Identifying Your Target Audience

Savvy businesses recognize the importance of knowing how to connect with their target audience. Without this knowledge, it is next to impossible to create the right marketing messages for your brand. Additionally, without knowing who their target audience is, businesses can’t find the sweet spots online where these critical connections “hang out.”

Unfortunately, many business begin developing content and messages without a clear understanding of their target audience and without taking the time to identify the triggers that will help audiences take action – become a fan, subscriber, lead, and, ultimately, a customer.

There’s no excuse in today’s connected world of information for businesses to miss this critical component of business livelihood – but most do. Targeting specific people with specific content is far more useful than haphazardly targeting anyone who may be interested in a business’s offerings. Instead, invest your time and money in a specific campaign to a specific audience that delivers measurable results and generates valuable leads.

Locating your target audience isn’t rocket science, but it does require some in-depth understanding of your industry, knowledge of what makes your business different from your competitors, a little bit of tech know-how, and some solid intuition. And above all else, it requires commitment.

The more you know about your audience, the easier it will be to develop content that converts visitors into leads and customers, attracts bloggers and journalists, and increases your brand visibility and recognition.

What You Have to Offer

Before you can even begin the process of identifying your target audience, endeavor to understand just what it is you have to offer – beyond your products and services. Ask these questions to get a grasp of how you can position your business in the market:

  • What makes your business special, and how are you different from the competition? Perhaps your team provides emergency repairs where others in the area don’t. If so, you already know that targeting an audience that values convenience is a safe bet.

  • Try to avoid the classic “we’re great at customer service” pitfall. While your company may very well provide great service, customers need to know just how your service is different than others who claim the same, and why they should want you over competitors. Often your success is not about what you do, but how you make your customers feel. Do you value their opinions? Do you listen when they ask for specific services? Tell your story and your customers’ story to inspire leads to choose your company over the competition.

  • What does your business do better than others in your industry? (Tip: If you can make this measurable, you’re really on to something! Auto manufacturers are masters at this by referring to their safety standards. Toothpaste, over-the-counter pain relievers, and even diaper brands refer to how many dentists, doctors, or hospitals recommend the product.)

Also think about the type of problems that your business can solve, and from there think about the kind of customer who may be having this problem.

  • What is the problem? If you can’t identify the common problems, concerns, or issues your audience may be encountering, think about it in terms of concerns that might keep your audience “up at night” with worry.

  • What “symptoms” might your audience have that might indicate that they need your product or service? For example, a customer may not know that they are having issues with money management. However, the symptom may be that they struggle to pay bills at the end of the month. Another example may be that a company doesn’t realize that they aren’t efficient at time management but they may recognize that they have problems delivering on time, every time.

  • Does your product or service save or create time, space, or money? How does it do this?

  • What’s that problem or “pain” costing your client right now? Missed opportunities? Higher costs? Lower efficiency? These are just some of the ways that problems cost businesses and consumers alike.

But don’t just look at your business as a problem solver. Think about how your business can help your customers identify opportunities that they didn’t even know existed.

For example:

  • A website analytics package that includes the ability to track visitors, sync with public databases, and provide customers with a list of possible visitors by name and email.

  • A travel agency that books more than just hotels, such as offering complimentary service to/from the airport.

  • A restaurant that offers off-menu items for those with special dietary restrictions or needs.

  • A web security firm that monitors site uptime and also backs up a website to prevent data loss.

  • A web hosting company that provides auditing assistance, free of charge, for clients on HIPPA-compliant servers.

While these questions won’t provide you with everything you need to know, it’s a good starting point as you move on to the more specific details of identifying your target audience.

Finding Your Demographic


At the most fundamental level, identifying your target audience consists of taking into account factors such as age, geographic location, income level, and family status. A retired grandfather from Mississippi is a much different target audience than a thirty-something professional in Boston.

If you already have an active website, frequently post blog content, and utilize social media for your business, you can rely on Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, and feedback from other social media accounts such as LinkedIn and Twitter to start honing in on some of those basic details about your audience. Premium dashboards such as Nuvi can provide even more specific demographic information about your audience.

Demographics are among the easier aspects of your target audience to identify. This, of course, means that they only tell you so much from a marketing perspective.

Take the time to think about the demographics that are the target of your products or services. Avoid putting all your eggs in one basket when it comes to demographics as a means of identifying your audience. Instead, use it as a starting point for understanding other key facets of your audience.

Another method of tracking demographics of your target audience is to consider who your product or service is designed for, and who typically purchases it.

For example:

  • A circuit board manufacturer may want to target medical component manufacturers.

  • A boutique clothing retailer may target mothers or grandmothers.

  • A business consultant may want to target businesses in the digital printing industry.

But don’t just stop defining the “type” of your audience – dig deeper. Identify the “who” of your audience as well as the “where” this audience can be found online using one from above:

  • A circuit board manufacturer looking to reach medical component manufacturers may find that  design engineers or mechanical architects, men with bachelor’s degrees between 40-55 working in companies with greater than $100M of revenue who are employed with titles such as Senior Design Engineer are the best audience.

Beyond Demographics

It’s not enough to focus on demographics alone. Just as important are the psychographics – that is, your audience’s core values, behaviors, and attitudes. As you think about your target audience, surveying your best customers and interviewing your top sales performers and customer service people can tell you a lot about the your audience.

Here’s an example of the difference between demographics and psychographics:

Demographic Psychographic
  • Female
  • Age: 25-30
  • Married
  • Higher education: Associate degree or higher
  • Average household income: $50K or more
  • Resides in suburban cities
  • First time mom
  • Breast fed vs. bottle fed newborn
  • Has a child under 3 years of age
  • Concerned about healthy living and passing this on to her child
  • Prefers organic over standard food choices
  • Works either part-time or a stay-at-home mom
  • Spends about $300+ on premium baby food, formulas and diapers
  • Shops brands such as Whole Foods, Honest Company, Baby Gap
  • Attends Mommy and Me classes with child

Social media engagement can be a powerful tool to learn about audience psychographics. Taking the time to see what people are talking about and understanding what issues are important to them can help you craft content that tells them you have what they need to know.

Another key instrument for obtaining psychographic information is the content you already have available. Take a closer look at your most successful content. What has made your audience click, share, pin, and comment in the past? What does that content tell you about your audience? In short, what does this information tell you about why somebody may want to do business with you?

Don’t forget about your competition! Tools such as BuzzSumo can give you insight into content that is most popular with the audience of your competitors as well as what sites are linking to that content and who is sharing the content in social media. This bit of competitive intelligence can not only help you learn even more about what kinds of content your audience will find most engaging, but can also help you identify even more information about your audience.

Utilizing Segmentation

At the end of the day, it is true that it may not be enough to focus on only one niche audience. Breaking down your larger target audience into segments can keep you become more organized in your marketing efforts and help you craft content that speaks to the needs of all your followers.

For example, breaking down your market of twenty-something professionals into value-driven and convenience-driven segments allows you to aim content at the individual needs of each. Of course, don’t forget those instances where your market segments overlap as you craft your content.

Last, but certainly not least, remember that your target audience will continue to grow as your business evolves. Continue to analyze your audience and their needs over time to ensure that you are doing everything you can to address those needs in your content marketing efforts.