Why Your Business Must Define Its Target Audience

Tom Dempster

Tom Dempster

Have you ever tried to have a conversation with six billion people? It’s really hard to be heard! This article looks at the importance of creating target audience groups to ensure your products are reaching your ideal consumers.

If you’re a business owner or a marketer, take a step back and reflect for a moment. Think about the main product or service you are trying to sell. Who is going to buy it?

There is no right or wrong answer to that question – because every business is unique and appeals to different groups. 

However, one of the worst answers you can give is “everybody” – because in all likelihood, it will result in selling to nobody. Let me clarify why. 

Sometimes, it seems that marketers, content creators and even SEOs are guilty of taking too broad a view of their target audiences. They feel that a product has to touch every corner of the globe, or that a piece of content has to go viral to be successful.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with creating content with the anticipation of attracting links from reputable websites. That’s a part of any sensible SEO strategy, as backlinks from authoritative sites can boost your own domain’s authority. But it isn’t everything.

Your organization’s marketing strategies – online and offline – should begin with the end consumer in mind. Who are you selling to? Why do they want to buy your product? What differentiates it from your competitors? Which problem is it solving? What marketing messages will resonate with them?

Audience research can help you answer a lot of these questions. Not only does it help you properly position your product in the marketplace – it also helps you to craft your website’s content and direct targeted traffic based on search queries.

How target audiences work - a practical example

To date, no brand on the planet has been able to create a product that is perfect for everybody. Take McDonald’s as one example. The brand might have mass appeal, but it isn’t an ideal fit for many consumers. You may decide not to eat there for any number of reasons (i.e. if you are health-conscious, or prefer to have your meal brought to you at your table, or perhaps if you are vegan or vegetarian).

Here’s a practical example of how target audiences work. Let’s imagine I want to grab a cup of coffee (and for this exercise, let’s also imagine I’m going to conveniently forget the full packet of coffee in my pantry, so I have to go out and buy one). 

Within an hour of my home, I have several options.

7-eleven coffee shop union grove nc
Option 1; I can drive to the 7-Eleven - less than ten minutes from my home - and serve myself a coffee from a dispenser. This will cost me around $1.50.
starbucks coffee shop statesville nc
Option 2: I could decide to head to the nearby city of Statesville, approximately 25 minutes away, and purchase a drink from a major chain like Starbucks. This may end up costing around $4-$5 (depending on the drink, and how indulgent I’m feeling).
urban coffee grinders
Option 3: I can also go further afield, perhaps to Mooresville or even Charlotte, and head to an independent coffee shop with an on-site roastery. A coffee here could cost around $3-$4.

Now, all of these establishments sell coffee – but they are not trying to sell to the same people.

7-Eleven is a convenience store attached to a gas station and offers self-serve coffee. Situated just off the expressway, this particular location sells coffee to truck drivers or those making trips which take them through North Carolina. Given its somewhat rural location, it is one of the few local places which serves coffee. However, it’s unlikely anyone outside of the immediate area would make a special trip just for a caffeine hit – although it offers perfectly serviceable coffee, it doesn’t offer baristas or a wide range of specialty drinks.

Starbucks is, of course, a world-renowned brand with over 15,000 locations in the United States. There are three Starbucks locations in the city of Statesville alone. If a customer goes to Starbucks, they’re expecting an extensive menu of handcrafted drinks and an atmosphere which might be conducive to catching up on some work. The customer’s expectations are set by the experiences they have had at one of the other 14,999 locations in the country. 

The independent coffee shop with the on-site roastery is a little different. One of the target audiences here is likely to be a true coffee connoisseur – someone who can identify a great espresso from just a good one. They love the experience of visiting a new coffee shop, potentially enjoy engaging in conversations with the owners about the roasting process, and they may even write a blog about their coffee experiences in North Carolina and beyond.

Even though I can buy coffee from a variety of places, each establishment is positioning itself slightly differently. They aren’t trying to sell coffee to everyone. The person who wants to savour a handmade beverage at Starbucks isn’t the same person who wants to grab a coffee from 7-Eleven. This is the importance of defining your target audience – so you know exactly who your marketing and advertising should be aimed at.

(Of course – as this Cracked video demonstrates – most target audiences for coffee products have something in common – a partial dependence on caffeine…)

Characteristics of your target audience

I used the coffee shop example as one most of us could relate to, but identifying target audiences is important in every industry and every niche.

Every business should be able to identify the key characteristics of their ideal customer. Some of these characteristics include:

  • Age – defining a specific age-range isn’t vital, but there is a difference between marketing your product to young adults as opposed to retirees.

  • Location – this is particularly important for local businesses, but even global brands must take language and location into consideration.

  • Household income – this can help to identify the living costs and disposable income of your target market, helping you to price your product accurately.

  • Lifestyle – this relates to items such as the amount of free time your target audience has.

  • Hobbies and interests – pitching piano tuning services to someone who doesn’t own a piano is a tough sell.

A target audience will almost certainly contain more than one of these factors. 

To use another example, think about a golf club which is trying to increase membership. Which of the factors above will it need to take into consideration to define its target audience? The most important aspect is hobbies and interests – they will need to have an interest in playing golf.

After that, they will likely target golfers within a certain radius or travel time of the course; they may choose to target those with a higher household income (a 2016 study by the National Golf Federation found that 9.2% of U.S. golfers have a household income under $30,000 – compared with 26.7% with a household income in excess of $125,000); and the targets will need enough free time to be able to spend four hours playing a round of golf.

How can you determine your target audience?

There are several data points you can use to identify the target audience for your business.

  • Market research – look at industry reports to draw conclusions about those who are likely to be interested in your product.

  • Sales data – trawl your own sales information to spot trends in customer spending.

  • Competitor research – review the way your competitors position themselves to see which segments they are targeting.

  • Website/social media analytics – use the demographics data in Google Analytics or review your social analytics to see who is engaging with your content.

You’ll need to use all of these to construct a comprehensive target audience profile. 

It is important to note that a business can have more than one target audience. Depending on your product range, you may have three or four different personas. This allows you to craft a marketing message or target advertisements which are specifically tailored to these personas.

How do target audiences relate to SEO and content?

Creating target audiences is one of the most important parts of an SEO or content creation strategy. Without this step, it’s very difficult to know if the work you’re doing is targeting the correct people and ultimately going to lead to increased conversions.

At True Boost, one of the first things we do when working with new clients is discuss their target audiences and how this can impact the overall marketing message. The optimization strategy and creative content can then be driven with the end consumer in mind.

Every piece of blog content we produce for our clients has a defined purpose in mind. Some of them aren’t purely keyword-driven. In some cases, we create content which highlights brand values or promotes a key message of the organization.  

But what every piece of content has in common is that we know it is going to align with a defined target audience. We’ve done the research to establish the user personas, and we have a good idea of how the blog article or creative content is going to satisfy them in some way, shape or form.

To go back to the coffee shop example, you might wonder how a small, artisanal coffee shop can stand a chance against Starbucks – a global brand which spends over $375 million annually on its marketing activities.

The independent coffee shop has to identify the benefits of its value proposition over Starbucks. It can use its audience research to position itself in the marketplace correctly. For example, they can appeal hyper-locally to people in the area; they can attract coffee enthusiasts; they can build strong relationships with the local community; they can roast and sell the coffee beans in small batches from their store, and perhaps start to offer them online in time.

That defines the overall strategy, but it also helps from an online perspective. The coffee shop can then optimize its entire online presence to ensure its content will resonate with the target audience. Keyword research and search intent can help to refine this further, ensuring the written copy on the website matches the terms and phrases the target audience is likely to search for.

For blog content, there is a world of opportunity in every niche for creating informative content. I did some very brief research in Ahrefs which showed there is no shortage of topics to write about, on the topic of coffee beans alone:

ahrefs coffee beans

It doesn’t matter how ‘dry’ or ‘boring’ you think your industry might be – if there is a market for your product, then there is an audience for information related to that product. 

Many small businesses believe they don’t have the time or resources to invest in writing blog content – but it is such a great way to establish yourself as an expert in your field, without being perceived as pushy or focused on sales. You’re just providing useful information to visitors who have an interest in your area of expertise. 

Even publishing one quality blog article per month is giving you a competitive advantage over rivals who might be producing nothing at all. By defining your target audience, and answering their questions and solving their problems, you can make sure that any content you produce is appealing to the right people.

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