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How to Define Your Target Audience

How to Write a Marketing Plan, Part 3

Have you ever been invited to an event and wondered what to wear? You don’t want to be overdressed or underdressed. Are you going to a sports bar? If so, you’ll probably want to dress differently than if you are going to a wine bar. Knowing what to wear can be thought of as a form of messaging.  Knowing what to wear is much like knowing what to say: you have to know what’s appropriate for the audience.

How to Define Your Target Audience

Knowing what’s appropriate to say, how to say it, the visual cues to use, and knowing where those people hang out so you’ll know where to market are all part of understanding your target audience.

A target audience is something you define based on market research. This research might come from surveying people and demographics that you think would be ideal customers. This research might come from the information you have about existing customers. Typically, you’ll end up with one or more fictional ideal customer profiles. This article will help you define those profiles.

A Target Audience is Otherwise Known As…

Before we go further, know that there are many terms in marketing that usually are interchangeable. The term “target audience” is synonymous with “persona,” “ideal customer,” “customer avatar,” and “ideal customer avatar.” We will use some of those terms interchangeably in this article.

Why Define a Target Audience?

Effective marketing leaves the viewer with the feeling that you truly “get” them and what they care about. To really “get” someone, you need to “know” them, meaning you need to have a clear picture of their likes, dislikes, hobbies, fears, needs, wants, income, demographics, and habits. Defining your target audience helps you connect with them on a personal level. You’ll understand the nuances of how they think. With this deeper understanding, you’ll be far more likely to create marketing campaigns that make sense and resonate with your target audience, which means they are more likely to:

  • Trust you
  • Pay attention to your marketing campaigns
  • Feel interested in what you’re selling
  • Remember your marketing campaigns
  • Want to know more
  • Consider buying your product or service

How Will You Use Your Target Audience?

When you’ve defined your target audience, you’ll use it as the basis for everything you create for your business, such as:

  • Names of products and services
  • Colors, fonts, and images used for product design
  • Where you market
  • The visual content in your marketing assets
  • The written and spoken words used for marketing
  • How your salespeople interact with prospective buyers

How Many Target Audience Members Should You Define?

At least one. There’s no right answer for all situations, but you might find that more than one persona presents itself as you do your research. For instance, you might find that your product is appropriate for males and females. If so, you’ll probably want to have at least two audience members defined. If you find you have many distinct personas that are ideal for your product, you’ll likely want to create marketing campaigns specifically for the different personas. For example, you’d probably speak differently to a 20-year-old college student than a 40-year-old executive. Additionally, you might want to define who isn’t ideal for your product or service. Defining who you aren’t trying to target can help you rule out marketing concepts and platforms.

Ways to Define Your Target Audience

While you can research who your competitors attract, interviewing people will provide you with the most insights. Interview anyone who has tried the product, whether they enjoyed the product or disliked it; this includes you and your team. If you can’t interview people, you can research who interacts with your competitors online, but this is a less insightful approach.

Interview people you think would benefit from the product as well as people you think would never use it.

People’s time is valuable, so consider reimbursement for their feedback. Depending on how you know them, this could be in the form of gift cards, a free lunch, or free products.

What to Find Out About Your Audience

These questions can either be asked or researched. The first questions in this list are product-related. They are the higher-priority questions. The remaining items on this will paint a full picture of your target audience; if you choose not to ask all of the questions on this list, be sure that everyone who performs interviews or research uses the same set of questions.

  • If they have tried the product, why were they open to trying it?
  • Do they plan to use the product regularly?
  • What problem does this product solve for them?
  • Does the product compare to anything else on the market? If so, how is it the same, and how is it different?
  • If there are similar products, do they like the product better than the competition?
  • How did they learn about the product?
  • What would improve the product?
  • How do they usually find out about new products and services? Do they click on ads fed to them? Do they research via search engines? Do they first ask others that they know? Do social media influencers influence their buying habits?
  • Do they consider themselves an introvert or extravert? Do they know their personality type?
  • What is their gender?
  • What is their age?
  • Are they in a relationship? What type (married, long-term partnership, new relationship).
  • What is their political affiliation?
  • What is their religious affiliation?
  • What is their educational background?
  • What is their current profession?
  • Are they retired?
  • What is their current income range?
  • How much money do they spend a month on necessities and non-necessities? (This can be a hard figure or a % of total money spent.)
  • Do they rent or own where they live?
  • What do they live in: a house, apartment, condo, etc.?
  • What other professions have they pursued in the past?
  • Are they considering changing professions?
  • Do they own pets? If so, how many? What kind?
  • What social media platforms do they use?
  • How often are they on the platforms?
  • What types of content interests them most on the different social media platforms?
  • Who do they follow on social media?
  • Where do they like to shop the most?
  • When thinking about the products they have in their life, what brands do they like the most? What brands do they dislike?
  • Do they watch streaming media (Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, Disney +, etc.)? If so, which channels do they subscribe to? Which shows on those platforms do they prefer? What shows on the platforms don’t interest them?
  • What are their preferred types of movies? What kind of movies do they dislike?
  • What do they do for additional entertainment? Hike? Crafts? Yoga? Home improvement projects? Gardening? Etc.
  • What type of music do they prefer and dislike?

How to Process Your Audience Research

You’ll want to collect your research in a format that allows you to see patterns. This might be as simple as a spreadsheet.

When you notice a pattern to a question, that’s a trait to put into a Target Audience Profile. For instance, you might find that people who use and like the product tend to use Pinterest and Facebook the most, and people who don’t like the product tend to stay away from all social media platforms.

As you notice trends, you can create bio cards, giving these traits a name. You might have Suzie, who likes the product, uses Pinterest and Facebook daily, and owns dogs. Suzie likes the product because it solves x problem for her, and she plans to use the product regularly. You’ll create a story about Suzie based on all the common trends you found for females who like the product that own dogs. You might also have Felicity, who dislikes the product, never goes on social media, and doesn’t have any pets. Just like Suzie’s bio, you’ll want to define what makes Felicity happy, why she doesn’t like the product, and where Felicity spends her time. Give each audience bio a photo. Put all of their information together in a document, presenting their information as a story about them.
Present each bio in a standardized way, so it is easy for your team to compare the different personas.

Looking for inspiration as to how to present the target audience bios? Here’s an excellent article with 20 examples and more research ideas.

Coming Up Next

In our next article for this series, we will dive into researching the competition.

More Marketing Plan Articles

This article is part of a series to help you create a robust marketing plan:

Avatar for Akira Hirai

Akira Hirai

Akira is the Founder & CEO of Cayenne Consulting. He has over 30 years of experience both as an entrepreneur and helping other entrepreneurs succeed. Akira earned his BA in Engineering Sciences from Harvard University. View details.

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