How to Define Your Target Audience in 6 Simple Steps (2023)
What does life look like without knowing your target audience?
It’s like going to the grocery store without a shopping list.
You end up spending money on food you don’t need or, worse, coming home empty-handed.
And yet, that’s what you do by making assumptions about who your customers are and what they want.
Businesses and marketers miss many potential customers because they are, in effect, not checking their pantries.
In fact, billions are wasted in ad spend every year from advertisements that fail to engage the target audience.
We know you don’t want to waste that kind of money, and that’s why this post will walk you through six simple steps to define your target audience.
Let’s jump in.
What is a Target Audience?
A target audience is a subset of people defined by specific characteristics like age, gender, location, socioeconomic status, as well as their attitudes, beliefs, fears, and aspirations.
Identifying these attributes of your ideal customer allows you to speak to and influence them effectively with your marketing efforts.
In short, your target audience is the people most likely to become your current customers because they match your products and services well.
Why Define Your Target Audience
The ultimate goal of defining your target audience is to convert a group of people into raving fans and, ultimately, customers.
And because we understand our audience, we’re generating revenue and can afford to produce more content — reaching more writers and serving more students.
Define Your Target Audience in 6 Simple Steps
Let’s begin by saying that you can’t be all things to all people, no matter how great your product or service may be.
Here’s the thing, there isn’t enough of you to go around.
Instead, focus on serving a core group of people by listening to what they want and need and then delivering value that improves their lives.
Move forward with this mindset.
1. Tap Into Your Existing Customer Base
Taking inventory of your current customers and identifying what’s working and what’s not can yield invaluable insights.
Start by looking at your existing customers’ buying behaviors:
- How often do my customers buy from me?
- What are my best-selling products and services?
Determine whether customers are happy with your products and services:
- What can we do better to align with our customers?
- How can we engage our customers after a sale to learn more about them?
And, finally, make sure you know where to find your customers:
- What social platforms are they on? What blogs do they read?
- What sites or software do they use?
- What physical stores do they shop at?
Studying your existing customers affords you the clarity to create an effective digital marketing strategy (or at least to get started).
And if you’re a new business, you’ll find it helpful to keep these questions in mind as your ideal customer base grows.
2. Know Your Customers’ Pain Points & Aspirations
Pain points are one of the most intimate ways to know your intended audience.
Discovering what pain your customers are experiencing and providing them with helpful insights and perspectives will win their trust.
The key here is to articulate your customer’s suffering using by showing that you understand their problems. In other words: empathize with them.
Dig into their pain points by asking:
- What keeps my customers up at night agonizing over this problem?
- How does the stress of this problem affect their lives?
- What else suffers in their lives because they don’t have a solution to this problem?
Answer these questions, and you’ll gain deeper insights into what motivates your target audience, informing your marketing strategy.
3. Target Audience Details: Psychographics, Demographics, & Buyer Persona
Psychographics: How Do They Shape My Target Audience?
Psychographics is the art of audience segmentation by their behavioral traits such as attitudes, beliefs, personality, lifestyle, and values.
The best way to obtain this information is through interviews and surveys.
Target Demographics: Just the Facts
Target demographics include more tangible attributes of a person, like:
- Social Class
- Marital Status
- Buying Behavior
A buyer persona is a fictional character that you develop based on your market research.
A persona includes traits like:
- Personal characteristics
- Social engagement and online behavior
Persona Example: Jane Doe is a 25-year-old social worker located in Columbus, Ohio. Her interests are in the community and giving back. She likes to donate every other weekend to the local homeless shelter to help provide meals. She rarely has time between her job and volunteer work to pamper herself as she feels selfish. And you can find her championing causes on any social media platform that supports the underprivileged.
Having a persona of your target customer gets you to the nitty-gritty of who your best customer might be.
4. Tune In with Social Listening
Depending on the group of people you plan to target, you may find that some of your best research comes from your social media platform.
By tuning in with the following questions in mind, you can better understand your target audiences’ needs and desires.
Who Is Already Following You On Social Media?
Monitor who is commenting on and liking your existing social channels.
From there, you can gain insights into who they are and how they think.
Although this research can be invaluable for understanding your target market, know that just because people are commenting or liking your posts doesn’t necessarily mean they are your intended audience.
You’ll want to dig in further with more research.
What Information Is Your Potential Customer Looking For And Why?
When you know why your target customer is following you on social media, you become better equipped to understand what they need from you.
5. Study the Competition
Your competition can be an invaluable asset because their target audience will, in many instances, be the same as or overlap with yours.
Reconnaissance work on your competition’s target audience can pay off, especially if you’re starting out and don’t have a significant following yet.
Ask questions like:
- What do I do differently from my competition?
- How can I overdeliver in a way that my competition can’t?
- Where are my competitors reaching their customers?
For more step-by-step instructions on how to do this, read: How to Do Competitor Research on Social Media.
6. Google Analytics Shaping Your SEO Search
When you want to know something, you typically “Google” it.
And you can be sure that your potential customers are doing the same.
So how do you tap into the “Google Gods” and find out what’s trending and what’s not?
Enter Google Analytics.
Google Analytics provides you with key information that can help you define your target audience like:
- How many people visit your website
- Where your visitors live
- What marketing tactics drive the most traffic to your website
- Which pages on your website are the most popular
- How many visitors have converted into leads or customers
The Pitfalls of Defining Your Target Audience
Once you uncover your target audience, it’s tempting to view it as the “be all end all.”
However, this can create a blind spot if you’re not careful.
You could leave out customers wanting to purchase your product by accidentally dismissing them in your target marketing.
That’s why it’s essential to revisit and revamp your target audience as often as you can.
Your standard operating procedure should include refreshing your target audience research periodically.
Doing so will allow you to pick up and include new people coming into your market.
Target Audience Examples In Action
Now you have a firm understanding of your target audience, let’s take a look at a few companies that nailed their buyer persona…
Chipotle Mexican Grill: A Fast-Food Restaurant Targeting Millennials
Established in 1993 and founded by Steve Ellis, Chipotle is a chain of fast-casual restaurants focused on offering healthier fare.
According to the blog post, “Chipotle’s Segmentation and Target Marketing: Millennials,” Chipotle’s core focus is offering “food with integrity.”
Their target market is millennials (born 1981 — 1996), as evidenced by visiting one of their restaurants.
Chipotle opted against using traditional marketing channels to reach its target audience because Millennials view traditional media as being “less authentic”.
Instead Chipotle focused on building an online presence and strengthening its social media game to gain attention.
Based on this group’s persona and typical traits, Chipotle discovered that this millennial audience values environmental causes and is concerned with the integrity of food production.
Chipotle’s only mainstream TV commercial depicts an animated farmer who becomes burnt out from the commercialization of his farm.
Cleverly playing in the background is Willie Nelson’s rendition of the song “Back to the Start ” and is the name of the Chipotle commercial.
This video appeals to millennials because it shows the compassionate nature of the farmer going back to his roots.
A wildly popular video that got uploaded to Chipotle’s YouTube channel, gaining millions of views.
Athleta: An Athletic Wear Company Targeting Women
Founded in 1998 by Scott Kerslake and currently owned by The Gap, Inc, according to the blog post “Athleta Doesn’t Ignore Older Women and That’s Why It’s Successful,” Athleta gears their fitness wear to “women who are always in motion.”
As referenced in the blog post, ”Athleta History & Brand Profile,” the ’90s were the decade big companies like Nike started to include women in their fitness apparel.
However well-intentioned, Nike still missed the mark with their female audience.
The biggest complaint is echoed by the following quote; “So, to participate in sports and training, I have to dress like a man?”
It’s considered standard practice to make men’s activewear first and then shrink it to fit women.
Coined by the term “shrink it to pink it.”
And so Athleta was born.
“Athleta began as a catalog brand that used female models which were reflective of all ages, ethnicities, and body types.”
“We inspire her to keep living this full, healthy, active, rich life, no matter what her body type is, no matter her age,” says Nancy Green, CEO.
Nancy Green was able to target the needs of a female population consisting of 30 to 50-year-olds with a marketing campaign in 2016 called the “Power of She”.
And since coming on board in 2013, she has played an integral part of Athleta’s 25% growth year after year.
The following video is the first one produced in 2016 called “The Power of She.”
These videos have widened Athleta’s target audience to include women who are 50-plus years old and young girls.
Target Audience Awareness Equates To Thriving
Remember the forgetting the grocery list example?
Could you imagine ever casually running your business in that way again?
Your target audience is your most valuable asset (even though we don’t put it on our balance sheets) because it is the bridge that links you to your customers and to your ability to thrive in business.
Incorporating the six simple steps to know your audience puts you on track with expansion, growth, and the ability to stay in business for a long time.
By jumping in and employing the strategies from this article, you will breathe new life into your traditional and digital marketing.