Identifying your target audience can be one of the most challenging parts of developing a marketing plan. It’s also one of the most important for small business owners.
Only when you’ve zeroed in on your target market can you understand what problems you can solve for them, how they make buying decisions , what type of messaging will resonate, what channels are better suited to reach them, and where you fit in the picture as a potential solution.
That’s why we’ve put together our advice on how to target the right audience, and ensure you achieve the reach you’re looking for.
5 Steps to Identifying (and Reaching!) Your Target Audience
Step 1: Think about your ideal customer.
Sounds simple, but it’s also critical to have a current, clear understanding of who you’re spending your marketing dollars attempting to influence and engage. Who is your ideal customer? And is that the same as your current customers? Are there gaps between the two?
Survey your customers and prospects, conduct lots of research, and really think through who you need to reach in order to achieve or improve upon your marketing goals. Start with basic demographics:
- How old are they?
- Where do they live?
- What level of education do they have?
- What kind of work do they do?
- What’s their household income?
- Are they married?
- Are they homeowners or renters?
- How big is their family? How old are their children?
While much of this might vary, the goal is to hone in on the most common traits of your ideal customers.
Build from there by considering psychographics. This information focuses on lifestyle, values, and habits. For instance:
- What do they do for fun? What are their hobbies?
- What do their shopping habits look like?
- What motivates them?
- What are they worried or stressed about?
- What do they need, or what are they looking for? (e.g., sense of balance, relief, security, etc.)
By taking the time to gather this type of information, you will have a much more accurate, detailed, and meaningful idea of who your target customer actually is.
Step 2: Consider your expertise and skills to provide them with solutions they need.
Now it’s time to assess where your business comes in. This step is about defining your market position.
- How can you best solve their problem or address their need?
- Are you a one-stop shop providing everything they’re looking for?
- Or are you an important part of a bigger solution that involves products or services provided by others?
- Have they heard of you?
- What are their other options?
- Realistically, how much of this target market can you expect to capture?
There are always other fish in the sea, so it’s just smart business to acknowledge the competitive landscape. It takes time to capture market share, and the brands that do are the ones that focus on carving out their area of expertise.
Step 3: Hone in on the specific problems you can solve.
The buyer’s journey is the active process consumers take when researching and making decisions leading up to a purchase. This journey will look very different depending on your industry and product or services. For instance, buying a new roof will present a very different process than choosing where to go for lunch.
Take a look at your unique buyer’s journey, and understand how you can address each stage with your messaging:
- In the first stage—awareness—the buyer is just starting to recognize or express that they have a need.
- In the next stage—consideration—the buyer has narrowed down their choices and is looking for more details. They are considering their options (hence the stage name).
- Finally, at the decision stage, the buyer is preparing to make their final choice.
What does this look like for your messaging?
If many of your prospects are in the awareness stage, then you need to include messaging in your commercials that informs and educates, shining a light on the problem they have. They may even be aware of it. For example, a home renovation company might share how it feels to have an updated home when hosting family for the holidays.
But if most of your prospects are already going to make this kind of purchase and are at more of a decision stage, then your marketing creative should be more focused on why you versus the other guys. For example, Coca Cola isn't telling people about the tastiness of sodas, but instead telling a story that makes you choose Coca Cola over Pepsi when in the checkout line.
Step 4: Assess how your ideal customers currently find solutions or make a purchase.
Market research is often necessary to determine the factors that go into a customer’s choice of one product or company over another. How important are the following, if everything else between your product or service and a competitor’s was equal?
- Customer service
- Brand recognition
This is an area where a marketing professional can provide valuable insights about your target audience, media trends, and more.
Step 5: Use data to make informed media choices.
Once you’ve collected all this information, put it to use. It should inform every aspect of your marketing strategy, such as what media channels you invest in.
- Is your keyword strategy effective for your target audience’s search habits?
- Are your digital ads showing up on the sites they frequent?
- Do you have a mix of mass reach media, like radio and digital?
- Are you present on the social channels your audience expects you to be?
- Will your ads run when they will be most likely to see or hear them?
The five steps above are not for a one-and-done exercise. In addition to conducting market research on a regular basis, you should update your buyer persona (or personas) routinely and revisit the buyer’s journey. Monitoring—and learning from —the results of your marketing campaigns is vital to ensuring that you’re reaching your target audience.