How to Identify Your Target Audience in 2024

How to Identify Your Target Audience in 2024

As a business or brand, defining your target audience can help you develop an effective marketing strategy, making it easier to attract and convert potential customers. By narrowing your marketing focus to a predefined group of people, you can craft marketing messages that better resonate with that subset. This can result in more impactful marketing.

Learn how you can define your target customer to improve your marketing in 2024.

What is a target audience?

Your target audience is the distinct subset of people you want to reach with your marketing plan. Of all consumers on the market, these are the ones most likely to have an interest in the goods or services you’re selling. Theoretically, this means they should be easier to convert from leads to paying customers.

While defining a target audience can help guide your marketing, you should take this step much earlier in the business development process. In fact, it’s best to research your target audience before you even develop your product or service. This allows you to figure out exactly what your ideal customer wants and how to best cater to their wishes, increasing the odds of long-term success.

Every target audience has unique characteristics, interests, and habits, which your marketing message should consider. Relevant traits might include age, gender, where they live, their education level, and how much they earn. More detailed traits could range from what media they consume to their marital status and whether they have children.

To give you an idea of how a target audience can be relevant to a business’s marketing efforts, here are a couple of examples:

  • Protein powder business (business-to-consumer marketing). The general target market is health-conscious people aged 18 to 35 of all gender identities who like to work out and are “on the go.” They follow fitness influencers on Instagram and watch weightlifting videos on YouTube. A marketing campaign collaborating with a female fitness influencer could reach the female target audience within this market.
  • Accounting SaaS (business-to-business marketing). The target market is bookkeepers or accountants, advanced in their career, aged 35 to 50. They read accounting industry publications, browse LinkedIn, and attend accounting summits. A LinkedIn marketing campaign during an accounting event could reach the target audience of individuals attending that same event within this market.

Target audience vs. market audience

A target market refers to a predefined subset of consumers that a business plans to cater to with its products or services. A target audience refers to a smaller subset of individuals (within that market) that the business hopes to reach with individual marketing campaigns or promotional efforts (ads, events, etc.).

Let’s say you own a New York-based fashion brand that caters to young women aged 20 to 35 across the United States. You’re planning an event for New York Fashion Week and want real-world customers there. However, since the event may only be accessible to those in New York, you might run a promotional campaign (e.g., an email marketing campaign) targeting only those in New York.

In this case, you can see how the target audience is more narrowly defined and informs a specific marketing campaign. As a business or brand, it’s important to define your general target market—who are your products or services for? However, to successfully market your business or brand, you can structure your efforts around predefined target audiences—who is that marketing campaign for?

How to define your target audience in 5 steps

Narrowing down a target audience is a methodical process. Here’s how it can be done.

1. Target audience data points to develop customer profile

Target audiences aren’t arbitrarily defined. They’re composed of key data points, allowing you to construct detailed buyer personas. These critical data points can help you develop a profile of your ideal customer base.

Psychographics

Psychographics refer to psychological factors that shape a consumer’s belief system, such as:

  • Values, morals, or ethical beliefs
  • Concerns, such as concern about the environment
  • Aspirations, such as a desire for career advancement or marriage
  • Lifestyle, e.g., an active lifestyle, a party lifestyle, or a sedentary lifestyle
  • Opinions, such as political opinions

Identifying a target audience’s psychographics can allow a brand/business to better relate to them and understand what’s important to them. For example, if you know your audience is eco-conscious and you’re marketing ethical jewelry, you might play up the environmentally friendly angle.

Interests

Consumer’s interests can reflect what they do in their spare time and how they spend their disposable income. Examples of interests include:

  • Hobbies
  • Favorite websites/media
  • Television shows and movies
  • Frequented stores
  • Fitness activities

Understanding a target audience’s interests can allow a brand/business to find relevant ways to connect with them. For example, if you know your audience likes to spend Friday nights scrolling TikTok while binge-watching “Squid Game,” you might create a TikTok marketing campaign referencing the Netflix hit.

Behaviors

Behavior refers to how your target audience interacts with your brand (this is often based on data gleaned from current customers). Examples include:

  • Are they likely to buy online or in-store?
  • Are they willing to pay for rush delivery?
  • Do they use coupon codes or other promotional offers?
  • Are they more likely to buy a single product or a lot at once?
  • How frequently do they make a purchase?

Understanding existing customers’ behaviors allows a brand/business to tailor its marketing to that specific audience’s needs. For example, if you know your audience likes to use promo codes, you might set up an email campaign targeting buyers who haven’t made a purchase in 60 days, offering them a limited-time promo code and luring them back to buy something.

Demographics

Demographics refers to basic statistical data about a target audience—the type of measurable data you might collect from a survey. Examples include:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Income
  • Education
  • Relationship status

Demographics help a brand/business lay the groundwork when identifying the common characteristics all members of their target audience share. For example, once you know your audience is primarily single women in their 20s, you can use that as a springboard for more granular audience research, such as what media that demographic consumes, the hobbies they have, and what their concerns are.

Age

Certain age brackets can be classified into specific groups, such as:

  • Baby boomers: Those born between 1946 and 1964
  • Generation X: Those born between 1965 and 1980
  • Millennials: Those born between 1981 and 1996
  • Generation Z: Those born between 1997 and 2012

Such age brackets often share certain values, interests, or historical references, which business owners can use to tailor their marketing campaigns. For example, a nostalgia-driven marketing campaign might target older millennials by referencing cultural phenomena from their youth.

Gender

Unlike the binary of biological sex, gender is more fluid. Brand/businesses can better connect with their target audiences by understanding how they identify, including, but not limited to:

  • Non-binary
  • Bigender
  • Transgender
  • Male
  • Female

It’s important, though, to take into account modern gender orientation and bias when tailoring campaigns to your market segment, taking care not to offend. While some target audiences may believe strictly in a gender binary, others may embrace greater fluidity.

Household income

Household income can help you determine the spending power of your audience. Examples include:

  • Under $15,000
  • $15,000 to $24,000
  • $25,000 to $34,999
  • $35,000 to $49,999
  • $50,000 to $74,999
  • $75,000 to $99,999
  • Etc.

Your business can use this information to determine how much your target audience is willing to spend on certain goods or services. It can also inform a person’s self-perception, such as what “class” they see themselves in (e.g., middle versus upper), a cultural construct that marketing can play into (e.g., “buy this to feel high class”).

Occupation

Occupation refers to the type of job a target audience tends to do for a living. Broad examples include:

  • Technology/IT
  • Medical
  • Marketing/communications
  • Government
  • None (e.g., stay-at-home parent)

This detail can be especially relevant for B2B companies selling industry-specific products or services, like accounting software or medical supplies.

Education

Education is another demographic data point worth considering and refers to any formal degree a person may have achieved in their lifetime. Examples of education levels include:

  • High school graduate or GED
  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Master’s degree
  • Doctorate degree
  • Technical education

Education can impact an audience’s interests and values. For example, highly educated adults are likely to have more liberal ideological views. Education can also influence income and spending power.

Location

Location can be a critical consideration for certain products and services if they cater only to a set geographic area. Examples of location specifics include:

  • Country (e.g., United States)
  • State/region (e.g., New York)
  • City (e.g., New York City)
  • Neighborhood (e.g., The Bronx)
  • Geographic-related points (e.g., school districts, universities, sports teams)

Your business can also rely on location for audience insights. For example, location and religion can be interlinked. If a brand is marketing in a country with a predominantly Muslim religious base, this cultural context needs to be considered.

2. Review primary and secondary audiences

Your target audience can further be broken down into a primary versus secondary audience. While your primary audience is composed of individuals your campaign directly targets, your secondary audience consists of individuals who aren’t directly targeted but might still be interested in your campaign.

Knowing exactly who your campaign is directed at (primary audience) allows you to craft marketing messages and use media that fits that group’s profile. Meanwhile, understanding what other individuals might be interested in can help you expand your marketing campaign in a cost-efficient and effective manner. Instead of blindly trying to extend your reach, you can do so in an informed way.

Primary

The primary audience refers to the individuals your marketing campaign is directed toward. Here are some examples:

  • You sell medical supplies. Hospital chains are your primary audience because they order in bulk consistently.
  • You sell baby clothes. Parents-to-be are your primary target audience.
  • You sell accounting software for small businesses. Entrepreneurs are your primary target audience.
  • You sell large-scale fitness equipment (e.g., treadmills). Gym owners are your primary target audience.
  • You sell hiking backpacks. Outdoorsy types into hiking, camping, etc., are your primary target audience.

Secondary

Your secondary audience refers to individuals who aren’t the intended recipients of your campaign but who may still have some interest in it. Here are some examples:

  • You sell medical supplies. While hospitals are your ideal consumer, smaller doctor-owned medical practices are a secondary audience.
  • You sell baby clothes. People shopping for baby showers or friends/family might be a secondary audience.
  • You sell accounting software for small businesses. Independent accountants might be a secondary audience.
  • You sell large-scale fitness equipment (e.g., treadmills). Homeowners looking to create their own fitness space might be a secondary audience.
  • You sell hiking backpacks. Globetrotters looking for a convenient luggage option might be a secondary audience.

3. Conduct market research

Market research gives you essential information about your target audience. You can use your own business data (e.g., consumer purchase histories ) for basic information. You can also use secondary market research from external sources (e.g., a market report on millennial spending habits compiled by a consumer research firm).

However, the most valuable market research is primary research that’s gathered directly from consumers currently. This will reflect the latest social trends and macroeconomic shifts that influence your target audience and their spending. Here are some types of primary market research.

Customer interviews

Customer interviews present customers with direct questions to answer. Interviews are useful when they use open-ended questions (those that require more than a yes/no response) to get more detailed insights into a consumer’s mindset.

For example, customer interviews can be used to assess what a consumer likes about a product or service, what they would change about their consumer experience, and why they identify with a certain brand. Companies can use this information to improve the entire customer experience, from how they target their marketing to how they handle their customer service.

Product-based surveys

Product-based surveys ask consumers for granular feedback about a specific product they’ve used. These surveys are useful in assessing the strength of a product, providing information companies can use to tweak a product or in the development of future products. Companies can also leverage this information to inform marketing campaigns, honing in on characteristics that consumers say they like.

General focus groups

Focus groups bring together multiple consumers to talk about a brand, product, or service. Individuals are usually paid to take part in a focus group, which can take anywhere from one to three hours and consists of about five to eight people. Focus groups might consist of existing or potential customers, depending on their purpose.

Focus groups are beneficial in getting detailed insights about a company from consumers while also getting a broader overview of who their target audience is. Focus groups encourage discussion, which can provide more detail than straightforward interview questions or a yes/no survey. Companies can leverage focus groups to better define buyer personas.

4. Leverage digital marketing tools

Modern digital marketing tools can help businesses more accurately and efficiently define target audiences. Digital tools can be used to gather data about demographics, purchasing behavior, brand affinities, and more. Here are some tools and how you can use them.

CRM

Customer relationship management (CRM) software helps organizations manage their interactions with customers throughout the sales lifecycle, from first point of contact to closing the deal, returns, complaints, etc. CRM tools can be used to glean information about consumer habits (e.g., what payment method do they use, do they pay for fast shipping, how often do they order, and when do they order?).

Popular CRM tools include:

  • Salesforce. Salesforce is a CRM tool that tracks the entire sales process, from lead generation to account management. It also has a data mining add-on, which can be used to take raw customer data and identify purchasing trends, pinpoint customer relationship problems, and predict future sales trends.
  • Zoho. Zoho is another CRM tool that assesses purchasing and consumer trends. It also offers analytics capabilities, known as Zoho Analytics. This can be used to assess customer satisfaction and compare it to key points that impact satisfaction like deadline compliance and how long it takes to respond to a customer complaint.
  • Hubspot. HubSpot CRM also offers a marketing tool, HubSpot Marketing Hub, which provides essential consumer data. It can be used to optimize content marketing, craft email campaigns according to target audience segment, run retargeting campaigns, and even monitor social media activity.

Social media and listening tools

Social media can be used to interact directly with consumers in real time, making it a flexible and adaptive marketing tool. However, it can also be used to gather data by “listening” to the action online—for example, by seeing what people are talking about via hashtags. Social media platforms can be used to glean information about current trends, topics of interest, complaints, and more.

Popular social media platforms include:

  • Facebook. Facebook can be used to boost a business profile (e.g., via a dedicated page), for advertising (via Facebook Ads), and for general consumer interaction. Companies can use Facebook to get demographic information about consumers (since many profiles have data like age, location, gender, etc.), identify consumer interests (e.g., by seeing what groups they join or pages they follow), and “listen in” on conversations (in groups, for example).
  • YouTube. YouTube can be used to share video content with consumers via a brand’s dedicated YouTube channel and to interact with consumers (e.g., in the comments). Companies can use YouTube to assess what type of content resonates with consumers, identify trending topics, and get feedback on products or services.
  • Instagram. Instagram is useful for building a brand voice and fostering a community, encouraging interaction with followers via comments and sharing. Companies can use Instagram to see what other brands consumers follow and the kind of content they like. It can even be used to track verbiage evolution (e.g., the evolution of “laughing” emojis, from the crying-laughing face to the skull to the chair).
  • TikTok. TikTok can be used to share informational or humorous videos about a business and its products/services or simply as a forum for connecting with consumers. Companies can use TikTok to get information about viral trends (e.g., certain songs that go viral, like berries and cream) and to see what kind of content is resonating with consumers. They can also use it to see what other brands, influencers, or celebrities consumers follow.

Data analytics tools

Data analytics tools can be used to gather data about consumers and their behavior, which companies can use to guide their marketing. These data analytics tools focus on the online sphere, collecting and analyzing data from search engines, webpages, social media, and more:

  • Google Analytics. Google Analytics provides information about websites as well as Google advertising products, like Google pay-per-click (PPC) ads or YouTube ads. Companies can use it to get information like what geographic areas website visitors are in, how long they spend on a webpage, when and where they click on ad links, and more.
  • Adobe Analytics. Adobe Analytics provides information about consumer web behavior and can be used to track multiple digital marketing efforts. Companies can use it to find out details like whether customers come from desktop computers or mobile devices, track a customer journey through a website, and better understand consumer purchasing decisions.
  • Google Keyword Planner. Google Keyword Planner is used to research keywords that will make for effective search engine optimization (SEO) campaigns. Keywords are also useful in other forms of marketing, like content marketing and social media marketing. Companies can further use Google Keyword Planner to get information about what consumers are searching for.

5. Review competitive data sets and marketing campaigns

When defining a target audience, it’s also important to check out the competition. Other companies sell products or services similar to yours and will have similar target audiences. Analyzing your competitors, especially their successes and failures, can help guide your own marketing. This might involve analyzing a competitor’s organic web traffic, paid search terms, or brand campaigns.

For example, what media (e.g., social channels) do your competitors use? They likely chose those because they resonate with a certain market segment. Pain points are another example: What are your competitors’ customer pain points? You can then look for ways to fill that gap.

Examples of a completed target audience set

Here’s a case study: Let’s say you have a swimsuit company. You identify key target audience data points, including demographics (female, aged 18 to 30, studying or starting their career, household income of about $45,000, living in the United States) and interests (they like to travel and live a party lifestyle). To flesh out this research, you send out product surveys to see what this demographic likes and looks for in swimwear. You also use digital marketing tools like social media, assessing what brands they like. Finally, you look directly at your competitors, checking out what channels they use, how they present their brand, etc.

Here’s another example: You offer concierge luxury travel services, planning high-end trips for your clients. Your target audience (adults aged 40+, educated, income $150,000+) is successful in their careers and wants to enjoy life when they aren’t working. You conduct focus groups, which also help you learn what types of trips these people are interested in. You also check out competing providers to identify pain points. For example, if another provider focuses on party-heavy groups, you see a niche for romantic couple getaways waiting to be filled.

Important questions to ask your target audience

So, what might you ask your target audience? Here are some basic questions.

How old are you?

Determining an age bracket for your target audience helps you know what stage of life they might be in and what’s culturally relevant to them.

What is your occupation?

A job title can provide insights into a person’s interests, peer group, aspirations, and more.

What is your annual salary?

Annual salary helps give an idea of how much an individual is willing and able to spend on goods and services.

Are you single or in a relationship?

Relationship status can inform a person’s priorities and lifestyle.

Do you have children?

People with kids will have different needs in terms of products and services than those without kids, and vice versa.

What level of education did you complete?

Whether a person graduated high school or college, completed trade school, a bootcamp, or has certifications can provide information about their career prospects, values, and spending.

Here are some more in-depth questions you might ask:

What interests do you have outside of work?

Interests such as social networking, events, and hobbies indicate where and how a person is willing to spend their time and money.

What influencers do you follow?

Knowing what public figures or celebrities a person follows can be used to inform marketing collaborations and shape marketing messages.

What brands inspire you?

Brands are built on core messages and values, which consumers see themselves in. Analyzing brands that inspire a person tells you what matters to them.

How would you describe yourself?

A person’s self-image can speak to their likes, dislikes, beliefs, and more. People want to be seen a certain way, and marketing can help them achieve their vision.

Conclusion

Successful marketing is all about segmentation. If you create a broad, unspecific campaign and send it into the void, it won’t achieve much. If you create a tailored message that reflects a niche market’s demographics, behaviors, and interests and disseminate it via channels that the audience actively uses, you’re more likely to make an impact. This is the key to powerful marketing that resonates.

Defining your target audience is only the first step in developing a comprehensive marketing strategy that will boost your business’s success. For support in creating a plan that will bring results, check out Upwork. You’ll find a global pool of talented independent marketing professionals ready to help you.



Upwork is not affiliated with and does not sponsor or endorse any of the tools or services discussed in this section. These tools and services are provided only as potential options, and each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situation.

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How to Identify Your Target Audience in 2024
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