Hey. Psst. Do you know who your target audience is?
Before you get all upset and say “of course I do!”, consider this:
Almost 60% of digital marketing spend is wasted.
You could have the greatest product in the world. You could have written a genius ad campaign for it, too.
But if you’re marketing it to the wrong people, well…
- They don’t understand the difference between target market and target audience
- They haven’t figured out how to build a target audience from their target market
And, most tragically…
- They don’t bother to speak to their customers
It’s a costly mistake, but one that can be remedied with a stronger process and a marketing partner that gets it.
This blog is for all those businesses and marketing managers who need help with identifying and targeting their customers with their marketing.
Before we dive in, here’s a quick snapshot of what you’ll learn over the next 20 minutes:
- Definitions & the difference between target market and a target audience
- The five-step process on how to build a target audience from your target market
- Tips for segmenting your audience across major digital advertising channels
Now buckle up.
Target Market vs Target Audience
Chances are, we’ve only just met, so we’re going to start with the basics.
If you feel like you’ve already versed in target markets, target audiences, and the differences between the two, skip ahead by clicking here.
It’ll zoom you to the next section, “How To Build a Target Audience.”
If not, spend a few minutes coming to terms with these concepts.
Target market — a specific, well-defined segment of consumers that your company serves (or would like to serve) with its offering of products or services.
Or, in other words, your ideal end-users.
You can segment your overall market by using geographic, demographic, sociographic, psychographic, and behavioural factors.
This colourful infographic courtesy of Angus Australia — yes, the cattle folks — gives you a few concrete ideas:
Target audience — a narrower subset of your consumers that you’re singling out with your advertising campaigns.
Your target audience could be made of your end-users, but it doesn’t have to be.
For example, a company that makes educational video games for kids should show marketing messages to parents because they’re the ones with the wallet.
The good news is marketers use the same factors (geographic to psychographic) to segment target audiences and target markets, so no need to learn anything new.
All in all, they’re pretty similar concepts, right?
So what exactly is the difference?
With so much overlap, you need to pay attention to the fine print.
Target markets and target audiences differ in their impact on your business.
Your target market impacts every single thing you do. From developing products to building sales playbooks to thinking of retail store layouts, you always need to have the needs of your target customers in mind.
On the other hand, your choice of target audience only impacts the decisions related to a specific advertising campaign.
Once it’s over, you can refine your targeting strategy if you find that you’ve missed the mark.
Only the luckiest companies get a second chance with their target market.
Let’s paint a picture with an example.
Imagine you’re an eCommerce site that sells young children’s clothing in California.
- Living or spending most of their time in California
- Somewhere between the ages of 25 and 45
- Frequent online shoppers
- Interested in fashion and trends
- Earning an annual income of >$50,000
Your target audience could be precisely the same group of people.
Or you could decide to go from target market to target audience and run a far more specific campaign aimed at new parents in Sacramento, CA, to boost your local sales.
In that case, your target audience would only be “new parents in Sacramento.”
Now that the difference is crystal clear, it’s worth spending a few minutes discussing why both concepts are fundamental to a business’s success.
Why is a target market important for marketing/business goals?
Ever heard of the story of the fisherman that tried to catch wild salmon and yellowfin tuna?
Unlikely, unless you enjoy speaking to sad-looking fellows in seaside pubs.
And it’s all because he tried to catch two types of fish that live thousands of miles apart with the same crew. The only thing he ended up with was a mutiny!
This short (and silly) story proves one thing — you can’t catch them all.
Mass-market strategies don’t work anymore.
Well, unless you invent something as revolutionary as Google or toothbrushes. Then you can go ahead and target the entire world (marketing budget permitting).
Otherwise, you’re stuck with target markets like the rest of us.
And accepting this fact of life is a good thing.
It’ll keep you focused on the right customers (and mutiny-free).
Plus, it has a host of other benefits:
- More opportunities to introduce personalised products and messaging
- Easier to concentrate on the right distribution channels
- Smarter pricing decisions
- More effective use of limited resources
And why is a target audience important for marketing/business goals?
Because of the incredible power of targeting.
That’s impressive stuff.
And it works because you can reach out to people interested in your products/services on the channels they use on a daily basis.
If you top that off with an element of personalisation that’s not overly creepy, your ads will stand out like the Burj Khalifa in the Dubai skyline.
Need an example?
You love Malta. You can’t get enough of spending your summer holidays there.
On a dreary February morning in dreary, grey Manchester — cutaway: is it even raining, or does the water just get stuck in the air? — you feel pretty down.
Then as you’re scrolling through your Instagram feed, you see a beautiful shot of the Golden Bay Beach along with a code for 25% off all rooms for returning customers.
You immediately click through and start thinking about your next holiday.
Now compare that experience to seeing a billboard advertising the same thing on your drive into work.
Not quite the same thing.
So how do you unleash the power of target audiences?
Let’s find out.
How To Build a Target Audience in 5(ish) Steps
Step 1 – Build a target market
Captain obvious, right here.
Yet we need to say it — you have to define your target market before you do anything else.
Never, ever skip building a target market.
However, if your organisation has already come up with a solid target market, you can skip this first step and bunny hop over to step 2 of how to build a target audience.
BUT if you have even a shadow of a doubt about who you’re targeting, you should stick around and follow these three sub-steps to build yourself a target market.
Step 1.1 – Determine the benefits your business is selling
Start by asking yourself these three basic questions:
- What needs does your business meet?
- What problems do you solve?
- Which desires do you fulfil?
By zeroing in on your customers’ needs, problems, and desires, you’ll be able to redirect your focus towards your end-users instead of your own product.
And once you’ve done that, answering the following question will be a piece of cake:
What benefits are you selling?
Here’s an example of what we mean.
You work in hotel marketing at the fancy Maltese hotel that ran that Golden Bay Beach Instagram ad in the UK.
You don’t sell a room with a view and a delicious breakfast buffet — these are features.
You sell the sand, the sunshine, and a feeling of complete relaxation and bliss.
And those are the messages you focus on.
Have a look at these two adverts to see the difference between a feature-led approach and a benefit-led approach:
Conrad beats the pants off of Huma.
Pro tip for entrepreneurs:
We know you love your baby, but always stay objective and avoid biases before they lead you down a dark, scary path.
If your product doesn’t have a clear benefit, it won’t have a market need.
Which means you’re better off dumping it and trying something else before you become another one of 35% of startups that fail due to a lack of demand.
Boy, oh boy, don’t the inventors of the Picnic Pants wish they followed our advice.
Step 1.2 – Build market segments and buyer personas
Next up, the fun part.
You need to define the type of people on the receiving end of the benefits you’re providing.
- High-income couples from the EU, aged 25-40, with a passion for beach sports and snorkelling
- UK families with children aged 5-15 looking to relax and enjoy the sun
- US retirees, aged 65–80, wanting an all-inclusive solution where they can mingle with people their age
You should use a mixture of geographic, demographic, behavioural, and psychographic variables to pull together a picture of your ideal buyer persona.
|Demographic||Age||25 to 35|
|Income level||£50,000 to £80,000 per year|
|Occupation||Marketing, sales, or customer success|
|Behavioural and psychographic||Personality||Extrovert, creative, curious|
|Key behaviours||Purchases holidays last-minute|
|Passions and interests||Loves travelling solo|
|Values||Freedom, exercise, healthy diet|
At the end of the exercise, you’ll know so much about them that it’ll only be natural to give them a catchy name like Metro Marketer Matt.
Here’s another example of what you’re looking to achieve, but this time for an eCommerce store selling footwear:
Step 1.3 – Validate your targets
Before going any further, it’s time for a bit of a reality check.
Are your targets worth going after?
Or, to put it simply, are there enough Brandi Tylers in Southern California to make your business idea both feasible and profitable?
If the answer’s yes, congrats, your target market is complete, and you’re ready for step 2.
If not, it’s back to the drawing board.
Step 2 – Do some research
The first part of going from target market to target audience is to do your homework.
Your goal is to rummage through all the data at your fingertips and uncover:
- The most responsive subsection of your target customers to go after with advertising campaigns
- The total size of the opportunity and the budget you need to spend to reach them
- Whether or not your assumptions reflect actual customer behaviour
- Which channels work best for communicating your benefits
We suggest you complement your internal data sources with an audience research and social listening tool like SparkToro.
It’s easy to use and affordable, especially when compared to running expensive market research surveys and focus groups.
Just sign up and use their research tool to gather invaluable information.
Step 3 – Listen to your customers
You can invest in all the social listening tools available.
But they’ll never replace the impact of real conversations.
Not sure if your target audience metrics are on point? Worried about how your messaging will be received?
Turns out, you can just ask your customers.
Yep. It never ceases to amaze us how few marketers think to reach out to their audience and be candid about this stuff.
Before jumping in your customers’ DM’s, we recommend you think carefully about what questions you’re going to ask, who you’re going to approach, and what (if anything) you’ll give them in exchange for their time.
You can use email and text surveys, or in-person interviews and focus groups.
But don’t be sad if you don’t have the budget to get that personal with your interactions; you can always rely on sleek technology like Typeform to design beautiful, responsive forms.
Step 4 – Speak to your sales and customer success teams
Once you’re done listening to your customers, it’s time to skedaddle on over to your favourite customer-facing departments. Sales and Customer Success.
They’re on the front-line day in, day out, which makes the best people in your organisation to talk to.
You can show them your target audience categories and ask for their feedback:
- Do they think you’re going after the best segment of your target market?
- Have you captured what makes your customers tick?
- Do they know of any problems and objections you’re missing?
- Can they give you any pointers on the right language to use?
It’s time to put our differences aside. To truly connect with your customers and make more sales, sales and marketing must unite. 🤝
Step 5 – Spy (a little) on the competition
You’re almost there. One more step.
As part of your digital marketing strategy, you need to figure out what your competitors are up to.
Your advertising doesn’t live in a bubble, so don’t treat it as such.
Odds are you can learn some pretty valuable lessons without having to make the same mistakes.
Maybe you can identify a platform you hadn’t thought of using or a more specific niche of high-value customers that buy up your products like there was no tomorrow.
By the end of this process, you should have a crystal clear picture of your target audience.
You should be looking at something like one of these three target audience examples:
|Organisation||Target audience examples|
|Luxury hotel in Malta|
|Supply chain consultants|
Awesome job! 🎉
As a little present for all your hard work, we’ll also drop six best practices, so you can extract the most value out of your new target audience
Tips for Segmenting Your Audience for Targeted Ads
On Google, try in-market audiences for more results
In-market audiences are a nifty thing Google has devised to allow marketers to focus on people ready to make a purchase.
By using a series of triggers (like keywords and websites visited), Google determines whether a searcher is “in the market” and allows you to piggyback on this knowledge.
It’s a fantastic tool for targeting the bottom of the sales funnel with your adverts.
And more good news: there are 481 in-market target audience categories, so you’ll more than likely find one closely in line with your own definition.
On Facebook, A/B testing is your best friend
If you’ve ever opened Facebook Ads, you know a zillion segmenting options are available.
It can be overwhelming, even if you have a well-defined target audience.
So rather than winging it, adopt a solid A/B testing strategy.
Try a series of distinct audiences with slightly different options to see which works best.
- Geographics: London, UK (+25 miles)
- Demographics: aged 28 to 35, male, English
- Detailed targeting: Malta, waterskiing, beaches, fine dining lovers, luxury resorts
- Geographics: London, UK (+50 miles)
- Demographics: London, aged 28 to 35, female, English
- Detailed targeting: Malta, sailing, travel, Mediterranean cuisine, college grad
On Instagram, find the right influencers, find the right audience
Influencers are the kings and queens of Instagram.
Because they’ve already amassed thousands (or millions) of followers with interests that align with a particular niche.
And that niche could be just what you’re looking for in terms of a target audience.
So rather than reinventing the wheel, find the right influencers and partner with them to promote your product/service.
Say, an influential travel blogger specialising in Mediterranean getaways would be perfect for a Maltese hotel.
On LinkedIn, create closed groups for your target audience
LinkedIn is all about community and learning from the leading voices in your industry.
What better way to leverage that than creating one or more closed groups for your target audience categories?
By cherry-picking the members, facilitating the discussion, and sharing high-quality content, you could create a go-to location for establishing yourself as the thought leader in your niche.
Then, your target audience will be the ones coming to you.
On YouTube, it’s all about placement
Have you ever seen an utterly random advert pop up on YouTube?
We see it all the time.
Just this morning, we got a promo video for an Indian musician. Too bad we don’t speak Hindu or aren’t interested in that genre of music.
And that’s why it’s location, location, location on YouTube.
But luckily, Google equips marketers with placement targeting, so you can choose the channels and even the exact videos you want to target.
A dream for singling out your exact audience and serving personalised content.
Use a tool like TubeSift to make finding suitable videos a hassle-free task.
On Pinterest, make good use of the audience targeting options
Pinterest can be a crazy place with all those pins.
But you can make your ads stand out by using one of the four audience targeting options and only targeting users who are most likely to interact.
You can choose from:
Here’s what we recommend:
|Target audience category||What to use it for|
|Website visitor retargeting|
|Customer list targeting|
Conclusion: Now You Know How To Build a Target Audience…
Alright, enough reading for today.
We’ve covered everything we wanted to.
You know the five-and-a-bit-step process on how to build a target audience.
So what next?
Take a short break, and then get to work building your target audience!
But what if you don’t have enough time to master all these steps? Or enough budget to make a few mistakes as you test the different platforms?
No need to worry; expert help is available!
All you need to do is click through and check out our services and extensive experience, and, if you like what you see, book a 30-minute call with our friendly marketing experts.