One of the biggest mistakes that many businesses make is not having a clear target audience. Instead of focusing on a certain niche of ideal customers, they try to cater to everyone, leading to an ineffective communication, underperforming strategy and a diluted Marketing budget. Today, we will take a look at 10 effective ways to identify your target audience.
But before we move on to our list of strategies, let’s clear our some important questions:
What is a target audience?
A target audience of an organization refers to a group of customers with common characteristics that are more likely to purchase its products or services. For example, a target audience of a company that developers skincare products can be women between 40 and 55 years who are open to a medium to high price range.
In order to identify your target audience effectively, you need to have a clear understanding of the concept and what it means for your business. After all, if you don’t know who are your customers exactly, you won’t be able to impact them effectively with the right Marketing message.
What is an example of a target audience?
Target audiences can be defined in different ways depending on the industry and the company. One example of a target audience for a bookkeeping SaaS company is the following: people within the age range of 35 – 50, of which 65% are male and 35% female, that value job security and like to review all the data before making a decision.
You can see how a full profile of a target audience looks like in this article, as well as some additional examples.
Image source: brafton.com. How to identify your target audience with buyer personas.
The point is, having a target audience doesn’t mean that people outside of it can’t or shouldn’t purchase from you. It simply means that you are adapting your Marketing strategy and communication to attract a certain group of people that is more likely to purchase from you.
And now, let’s take a look at some of the most effective ways to identify your target audience:
1. Conduct market research
If you haven’t created or developed your company yet, and you want to identify your target audience before actually putting things into action, the most important step that you will have to take is to conduct market research. There are several methods that you can use to do that:
- Surveys – you can start by conducting in-person surveys or one-on-one interviews to analyze possible purchase behavior and understand the need for your product or service.
- Focus groups – this works by moderating a discussion with scripted series of questions between a group of people. Again, the goal is to understand their sentiment and need for a specific product.
- Personal interviews – this works in a similar way as a focus group as it allows people to provide subjective data through open-ended questions.
- Field trials – another method to conduct market research and identify your target audience is through field trials, such as placing a product in selected stores to test customer response.
- Secondary research – the previous methods focus on collecting new data, which can often be expensive. You can also conduct secondary research to analyze data that already exists.
Secondary research refers to the use of data that somebody has already collected and analyzed before you. For example, you can often buy comprehensive market reports on the industry that you are interested in.
Learn more about different types of market research here.
2. Leverage your existing data
If your company has existed for some time, you have probably gathered a lot of data that you can leverage in order to identify your target audience properly (or re-visit it). This includes, but is not limited to:
- Looking at Google Analytics metrics to understand who your web visitors are;
- Valuable insights from your social media channels, such as Facebook and LinkedIn;
- Data on your actual customers that you can collect from your CRM tool and/or other places;
- Viewing heatmaps and recording sessions from tools such as Yandex Metrica and Hotjar;
- Analyzing your leads on paid advertising channels such as Google Ads, Facebook, etc;
By conducting a comprehensive analysis on your data, you will be able to have a clear understanding of who your customers are, what drives their purchase behavior, and which are the best channels on which you can find them.
In the Information era, one of the golden rules of Marketing is to always have a data-driven approach.
3. Build buyer personas
Another effective way to identify your target audience is to build buyer personas. A buyer persona is a fictional character that a company creates in order to visualize and represent a user type that is likely to buy from it. You can create as many buyer personas as you like in order to establish your narrative.
It’s important to keep in mind that a buyer persona is different from a target audience. A target audience defines a bigger group of people that represents your ideal customer without focusing on details that are too specific.
A buyer persona, however, is fictional and can have a name, occupation, description, challenges and ambitions, as well as other descriptive characteristics that really narrows the audience.
How to identify your target audience with a buyer persona. Tool: Hubspot.
Buyer personas are great for B2B companies, but might not be as effective for B2C in which there could be millions of different customers with very distinct characteristics between each other.
To start building your buyer personas, you can use Hubspot’s free tool.
4. Analyze your competitors
Another strategy to help you identify your target audience is to take a look at other competitors within your industry. Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that target audiences may differ even between companies within the same sector, so you shouldn’t copy them mindlessly.
However, your competitors can give you a very good overlook in terms of what you should be looking at. Here are some sneaky ways that you can use to analyze your competitors:
Leverage the power of LinkedIn
LinkedIn is an excellent tool if you want to analyze your competition. Not only because you can go to the Company pages of your competitors and learn more about them as organizations, but also because you can take a look at their content. What is the kind of content they publish?
How are they communicating their message? This can give you hints on what their target audience is, and how they are speaking to them. You can take a look at the type of people that are liking and engaging with their content to get an even better perspective.
And of course, you don’t have to limit yourself to LinkedIn only. You can analyze all of their social channels for extra insights.
Analyze their ads from a different perspective
Another place where you can go to identify your target audience via Marketing competitor analysis are your competitors’ paid channels. Take a careful look at their ads and the messaging that they are using. What are they highlighting in the ad?
A lot of times, they may even give you direct hints about their target audience, saying things like “Our tool is designed for small businesses looking to find better leads” in the ad or on their website. Here are some places in which you can find their ads:
- LinkedIn – if you go to any Company page and click on Posts, you will also see an Ads tab. There, you can actually see all of the ads that your competitor has been using for the last 6 months. Or you can directly see some awesome LinkedIn ad examples here.
- Facebook – you can also check the ads that your competitors are launching on Facebook and Instagram by visiting this free Facebook ad library. It is as easy as selecting the country, the ad category and the company that you want to see the ads of.
- Google – let’s not forget about Google. This one is even easier – simply type a keyword related to the products that your competitors are selling, and you will get ads on the search page. For Display, you can check my Google Display Network ad examples.
How to identify your target audience with the help of LinkedIn ads. Example from Microsoft.
Take a look at your competitors’ pricing
Your competitors’ pricing can tell you a lot about their target audience. One example is Tiffany & Co., a company that sells luxury fine jewelry for thousands and thousands of dollars targeting an affluent audience that have a lot of money.
Of course, pricing is something that will help you define your own audience. As I already mentioned, companies within the same sector can have very different audiences – simply compare Tiffany & Co to a jewelry that’s sold in your local department store.
In this case, while pricing may not always be helpful because of how you aim to position compared to other companies in the market, it can give you some good hints anyway. You can check this article on how to conduct a pricing analysis.
5. Identify industry trends
Another strategy that you can use to identify your target audience is to zoom out for a minute and take a look at industry trends – of course, within your own industry. Pay close attention to what’s happening in your sector, including:
- How consumer purchase patterns are changing over the years;
- How technology is impacting your industry; check things like po box vs virtual address and how technology is impacting communication
- Possible changes in costs and pricing, and what they mean for you;
- The changes that innovation is driving for businesses.
And there could be many others, of course.
Identifying and analyzing industry trends not only provide companies with important data to help them remain competitive, but is also a great strategy to understand your potential customers, their purchase behavior, and how it’s changing over the years.
One exercise that you can do to get more insights from trends is to conduct a SWOT analysis.
6. Focus on delivering solutions
Another important approach that you need to take on if you want to identify your target audience clearly is to focus on delivering solutions instead of products. After all, your customers don’t want to purchase a product for the sake of purchasing a product – they want to know what needs it solves for them.
Let me give you an example. Let’s say that you developed a line of skincare products that includes a lot anti-wrinkle creams. Instead of thinking and selling a product, think about what solution it provides, and for whom. So, what is the problem and the solution in this case?
- Problem: when people grow older, they get wrinkles, which can sometimes have an impact on their confidence. So, they want to appear younger for a longer period of time.
- Solution: your company wants to restore these people’s confidence by providing a solution to their problem – an anti-wrinkle cream that reduces wrinkle.
While all of this may seem obvious, it’s not until you actually do this small exercise that you start defining your target audience. Now that you know what kind of problem your product solves, you can start building the profile of your potential customer.
In this case, because wrinkles don’t typically appear until we are 30 years old, we know that the first characteristic of our audience is that it’s people that are older than 30. From there, it’s a matter of niching down and getting more specific with these characteristics until you build your target market.
Identify your target audience effectively: focus on delivering solutions.
7. Run advertising campaigns
Another practical way to identify your target audience and refine it is to get more data faster – and you can do that by running advertising campaigns. Once you’ve built an initial profile of what your potential customers may look like, you can start testing different campaign segmentations.
As you test multiple campaign segmentations and analyze your campaigns and Google Analytics data, you will notice what kind of users are interacting and engaging with your business the most. How does a person who visit your website look like? What are some common characteristics among your customers?
To get more insights and refine your data, it’s very important to try out different audiences. For example, if you are selling Email Marketing software you can run a campaign for each one of these profiles:
- 30-40 year old managers within small and middle-sized companies;
- 50-year old Directors within large corporations;
Of course, this is just a very basic example, but it’s one of the best ways to find out what kind of customer is interested in your product the most. Sometimes, what you think is your target audience may not be the actual case.
And that was all from me for today! As always, thank you for taking the time to read my article on some practical ways to identify your target audience, and I hope to see you in the next one! In the meantime, if you have any questions, do not hesitate to let me know in the comments below.