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    Target audience: What it is and how to find yours

    A strong marketing strategy always comes back to one thing: a deep understanding of your target audience.

    Successfully marketing to, engaging with and building brand loyalty in customers is a complex process. Simply knowing your ideal customer’s age and location isn’t enough. Demographics are a part of defining a marketing target audience, but truly resonating with your customer—and their changing wants, needs and challenges–requires much more.

    In this guide, we’ll help you understand what a target audience is and the different types. We’ll cover the benefits of finding your target audience (and how to do that) and a few target audience examples from brands doing it well.

    Table of contents:

    What is a target audience

    A target audience is the group of people you want to purchase your products or services. Very few companies will ever have a target audience of “everyone”—trying to sell to everyone will often result in selling to no one. Instead, your target audience will be made up of people who will benefit the most from your products. This group is defined by certain demographics and behaviors, which can be segmented into specific personas. These personas give you a mock individual who represents the average person in a specific target audience.

    Target audience: What it is and how to find yours

    Different channels in your marketing strategy (e.g. TikTok, billboards, Facebook, radio ads) will be a better fit for some of your personas than others. Understanding the different types of target audiences is helpful in creating useful personas and strategizing where to best communicate with them.

    Types of target audiences

    Within your main marketing target audience there are sub-groups of people who share unique characteristics. Exploring these sub-groups, or types, helps you create specific personas. Here are the most common five.

    Demographics

    This is likely the target audience type you’re already familiar with. You can create target audiences based on things like age, location, marital status and gender identity. A married Millennial based in a large coastal city will have different needs than a single Gen-Z at a midwest university.

    Social media demographics vary by channel.For example, according to Statista, 18% of TikTok’s global audience is women aged 18-24. The same group makes up only 8.9% of Facebook’s worldwide users.

    Psychographics

    Psychographics are used to group a target audience by belief systems, values, interests and more. Often, these characteristics are what defines your customers’ motivations, challenges and needs. If your brand offers an alternative health remedy, your audience’s beliefs and values likely reflect an openness to natural medicine and a priority on wellness. In many cases, your target audience wants to see that your entire brand speaks to their beliefs, not just through a single product. Sprout’s 2023 Social Index ReportTM found that 21% of consumers follow brands on social media because their values or mission align with their beliefs. Tapping that connection is key to building ongoing brand loyalty.

    Purchase intention

    Customer journey lengths differ across products and services. A target audience defined by purchase intention highlights this fact, helping you understand where customers are on a purchase timeline. For example, a customer looking for a new car might start doing in-depth research several months before they actually make a purchase. A potential customer for a boutique clothing brand, however, is often not searching for clothing months before they hope to buy. Also, larger purchases usually happen infrequently or just once (e.g. the car) where smaller purchases may happen on a regular basis (e.g. the clothing).

    Subculture

    A subculture is a group of people who share a common interest.  There are likely several of these groups among your broader audience, and they will shift in popularity over time, such as Star Trek’s “Trekkies” or Taylor Swift’s “Swifties. Even if your brand doesn’t have a product specifically targeted to a subculture, there are ways to leverage your marketing to speak to trends authentically.

    In this example post from Dunkin’, an ad for their new energy drink directly targets winter sports fans in a season where hot drinks normally take precedence.

    Dunkin’s Instagram page, featuring a photo of a skier jumping over an enlarged Dunkin’ cup reading “Send it.”

    Lifestyle

    A target audience defined by lifestyle characteristics includes things like income, spending habits, travel, likes and dislikes. It’s also useful to understand what your customers’ discretionary income is like, especially if your product requires a large investment. Knowing their media consumption habits, particularly where they go to make purchases, is also critical. For example, are they comfortable making purchases on apps like Instagram shops, or do they prefer to make purchases in person?

    Benefits of finding your target audience

    So, why should you invest the time in finding your target audience (aside from the nerdy fun of diving into stats and data)? There is a wealth of benefits to finding your marketing target audience, making the process well worth the effort.

    Increase ROI

    In marketing, return on investment (ROI) decides everything—from software purchases, to department budgets and your social media advertising plan. Finding your marketing target audience will set you up for success from the very beginning of implementing your strategy. You’ll know where to prioritize and what approaches to shelf, so that come reporting time, you’ll have an impressive social media ROI to show.

    Stand out from your competitors

    When doing a competitive analysis, see if you can suss out how similar companies are defining their target audience. What types are they using and how are they marketing to them? Does this seem correct to your industry? You could discover opportunities your competitors are missing or stand out by marketing more authentically to your shared audience.

    Develop your brand voice

    Though your brand likely did a lot of development long before making a sale, your brand voice is really created once you start speaking to customers. With a well-defined target audience, you know exactly who you’re talking to and what questions they’ll ask. With the right background knowledge, you’ll soon be answering those questions in your unique tone and voice.

    The Calm app helps burnt-out young to mid-age adults relax. In this Instagram post, the brand shares a light-hearted jab at “hustle culture” with a cute image and an invitation to engage, all in their defined brand voice.

    Calm’s instagram page featuring an image of a Threads post that says “Stop glamorizing ‘the grind’ and start glamorizing whatever this is” with an image of forest animals having tea.

    Cultivate brand loyalty

    There’s no replacement for authenticity because customers can spot a fake right away. When you know your target audience, you can communicate with them in a more human way. Your customers are real people, and they want that to be acknowledged. Throw out the generalities, give customers personalization and you’ll build brand loyalty in return.

    How to find your target audience

    Finding your marketing target audience involves some research, data mining, listening and a bit of creative thinking. Here is a brief guide to some of the key steps.

    Use market research

    Market research is necessary to keep a pulse on your individual industry and what trends are affecting your customers. Conducting market research will help you uncover your potential target audience’s pain points, what they’re searching for and what they’re buying. A key part of market research is also analyzing competitors. Find your top competitors and do an audit of their target audience. The chances are that they’ll be connecting with people who could also be valuable to your business.

    Dig into your business intelligence

    Business intelligence includes insights from both internal and external data. Analyzing this broad collection of information helps you make better marketing decisions, including discovering and refining your target audience. You may even realize you have more than one target audience, whether that’s because of subgroups or different products your brand offers. Data tells a story, and business intelligence will help you form that story.

    Tap Voice of Customer data

    Your Voice of Customer data comprises direct and indirect feedback from existing and potential customers across sources such as reviews, social media comments and surveys. It contains data that clearly defines your target audience, personas and subgroups. When reviewing, look for patterns in questions, complaints or praise. Also, look for themes in the location or age groups of respondents tied to those patterns.

    Leverage social listening

    Social listening is the practice of tracking conversations your target audience is having about your brand and related topics. This requires looking beyond posts your brand is tagged in, and reading between the lines to analyze what’s really being said. Use the information to refine your target audience into sub-groups and adjust as you go.

    Target audience examples

    A key way to learn how to market to your target audience successfully is by studying brands that are doing it well—whether they’re in the same industry as you or not. Let’s take a look at four standout brands when it comes to target audience marketing.

    Nike

    Nike’s target audience is made up of athletes, fitness aficionados and sports enthusiasts. The brand often targets specific subgroups, including women in sports and younger athletes. While the majority of their target audience enjoys professional sports, many of them are also big fans of college sports and rising stars on the field and court. In this video celebrating Iowa Hawkeyes basketball player Caitlin Clark becoming the NCAA Division 1-all time highest scorer, Nike taps a few of their specific target audience types and gives a young athlete a highlight reel video worthy of the pros.

    Nike’s Instagram page showing a video of Caitlin Clark and some comments.

    CISCO

    With an impressive following of six million on LinkedIn, CISCO’s social media marketing approach reflects their likely target audience of tech professionals who use the company’s products at work. CISCO knows most of this audience consumes their content at work or on breaks, looking for information that helps them grow and uplevel in their careers. This post offers a link to an article on the very timely topic of AI, and includes a bite-sized video to grab attention (and play to the algorithm).

    CISCO’s LinkedIn page, featuring a post on AI trends and insights.

    Domino’s

    Domino’s is a great example of leveraging different social media platforms for different audiences. While they do use some of the same content across all of their social channels, there are key differences that point to an understanding of their various audiences on each platform. For example, Facebook audiences tend to skew slightly older, and re-sharing memes is a popular activity. Knowing this, Domino’s posted this tongue-in-cheek, ready to share image.

    Post on Domino’s Facebook page, featuring a Domino’s sign with the words “Stop trying to please everyone. U R Not Pizza.”

    On TikTok, the audience tends to be younger and interested in videos they find a personal connection to. Astrology is a popular hobby among this demographic, as are “__ as Zodiac signs” videos. Millennials and Gen-Z love to know which item lines up to their personal sign, and this can even be used as a sales tactic. Dominos tapped into this trend on TikTok, matching each Zodiac sign with a menu item.

    Video from Domino’s TikTok account, featuring a woman with brown hair and a septum nose ring in a striped sweater, and text on screen that reads “Domino’s Astrology Part 1.”

    Cook’s Illustrated

    Cook’s Illustrated is known for their scientific and educational approach to cooking, as well as their beautiful yet minimalist imagery. The magazine’s audience loves food, and wants to learn the science behind why and how different cooking methods work. And who doesn’t enjoy browsing pictures of delicious food?

    In this Instagram post, Cook’s Illustrated offers an interesting lesson on ways to cook onions while keeping imagery the focus and the text easily digestible. The post is saveable for followers to come back to, and includes bright photography.

    Cook’s Illustrated Instagram page featuring an image titled “The overlooked flavor of softened onions” and photos of onions cooked four different ways.

    Create authentic connections with your target audience

    Knowing how to find your target audience is the first step in creating a marketing strategy that really resonates with your customers. No one likes to be “sold” to, and building relationships with your target audience that last brings strong ROI to your brand and establishes you as a trustworthy partner. Take the time to get to know your audience on a personal level and you will reap the benefits. Download our free worksheet for creating authentic connections with your marketing target audience to start developing your customer relationships.

    The post Target audience: What it is and how to find yours appeared first on Sprout Social.

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