Knowing your target audience is an important step to launching a successful communications or marketing campaign.
So, what is a target audience?
Part of a target audience is based on demographics that make-up a group of people. Demographics are the statistical characteristics of human populations. Therefore, for the purpose of creating a target audience, one needs a list of individuals that meet a criteria of data for buying a product or service, or needing something that a business, organization or government agency provides.
Demographic information for a target audience can be very precise or extremely broad. It depends on the outcome you are trying to achieve. If you are trying to find people who are interested in the products or services you have to offer, you will likely have to be as specific as possible to ensure you make the right connections.
Demographic information includes, but is not limited to:
Ethnicity and/or Race
Location (Country, region, state, city/town)
Housing (Rent or Own)
Socioeconomic status (or income)
Religious affiliation (maybe even number of times attend religious services per month)
Beyond the standard set of demographic information, you also may want to look at other data points to identify your target audience, such as:
Years of employment
Industry of current employer
Job title and role
Territory (if their job is focused on a specific region)
Basically, if we were to create a simple definition, a target audience is a collection of data points that defines the group of people you are trying to engage.
What are some examples of a target audience?
There are many different types of target audiences. In some businesses, a target audience may be limited to a job role or title within a company that's in a specific industry. For example, you may be interested in reaching building operations managers who work for quick service / fast food restaurants. For a government agency, you may be interested only in targeting people below a specific income level in a geographic area. Whomever you want to target, the data you use to set the criteria will be an important driver of your success.
To help illustrate the types of target audiences, here are a couple of examples based on past work we have done. These examples should give you a good idea of what we are talking about.
Audience for a cybersecurity solution
First, imagine you have a solution that provides network security and prevents hackers and other bad actors from accessing a company's network. Who would you reach out to? One possible target audience would be to focus on Chief Technology Officers (CTOs), Chief Information Officers (CIOs), and other IT and IT security professionals. But without more audience qualifiers - that audience size will be very large.
So, your next step may to be decide that, based on what your solution delivers and its cost (figuring in equipment, installation time and other variables), you need to sell to larger businesses and government agencies. The result of this decision will be to reduce the size of your audience significantly.
Now, let's take it one step farther to narrow the target audience even more. To do this we will limit the audience to larger businesses that are in the health care industry and federal government agencies and the top 10 states in IT spending. The final result is you have gone from targeting all CTOs, CIOs and IT professionals to only targeting those in larger organizations and within very specific industries.
Audience for an online home school program
In this case, imagine you have an online learning platform for parents who want to home school their children. What would that target audience potentially look like?
First of all, you would want to target all parents (two parent and single parent households) with children ages 4 to 16. In research, you may have learned that the biggest adopters of a home school program are parents of younger children, so may even consider narrowing the age range. But for now, let's leave it as defined above.
How else could you build this target audience? The next step would be to know that home schooling typically requires one parent to be a stay-at-home parent. So, number of parents in the workforce - though a difficult data point to locate - would be helpful to know. Depending on geography, household income would be important to know as well, since having a stay-at-home parent and paying for a home-based learning program will require a higher income.
Lastly, you might consider "religious affiliation" as a final data point needed to build your target audience, since religion and family values are often major reasons why people consider switching from public school to a home school
curriculum and program.
How we help create target audiences
At Social Web Tactics, we have a number of ways we help businesses, organizations and government agencies create or improve their target audiences.
Review Customer Data
Existing customer data, including sales reports, are an important starting point. We like to review and analyze past performance and to build some profiles of your customers. In many cases, we will interview sales / business development team members to hear their perspectives, including what prospects discuss with them.
There are many sources for marketplace data that can be used to build a target audience. We look at competitors and the published deals they have won, because they are a great resource. When you know the buyers of competitor services or solutions, you can start to build a buyer profile and target audience.
Website analytics and Google Search Console data can help add insights into who your target audience is as well as help paint a picture on how effective your messaging is at the present time. We review analytics and search data as part of every engagement.
Keyword / Search Data
We also use keyword and online search data as part of our process of building a target audience. Search engines are our answer engines. We go to them to find information about things we need. Identifying what people are looking for is a helpful way to finding who is doing the looking.
LinkedIn audience profiles provide a good sounding board for creating a target audience. LinkedIn advertising allows us to target, test, and the hone the target audience based on performance of a campaign.
Survey or Market Research
Surveys or market research, either done directly from an organization or using third-party media focused on specific industries, are very effective ways of building a target audience. In both cases, you get audience information. We have extensive experience creating survey questions and market research questions, as well as building online assessment tools.