding of your target. In other words, you need to know who will likely buy your products and services.
We’ll explain why pinpointing your brand’s target audience is crucial to your marketing plan and help you identify likely buyers so you can limit your marketing outreach, connect with your target audience and increase sales.
What is a target market, and why is it important?
Every product or service appeals to a specific buyer type. For example, expecting parents and caregivers would be interested in buying infant car seats, and wealthy, fashion-focused people would be more willing and able to buy designer clothing.
A product or service’s potential customer must have the following:
- A need for the product (it must solve a problem for them, regardless of whether they’re aware of it)
- A desire for the product once they’re aware of it
- The financial ability to buy it
A product may have more than one target market. For example, Lego toys have two distinct target markets: parents of elementary and middle school children, and Lego-aficionado adults who like to build things.
Here are just a few of the ways identifying your target market can benefit your business:
- Focuses your marketing budget: First, identifying your target market helps you focus your marketing dollars on reaching a specific type of person so you’re not taking a broad, scattershot approach. Narrowing your marketing focus makes your marketing strategies more effective, and you waste less money on trying to reach people who will never be interested in what you’re selling.
- Yields better leads: Marketing to your target market will result in higher-quality leads and increased sales because you’ll be reaching people with the need, desire and ability to buy your product.
- Helps you analyze your results: Because you’re concentrating on a limited audience, you can invest more time into analyzing your marketing results, comparing data analytics and different marketing elements with A/B testing, and making improvements.
- Helps you tailor your message: Another significant benefit of targeted marketing is that it allows you to tailor your marketing message specifically to the customer’s needs. For example, let’s say you have a car dealership. When marketing to younger buyers, you can highlight speed, attractiveness and environmental features. However, with older buyers, you might focus on luxury models and safety features.
After identifying a target audience, business owners and marketing teams can plan more effective digital marketing strategies and marketing campaigns.
How to identify your target market
Identifying your target audience involves creating profiles of your ideal customers. These customer personas paint a picture of who needs your products and services so you can market to these customers better. Consider the following steps for identifying your target market.
1. List the attributes of your target audience in relation to your product.
List the attributes of the people who are most likely to benefit from your product. For example, say you offer a moisturizing cream. Narrow your focus by identifying the attributes of people your product would appeal to. For example, ask these questions:
- Are they younger or older?
- What benefits are they looking for — convenience, efficacy, affordability or anti-aging properties?
- Would they use this product every day, periodically or just on special occasions?
- Brainstorm as many attributes as possible to pinpoint specific customer traits that fit with the product’s benefits.
2. Ask questions about the demographics and psychographics of your target audience.
When you’re identifying your audience, dig deep into demographics and psychographics.
Gather demographic information.
When you’re gathering demographic information, start with the obvious and then get more detailed. For example, ask these questions:
- Who is most likely to buy my product?
- How old are they?
- Are they married?
- Do they have children? How old are the children?
- Where do they live?
- What are their income and educational levels?
This information will tell you what media to use to reach them and how to appeal to them on a fundamental level. For example, if you have a home services company, like HVAC repair, it would make sense to focus on local marketing strategies to reach nearby homeowners and businesses. When you’re marketing to people ages 15 to 35, consider using text message marketing.
Demographics will also influence the most compelling images for social media campaigns and ads. For example, if your target market is married couples with children, use photos of families. If your target market is young, use images of younger people.
Add psychographic information.
In addition to demographic information, layer in psychographic information, which offers insight into why customers might buy your product or similar products. For example, say an abstract artist wants to understand promising prospective buyers. A demographic and psychographic profile for this type of art buyer may look like this:
- Ages 40 to 65
- Income $100K+
- Education: Bachelor’s degree and above
- Enjoys entertaining at home
- Liberal arts background
- Looking to discover and become a patron for new artists
Every answer should raise new questions, until you have a good idea of who is buying your product.
After prospects become customers, use customer-tracking methods to understand their purchases, social platforms and shopping habits so you can better serve them and tailor communications to their specific needs.
3. Know the problem your product solves for your target audience.
When you know what problem your product or service solves, you can market it more effectively to the right audience. For example, if you sell a water filtration system, you remove toxins from tap water. Therefore, you want to appeal to homeowners who are environmentally aware and conscious of what they put into their bodies. You can further segment your target market to focus on parents of young children who want clean, filtered water for their families.
4. Listen to customer feedback.
Use customer feedback to gather information on how current customers view and use your product. Ask them why they bought the product. This feedback gives you valuable information as you market to prospective customers. Consider changing your marketing approach to incorporate the insights current customers share. These insights also may affect your perception of your target customer.
Research complaints in competitors’ bad customer reviews and adjust your marketing accordingly to share how your product addresses customers’ pain points.
5. Check social media to understand your target audience.
Social media is a valuable tool for small businesses that want to pinpoint their target audience. Social media sites offer analytics that reveal who is interacting with your brand’s accounts and which posts they find interesting.
These social media metrics will help you understand the people who are paying attention to your company and products so you can identify your niche. You’ll also discover which posts were most effective in getting a reaction.
6. Automate your actions to identify your target audience.
After you check your social media analytics, go a step further by using social media automation. For example, some tools allow you to automate lead generation from your LinkedIn business profile, directing you to the people on that platform who might want to purchase your product. You could do the same with your Facebook marketing strategies and Google business profile.
The best customer relationship management (CRM) software solutions allow you to integrate and use the target audience data you generate via social media automation.
7. Look at your competitors to determine your target audience.
Business owners who fail to analyze their competitors rarely stay in business. To beat the competition, you must know who is buying from your competitors, why they’re buying from them, and what you do differently.
For example, your competitors may focus on business customers, while you focus on consumers. Or maybe your target audience is similar to your competitors’, but your solutions are different and may appeal to other customers.
Knowing what your competitors are doing will help you focus your product and determine your ideal client.
8. Know your value.
Before selling to your target customers, you must know why they’ll buy your product. You must be confident about your product’s value and convey that information to your ideal client.
When you know your product’s value, you can determine who will likely accept that value and want your product. This will determine your audience. For example, if you sell expensive jewelry, you’ll appeal to people with disposable income.
9. Create a statement to identify your target audience.
To ensure you send the right branding message, create a statement that shows you know your target audience.
For example, if you sell a skin care cream with sunscreen and anti-aging properties, your positioning statement might be, “For mature adults who want to protect and nourish their skin with natural ingredients, XYZ offers a skin care treatment that takes as little as two minutes to apply.”
From that statement, it’s obvious that the target audience includes busy people who care about their health and skin.
10. Test your theory.
After completing these steps, you must ensure you have the right target audience. To do this, create a sample ad and market it to your target customer group. On social media, you can create an ad that appeals specifically to your target audience and see how many of these users click through to your website.
With print ads, you won’t have a click-through option, but you can use a call-to-action code so you know prospects are responding to it.
Depending on your industry, you could also use one of the best direct mailing services for a direct mail campaign to test your target audience, or use an email marketing campaign and measure its click-through rate.
Start marketing to your target audience
With a defined target customer in place, you can begin marketing in full force. You’ll be more effective when you’re not casting such a wide net; instead, you’ll be able to focus on the people who are the most likely to buy from you.
Identifying and understanding your target market can help streamline business success. You’ll conduct cost-effective, focused marketing that gets the most bang for your advertising budget while staying in tune with your customers’ needs.
Jennifer Dublino contributed to the reporting and writing in this article.