When you start a business, you need to understand your target market at a fundamental level before you can do anything else. Creating products, building a loyal customer base and producing a return on investment can’t happen if you don’t understand who you’re marketing to. That’s why you need to identify your target audience as soon as possible.
Your target audience is the specific group of people your business caters to. Though you can’t fulfill every customer’s needs, you can focus on a smaller group that’s easier to satisfy. But just who might that be? And how do you figure it out?
Generally speaking, your target audience is the consumer group that would be most interested in purchasing your goods or services. Rather than appealing to the entire public, your focus should be on a relatively narrow demographic. Here are tips to help you pinpoint your ideal audience so you can drive conversions and rack up sales.
When you picture your customer base, what does it look like? Who will be buying your products and services? Who are they meant to serve? You likely already have an idea of who your target customers are as a whole but need help breaking your audience down further. To do this, you’ll want to build customer personas, also known as buyer personas.
These personas are imagined profiles of your ideal customers. Identifying their characteristics will help determine specifically who your brand should be targeting. To build a persona, consider the following demographics, issues and habits of your prospective customer:
As an example, let’s say your product is a new type of sock for babies. While the actual garment is for infants to wear, you’ll want to create personas for the people doing the purchasing: the parents. So one persona might be a first-time mom in her 30s who lives in New York City and makes $100,000 a year. Her problem is that she can’t push her baby’s stroller down Manhattan streets without that infant taking off their socks and dropping them on the ground.
Your innovative sock, however, features a little snap button that makes it harder for little ones to take off at inopportune moments. This young mom is always perusing online boutiques to see what stylish yet helpful things she can purchase for her growing kid. She appreciates content from brands that aim to make the little things easier for parents. Boom. There’s your first buyer persona.
Another persona might be centered on the single dad who is always rushing to get his baby dressed and ready for daycare drop-off. He hates wasting time looking to find where his baby threw his sock in the car’s backseat. Your sock, however, stays snug and secure on tiny feet, solving this problem. That makes this dad and others like him part of your ideal customer base.
Complete this process until you’ve identified three personas that fit your brand. Those are the people your business should target.
You can cater to your target audience only when you understand their problems. Defining your ideal customer and turning their traits into buyer personas helps you identify the specific types of consumers your company should market to.
If you have existing website visitors, email subscribers or clients, you can use these customer relationships to collect valuable information about their needs. People love talking about themselves and are usually more than willing to divulge their opinions about your business. You can send polls to a particular mailing list and then use the survey data to further identify the people interacting with your brand.
Asking your audience questions also helps you build a meaningful connection with it. It shows you care about their preferences and experiences with your company, which can inspire customer loyalty. Too many businesses don’t bother checking in with their clients, so you can set yourself apart from the competition by sending periodic surveys and using insights from the results to better fulfill your customers’ needs.
To know what your ideal customers are thinking, doing and saying in real time, you need to be active on social media – well, actively listening, that is. Also known as social listening, this strategy involves monitoring the actions people in your customer base take on social media. What platforms do they use most? What discussions are they having? What hashtags do they include in posts? What brands are they interacting with?
Much like with survey data, collecting such insights can help you better target these consumers and even engage your audience on social media. Additionally, you should actively track your company’s own mentions, comments, replies, likes and keywords on different social media sites. You should also monitor trending topics related to your industry so you can see how interested people are responding. Use the information you gather to further home in on your target audience and improve conversions with better-informed marketing campaigns.
When people are curious, they turn to the internet to ask questions and receive answers. Q&A forums are great for businesses to scan because they can let you know who needs your services and what exactly they’re looking for. For example, you can search for relevant keywords on Quora and see what questions pop up. Those submitting the queries may be the people you should be including in your customer base. [See the top market segmentation trends.]
If you’re willing to pay for digital ads, many online forums and most social platforms provide targeting options based on location, activity, device, mobile use and other factors. You can design ad campaigns geared toward your prospective audience and see how users respond.
Studying your competitors can provide insight into who your business should be targeting and how. Consider:
You can figure out the answers to these questions via publicly accessible information. For example, browse competitors’ websites and sales materials. See what they’re posting on social media and what kind of people are interacting with them on different platforms. The information you glean can be used to inform your own plans on who to target and how to engage them.
Imagine starting a business without knowing who will be making purchases. It would be impossible to craft relevant products, services and marketing campaigns that boost your conversions and grow your brand. Developing a commodity isn’t enough. You have to understand who, if anyone, will buy it.
Defining your target audience allows you to create services, content and marketing messages that speak specifically to your ideal customers. It gives you information about their pain points, interests and wants so you know what they need from your business and how best to serve them. If consumers sense you know who they are and what they’re after, it’s easier for them to trust your business and move through the conversion funnel. Furthermore, when you understand your audience well and serve them accordingly, you not only achieve sales but also build credibility and inspire loyalty.
Narrowing your market is key. Efforts that speak to a general audience rarely drive conversions, because they lack personalization and fail to provide specific solutions. But if you take the time to research your unique target audience, you can create desirable and relevant products and personalized marketing campaigns that appeal to the people most likely to make a purchase.
The longevity of your business depends on establishing a reliable customer base, so it’s your responsibility to figure out who those customers are and what they need from you. Successfully pinpointing your target audience and adapting to its needs can be the difference between building a sustainable, long-term business and one that never gets off the ground.
Though time-consuming, identifying your target audience isn’t challenging. Employ the strategies above and you’ll be well on your way.
Julie Thompson contributed to this article.