When starting a business for the first time, there are a million and one different things that need to be set up. Everything from your licensing, to your branding, to bank accounts, and everything in between.
The thing that many new business owners seem to overlook though is their audience.
Many people believe that they have this great business idea and that all they have to do is just get it out there.
The problem with that mentality is that this is not a Field of Dreams type of situation. You can’t just build it and expect people to come banging down your door to get your amazing product.
You have to know who you’re talking to and what they’re looking for. That’s why figuring out how to find your target audience is so vitally important.
What is Your Target Audience?
Your target audience is the group of people that you want to promote your goods and services to.
It’s as simple as that.
The problem with determining your target audience though is that many business owners assume that they know who they’re talking to, when in reality they’ve probably missed the mark.
Knowing these things can make a huge impact in your business.
Importance of a Target Audience
First and foremost, knowing who your target audience is means that you can create the right content for the right people.
If you don’t know who your audience is and what they’re looking for, then you likely won’t be creating the type of content that they’re looking for. This leads to less traffic, less engagement, and less conversions.
In layman’s terms, this means less money. I certainly don’t want to make less money for more work. I’m sure you don’t either.
Knowing what type of content your audience is looking for means that you can work smarter, not harder to make sales.
I know I’m a huge fan of that!
When I say content, I’m not just talking about blog posts. It’s everything that your business puts out.
Your content is your social media posts, your email newsletters, the copy on your business website, how you describe your products and services, all of it.
If you are writing it about your business and using it to bring in more readers and customers, then it is your content.
Types of Target Market Segmentation
Now that you know why it’s important to know your target audience, let’s talk about how you actually find them.
The first thing to understand is that there are different ways of segmenting your ideal audience. That means that there are different ways to group your audience so that you can better understand their needs.
Geographic segmentation is when you want to serve customers within a particular area.
This can be really beneficial if you have a brick and mortar store and do not operate your business virtually.
Being able to specifically target the people within your given area in a better way can make a big difference in how many people you actually get to walk through your front door on any given day.
If you have a photography business in Boise, Idaho, the people in New York aren’t going to do you any good.
You need to be able to target the people within your general vicinity so that you can actually find paying clients.
Probably the most common way to determine target markets is by demographic segmentation.
Demographic segmentation is when you divide the market into smaller groups based on demographic principles such as: age, gender, income, and education level.
This type of target marketing is really beneficial if you have a particular business that really only caters to certain types of people.
For instance, if you’re starting a pregnancy blog, you probably don’t want to attract male readers.
You could also narrow that down even further and just target women in a certain age range. Even more so if you only want to talk to first time moms or if you want to talk to women with more than one child.
Then you have the other aspects of income level and whether or not she works.
Knowing those things will help you create content specifically geared to what your reader is going through and how she can make her life easier through your products and services.
Understanding those components of her life will mean that she is more likely to trust you. So, when you push out a product, she’ll be more likely to buy.
Psychographic segmentation is when you group people together based on personality traits that they have in common.
Things such as beliefs, values, interest, attitudes, can all help you better target your audience.
This type of segmentation is more beneficial to businesses offering goods and services that can benefit different types of clients.
For instance, if you have a fitness shop selling courses on how to get fit and different types of products that can help, you most likely aren’t just going to target people based on demographics.
If you function completely online, then you probably won’t be limiting yourself to a geographic area either.
A 20-year-old man and a 40-year-old woman can both benefit from physical fitness courses and supplies.
So, unless you’re going to create products only for men, or only for women, then creating content that is more gender neutral and focused more on the end result would be more beneficial to you and your business.
Behavioral segmentation focuses more on what your audience does rather than who they are or how they think.
It focuses more on buying patterns, brand loyalty, and product usage frequency.
Focusing your content around this type of segmentation means that you can better predict how your audience will approach your goods and services. This means that you have a better understanding of the wording and language that your audience will most relate to.
This can certainly lead to more sales since you will fully understand your target audience’s buying cycle, as well as what they need to know in order to actually make a purchase.
Can I Target More than One Audience?
Though target audience marketing is separated into four main types, many of the qualities can overlap.
The more specific you can get to understanding who your audience is and what they’re looking for, the easier it will be for you to create content that they’re looking for.
For instance, for my own website, I have used pieces of the demographic segmentation by targeting female clients, specifically moms.
That’s pretty much where that stops though. I focus very heavily on the psychological aspects of my clients.
I want to make sure that I help people with what they’re really and truly looking for. I just don’t feel that I can get that with demographics alone.
Combining the two segments helps me better understand my target audience so that I can better serve them.
Identifying Your Target Audience
Now that you know the different ways that you can target your audience, it’s time to put it into practice.
1. Start Broad
Many people start out thinking that you have to narrow down your niche and your market to a very small handful of people when you first start out.
I actually don’t agree with this mentality.
To me, narrowing down too much too quickly can actually hinder you since you may be unintentionally narrowing yourself down too much and cutting out huge groups of people.
That can make it harder and harder to actually find the people that you want to help that may also be looking for your services.
This can especially happen if you try focusing on ALL of the marketing segments at once rather than just different aspects of each of them.
I knew a business owner once that had an opinion of her target market. This is what she said:
Women between the ages of 20 and 30 that live in or around (a particular city that I won’t mention with roughly 100,000 people). These women will be college educated, married, with two children. Hobbies will include, trying new recipes, traveling, and reading fictional novels. These women will not drink more than the occasional glass of wine for special events and will be very devoted to their church and their community.
That is an EXTREMELY specific list of traits for this business owner’s target market.
Finding people with that specific list of traits is already hard enough, but when you start throwing in a small geographic location, we’re looking at a small handful of people that could possibly fit that bill.
Going that specific will not help you as a business owner reach more people since you have already limited yourself.
It would be better to say something like:
Women between the ages of 20 and 40 that live in smaller cities or more rural communities (not a specific one, though you could say in a general part of the country if need be). These women will be interested in books, traveling, and trying new recipes, and generally just up for trying new experiences. These women will have interests in helping out their community and may occasionally participate in community events.
I would even completely leave out the church and alcohol component unless you happen to be running a very religious business. If so, just know that you will lose out on potential clients that do not feel as strongly as you do.
Though that description is still pretty specific, there is a little more wiggle room in some of the ways that you can approach your market.
For instance, I didn’t mention anything about being married or having children, though the age range is still a perfectly acceptable range for those two things to happen.
Depending on your business though, there’s no reason to say that a single mom or a married woman with no children shouldn’t be able to take part in your services.
You can always niche down later on. It’s best to start out a little broader and see where that takes you first though.
2. Figure Out Your Services
Now, I don’t mean that you need to decide right here and now what types of goods and services you are going to offer for the rest of your life. I simply mean that having a general idea of what you would like to do will go a long way in figuring out who your target market is.
For instance, I am a website designer. I want to help business owners expand their online presence with a great website that converts leads into clients.
I use a strong SEO foundation for all of my designs and I provide all the copy for the web pages.
Those are the things that I like to do. If I’m being perfectly honest with myself, I prefer all of the backside nitty gritty stuff more than the actual visual aspect. I love the research.
Knowing those things about myself and the types of projects that I want to work on helps me to narrow down my focus a bit to get a better understanding of the types of people that may not only want my services, but will also be able to afford them.
So, think about the types of services and/or products that you would like to offer to your audience, and try to determine the types of people that would benefit most from them.
You can also go the other direction and base your services off of your target audience, but I find that to be a bit more difficult since if you don’t know how to do what they need you to do, then that opens up a whole new can of worms.
3. Analyze Your Competition
No matter what business you’re in, you will have competitors. Most likely, you will never be the first person out there with your idea.
As depressing as that sounds, that’s actually a good thing. It makes the entire process a bit easier for you because you have the opportunity to see what works in your market and what doesn’t based on what your competitors are doing.
- Figure out who your competitors are. They can be businesses offering similar products and services, or simply other people working with the type of people that you’d like to work with.
- See what types of products and services they’re offering. Go to their websites and see how it looks, what it sounds like, how it feels.
- Check out their email opt-ins and see what types of freebies they’re giving away to their subscribers. You can take it one step further and actually sign up for their email list.
- Once you’ve gone through their website, check out their social media platforms.
What platforms are they focusing on? What type of content are they adding to social media? Are they taking the time to really engage with their audience? Is their audience engaging back?
All of these things will help you figure out more, not just about your competitors, but also about that particular market.
Seeing the types of content that your ideal market is engaging with on your competitors’ sites and social media profiles will give you a really great understanding of what types of content your audience will find the most valuable.
Take note of those things and see how you can do something better.
4. Market Research
Now that you have a bit of an understanding of the types of services you’d like to offer and the type of people that you would like to work with, it’s time to actually talk to your audience and see if that’s what they want to see.
Market research can be done in a variety of ways.
- You can add surveys to your website or social media profiles if you have those set up already.
- You can join Facebook groups where your ideal audience is hanging out to see what types of questions they’re asking or what kind of content they’re engaging with the most.
- You can even get out there and physically go find your audience and have an actual conversation.
No matter what you choose to do, talking to your audience and actually understanding what they’re really and truly searching for will always be more beneficial that just guessing.
5. Check Your Analytics
This really only applies if you already have a website and/or social media profiles up and running for your business.
If you do, then you can check Google Analytics to see what types of people are visiting your site as well as what their other interest are.
You can also use Facebook Insights, Twitter Analyzer, and Instagram Insights to have a better understanding of your audience as well.
I am ALWAYS a fan of having more information than not enough. In cases like these especially.
You may be surprised at what you find.
If you think that you’re talking to millennials and it’s actually the Gen-Z group that’s actually engaging with your content, then you may need to rethink your marketing strategy.
Monitoring your analytics and social activity will help you get a much better idea of who you’re actually reaching and what they’re looking for from you.
6. Monitor Your Best and Worst Content
If you have a blog, then what posts are getting shares and which ones aren’t?
If you’re on Instagram and one post gets 1,000 likes and the next one gets 20, figure out why? Is it your hashtags or the content itself?
Paying attention to the content that you already have out there can go a long way in helping you figure out what content really works for your audience and what doesn’t.
Just because you want to write about how to make the perfect grilled cheese sandwich doesn’t mean your audience actually wants to read it.
Pay attention to those things. Your audience will always let you know what they like and what they don’t simply by how they interact with your posts.
7. Ask for Feedback
If you ever REALLY want to know what’s in someone’s head, just ask.
Whether it’s in person or online, asking your audience an outright question can go a long way in helping you gain a little clarity.
Ask them what they’re struggling with. Ask them what changes they would like to see happen in their lives. Find out what they like to do in their free time.
It doesn’t really matter what you ask them, it only matters that you do.
Start the conversation and see where it leads you. You’ll learn a great deal about people if you simply talk to them.
8. Create a Customer Avatar
Depending on the type of business that you’re in and the type of segmentation that you’re using to identify your target audience, creating a customer avatar can be really beneficial.
Your customer avatar is simply the person that you are using to represent your target market.
Most people, myself included, go so far as to give their person a name, a job, hobbies, and what they’re looking for out of life (or your services). It will help if you do the same.
Having that avatar created will help you have a much better grasp and understanding of who you’re talking to at any given time.
It will help you to remember what you’re doing and who you’re trying to serve since you can put a “face” to it.
So, write it all out. Give your person a name, a life, a family, a job. Let that person have thoughts and feelings and try to get into his or her mindset about what they really need in life.
Now figure out how you can help them. What products and services can you offer that will help make this person’s life easier? How can you help this person transform from what they currently are into what they want to be?
If you can figure that out, then the rest of your business will be smooth sailing.
Appealing to Your Target Audience
Okay, have you figured it out yet? Do you know who your audience is?
If you don’t then we need to go back through the steps and see what element you’re missing. If you’re still stuck, then give me a shout and we’ll work through it together.
Once you do know who you’re talking to, now you need to figure out what to say and how to say it.
Update Your Marketing Strategy
Take the information that you learned about your target audience from the last section and figure out where you need to make adjustments to your strategy.
- Were you targeting one demographic but a different one was actually engaging with your material?
- Were you trying to focus too broad or too narrow and were losing clients in the process?
Now is a great time to make those necessary changes so that you can better promote your content to the right people.
Work on Your Brand Image
Going hand in hand with updating your marketing strategy is making sure that your brand image is actually what you need to see your business grow.
- Does your color palette turn off your ideal audience or make them think differently about your business?
- Are you spending all of your time on Twitter when in reality your audience is on Pinterest?
- Does your logo give your business a childlike appearance when you’re actually going for upscale and sophisticated?
All of these things can affect the way that your audience sees you and your business.
If these pieces don’t fit anymore like you once thought, then it may be time for a rebrand. Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be as scary as it sounds.
Making sure that your brand identity is more in line with your audience and what they’re looking for can only be good for you and your business though.
If you can evoke emotions in your audience about their struggles and how you can solve them, then you will be able to sell your products and services all day every day.
Having a strong emotional pull towards something will cause people to purchase more than anything else.
It doesn’t matter what the price is or who’s selling it. If you can play on a person’s emotions then your business will succeed.
Also, I don’t mean that in a sleazy way. If you play on someone’s emotions to get a sale, you better be able to back it up.
Express Your Brand’s Values
I really hope that when you determined your branding, you paid attention to what your brand’s values are.
If you didn’t already, then you missed a step and you should take care of that.
If you know and understand your brand’s values, then you can use that to help connect better with your audience.
Creating content around those values that your audience will find beneficial, will help your audience get to know you better which in turn will help them trust you more.
That trust helps you to build a tribe rather than just a random and sporadic following of people.
Partner with Influencers
If your audience is hanging out on social media, especially if it’s something like Instagram, then see if you can partner with an influencer in your niche to help you get in front of more people.
This is especially useful if you sell physical products such as apparel since you’ll be able to post actual photos of the influencer with your product.
Handing out a few free products to some high-quality influencers can really help you get the word out about your brand and drive more of your target market to your business.
Stop Trying to Sell
I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but hear me out.
Have you ever been to a business’s website or Facebook page and all you saw were advertisements for their products and services?
Did seeing all of those promotions make you more or less willing to purchase from them?
I’m guessing less.
Your audience is the same way. If they feel that you are always trying to sell them on something, then they will be less inclined to actually work with you.
Perfect example, there is a blogger that is highly respected in her niche. She seems like a great person and I had been following her content for a while.
One day, I decided to sign up for a freebie that she was offering. Before I could access the freebie, I was hit with a tripwire for her paid product (it is a great marketing tactic, but I’m not crazy about them).
Then every email that I received from her were all emails trying to get me to purchase her course.
It was definitely overkill.
Though she obviously knows her stuff and she is highly respected and I’ve heard great things about her courses, I refuse to purchase anything from her.
Those tactics really turned me off to what she was trying to sell because it just made it seem that all she wanted was to get my money rather than actually help me succeed.
I’m sure that’s the case, but as a consumer, I didn’t want to feel that way.
Your customers don’t want to feel that way either. Don’t be pushy or you’ll be more likely to drive people away.
Ever heard the phrase you can attract more flies with honey? Same principle applies.
Figure Out the Pain Points
People are more likely to purchase something because it can solve a problem rather than it is a cool product.
If you’ve created an amazing carpet cleaner, are you just going to say that it makes your carpets squeaky clean?
You’re going to tell people that it will get out those muddy footprints that their kids track through the middle of the living room.
You’re going to tell them that it’ll save the day after one of your dinner guests spills red wine all over it.
You’re going to tell them that never again will they have to be embarrassed by their sad and dingy carpet because your super fantastic carpet cleaner is the answer to their prayers.
Figure out what your audience is struggling with and then find out how to offer that solution.
Whether you solve their problems with free information or with a paid product, as long as you can hold up your end of the bargain, your audience will keep coming back for more.
Use Your Customer’s Point of View
Everything you do, say, and sell should be based on your customer’s needs. It’s all about solving those pain points.
So, when you’re sitting back and struggling to describe what you do and how your product or your service can help someone, try to look at it from your customer’s point of view.
If you’re a virtual assistant and you’re struggling with sealing the deal with potential clients, think about how you’re selling yourself.
Are you telling them that you’re willing to do any tasks that they need, or are you telling them that you can take over their inbox maintenance so that they can free up time to get back to what they really need to do?
Are you telling them that you can take over scheduling their posts on Instagram so that they can instead spend more time with their family without worrying that their business will be suffering?
Are you telling them that you can research and pitch to potential guests for their podcast so that they can get back to their zone of genius and not have to worry about where the next guest is going to come from?
If you aren’t, then you really should.
Your customers don’t want to know what you CAN do. They want to know what you can do for THEM.
They don’t care about the other people that you’ve worked with. All that really matters is if you can help them solve their problem.
If you can’t then you aren’t the right person for them.
If you can understand those pain points, put yourself in your client’s shoes, and fully express how your products or services can help make their lives easier though, then you’ll never run out of business.
Writing Content for Your Audience
Many people think that once they get to this point, they know exactly what to say and how to say it to make their audience like them.
You may feel that way too. If you do, great, but there are still a few things I’d like to point out.
Never Make Assumptions
Never assume anything about your audience.
- Don’t assume your audience is just like you
- Don’t assume they know the same things as you
- Don’t assume they care about you or your brand
- Don’t assume they know the lingo
Just because you know what’s going on in your industry doesn’t mean that they will. Especially if you’re targeting people that are new to things.
I can sit here all day long and talk about the ins and outs of different SEO components involving site speed, schema, backlinks, and Google’s E-A-T algorithm update, but if you aren’t where I am in your knowledge of SEO, then that’s only going to deter you from reading my posts.
Break things down for your audience. Unless your goal is to only work with people that are further along, you should always break things down for your audience into easy to understand formats.
Describe things as if you were describing them to someone that has never had anything to do with your industry at all.
When I talk about websites, I start from the very beginning. I don’t assume that anyone knows exactly what a domain name, a hosting company, or a plugin is.
If people come across one of my posts that know those things already, great, but I don’t assume that they do because I don’t want to alienate the people that are new to the online business world.
Keep those things in mind if you try throwing in a term or phrase that may not be common knowledge.
Focus on Your Audience’s Needs
We talked about those audience pain points. I really and truly mean that.
Focus on what your audience needs, not just what you want to write about.
If you can’t write about your audience’s needs all day every day, then you are most likely in the wrong niche or targeting the wrong people.
If that’s the case, then you should reevaluate your business plan.
Your business isn’t about you and how you’re going to make money. It is about your customers and how helping them will also help you.
If you aren’t actively focusing on what your audience needs from you, then no one is going to pay you any attention.
Make sure that you are always providing your audience with valuable information.
Some people are always worried that they’re giving away too much information for free. I’d say that if you can say everything that you need to say about a topic in a simple blog post, then you need to rethink your product.
Once your audience knows and trusts the free value that you offer, they will be more likely to trust you enough with their money once you try to sell them something.
Business is all about trust. If your audience can’t trust you, you will fail.
It’s as simple as that.
Finding Your Target Audience
I hope by now you understand the importance of having a target audience and how to successfully go about finding them.
I feel that this is one of those components of starting a business that many business owners overlook thinking that they fully understand who their target audience is, when in reality they’ve missed the mark completely.
There are many ways to find your target audience and understanding what works best for you and your business is more important that following in someone else’s footsteps.
Though you may not be the only person out there doing what you do, you are the only you. That in and of itself makes you and your business different enough and unique enough to find your own market to work in.
So, take your time, go through the steps, and see what you come up with.
Make sure you pin this for later so that you can revisit it to see if you need to update things later on.
Have you determined your target audience? I’d love to hear about it. Leave me a comment below!