The “Who” Matters: Defining Your Target Audience

By April 25, 2012July 1st, 2015Marketing Insights & Strategy
The “Who” Matters: Defining Your Target Audience

With the introduction of more highly accessible, instantaneous marketing tactics to the already ever-changing marketing landscape, it becomes more important than ever to know exactly who you are targeting.  It’s easy to get caught up in the hype of social media marketing, but just like any other marketing vehicle, it only works if your audience is using it.

Take Facebook for example.  We know it can be extremely successful in generating awareness and helping to increase sales if you are reaching the right audience.  The keyword there is IF.   According to a new study, 70% of people who like a page on Facebook are NOT in that company’s target audience.

Businesses spend a lot of time answering “what” and a lot of money answering “how,” but perhaps the most important question you can ask is “who.” After all, what good is the perfect product if nobody buys it?  So just WHO are your potential customers?

Who Is Your target Audience?

In its simplest form, your target audience can be broken into two groups:

  1. New Customers- those that need/want your product AND are able to buy it.  The key is that they must meet both criteria.
  2. Repeat Customers- those that have already bought your product and would purchase it again.

In order to understand how to target these two groups and market your product successfully, you need to understand who they are, where they are, what they like and how they behave.

Defining Demographics

Demographic information is basic information that can usually be found on a registration form or from census data.   This is what threads together the common characteristics of your potential customers.  Are they male or female? How old are they? What is their household income?

Important demographic statistics that a company might consider when marketing their products include gender, race, age, marital status, children, home ownership, employment status, and income.

Geographic Targeting

Where in the world are your customers? Literally. You want to know where they are located geographically: country, region, state, city. You may keep your demographics broad to reach a wider audience, especially if you are an internet based business or have an ecommerce component. Or, if you are trying to reach a very specific geographic location, you can also be extremely granular right down to zip code and specific neighborhood.

Psychographic Profiling

Since the way we do business today is much more consumer focused, it’s critical to paint a detailed picture of who you are trying to reach.  Psychographic information relates to personality, values, attitudes, interests, or lifestyles.  You may also hear them called IAO variables (for Interests, Activities, and Opinions).  This kind of information helps further hone in on the potential customers that are most relevant to your specific product or service.

Characteristics such as “likes to ski”, “works out regularly”, “cost-conscious”, “dog owner,”  “favors organic foods,” and “values family time” are all important  things to know about your customers and will be extremely helpful later when determining where to market your message.   Think about all the different types of websites, publications and programming out there… if your message is in a relevant place for your customers, you’ve won half the battle.

Behavior Patterns

How does your target audience behave?  Most often when you hear the word behavior as it relates to marketing, people are referring to a consumer’s online behaviors and patterns.  What sites do they frequent?  Do they research products online? Do they shop online?  How often?  Do they use Facebook? How often do they check email?

When thinking about behavioral martketing, extend beyond just online and consider all actions – online and offline – that can impact purchasing.  This may also include driving kids to soccer practice once a week, listening to the radio in the car, shopping at department stores or clipping coupons from the Money Saver.  (When defining the HOW, you’ll see that most behaviors have marketing vehicles associated with them.  For instance, driving to soccer may translate to outdoor advertising, clipping coupons from money saver may translate into direct mail and so on.)

There are no hard and fast rules, so think hard and be as specific as you can be.  The more details you know about your target market’s daily life, the better you can understand and predict their actions which in turn will help you determine the best time and place to reach them.

Where To Start

Start by examining your current or repeat customers.  This is an important group to understand. First, it will help you define new customers by seeing similarities and patterns.  Second, it’s actually more cost effective to keep a current customer than to acquire a new one.  Learn everything you can about your current customers and use that information wisely.  Analyze all your data.  See what demographic and geographic characteristics are shared.  Find the common values, likes and behaviors.  Once you have that data, you can make marketing assumptions accordingly.

If that data is not readily available, survey your current customers.  Add questions to a registration form, provide a brief online survey, or offer a small incentive for customers to provide you with information you need.  Consumers love to give their input and actually appreciate the personal connection you are trying to make.  Just be careful not to overload them with too many questions.  Keep it short and sweet.  Ask for only what you consider the most important information.

Lastly, brainstorm about potential new customers.  Outline new customers in terms of the four categories listed above then compare and contrast until you have a detailed picture of WHO you are trying to reach.  Where will they come from?  What common characteristics do they share?  What activities do they engage in?  What are their purchasing habits?  How do they compare to your current customers?  Now that you know the WHO, you can move on to the HOW.  But that’s a subject for a different article!