When creating a new business or building your entrepreneurial empire, you will hear terms and phrases repeatedly thrown around such as “target audience”, “target demographic” and “ideal customer”. You may wonder what these terms mean and why they have any relevance to your start-up.
Instead of dismissing terms such as the above, it is advisable to actually take note and learn how they can improve your business, sales and profit. In this article, we look exclusively at how to identify your target audience and discuss why this is an important process for your business.
Why is attracting the right audience a business necessity?
Some people say that any custom is good custom – this is not strictly true. Whilst a sale to a random customer will provide your business with income and profit, a sale to a targeted customer could provide so much more with much less effort.
A targeted customer can help boost sales, improve your profits and provide your business with cash flow – this is nothing groundbreaking. A targeted customer can, however, improve your business reputation, provide repeat custom (which is harder to obtain than new business), improve your website and social media traffic and potentially generate more valuable sales.
But why is this the case? Why can you not obtain these extras from a generic customer? A customer that you have specifically targeted will have a genuine interest in your company or a need for your product. This primarily makes the sale easier and gives your customer a greater reason to interact with your business and open their wallet.
Let’s look at an example – you have a gardening equipment business and target Customer A and Customer B. Customer A lives in a flat and only has access to a communal garden. Customer B, however, has their own property, is retired, and has a large lawn. Which customer do you think is more likely to make a purchase? Furthermore, which customer is more likely to share your business with their friends and provide you with a favourable review? In short, attracting the right audience should benefit your business financially, and make sales generation easier. The steps listed below will help you as a business identify your ideal audience, and tailor your operations to target them.
Phase 1 – Find your target audience
So how do you actually know if you are targeting the right audience or not? Without pre-planning, research and statistic-gathering exercises, you don’t! The first step is to identify your target audience – find out what your ideal customer is and which demographic will provide your business with the best results. This is an absolutely essential process and a vital part of ensuring you attract the right audience for your business. The following is a list of ways in which you can find your target audience:
Use Social Media
Social media is an extremely powerful tool for many aspects of business. In today’s modern world, social media has become one of the prime methods of communication, news sharing and tools for business marketing. A business can use this popularity and widespread use to help ascertain their target audience. You can use social media to analyse your audience and see what kind of people are interested in your content.
Look at what type of people and businesses follow your company on Twitter – analyse which people give likes to your content and re-tweet your posts. Look through your Facebook page and see what type of people like your content or share your posts on their own wall. Check Instagram to see who searches for hashtags you use or likes your photos. In short, analyse exactly who is interested in your social media content. Look for trends and recurring themes – is there a certain type of person who particularly enjoys engaging with your business on social media? Use these trends to form a picture of your ideal customer.
Send out email surveys
Email is another great method of gaining information about your target audience. If you have started an email campaign, you should consider creating an email survey. This survey could contain questions about your business and its products and/or services and provide customers with a real chance to offer valuable feedback and insight. Furthermore, the survey could contain questions that help identify your target audience and ideal customer, i.e. personal questions about their hobbies, habits and work.
If you have a mailing list, ensure that you send your survey to every address. Furthermore, consider placing links to your survey on your website, promotional material and social media. When considering the survey results, don’t forget to look at who didn’t respond – this is just as important as analysing the actual content customers have submitted. If you look at what type of person didn’t respond, you can look at what type of customer you shouldn’t be targeting.
Similar to surveys, questionnaires are also a useful tool to analyse your customer base and find your target audience. Consider creating a series of questionnaires about different aspects of your business such as products, service, delivery, customer service, etc. Primarily this feedback can actually help you improve your business processes and see where you may fall short. Questionnaires can also be hugely useful however to find out information about your customers.
Within your questionnaires include questions that are targeted towards unveiling your customer’s demographics. Include generic questions such as age, sex, location, employment, marital status and salary – these questions can help build up an image of what type of customer you appeal to. Furthermore, add questions about their personal habits, and questions that offer insight into why they chose your business and use your products/services. Distribute these questionnaires widely to gain a large sample to analyse.
Collate feedback, stats and data
Once you have gathered this data and used the various sources mentioned above, you can then look at formulating a picture of your target audience. Take sufficient time to analyse your findings – look for trends, search for recurring patterns of behaviour or habits. If you have gathered enough data, you should see these trends and you should notice certain commonalities forming. This is why it is important to gather a large sample of data – if you only gain data from 20 customers, for example, when you sell to thousands, your data may be skewed or give an inaccurate representation of your customer base.
When analysing your findings, you should be able to find your target audience or ideal customer. Try to build up a picture of what your target audience is i.e. our products are suited to 40-50-year-old males with an average income of £30,000 per year who enjoy sport and live in rural areas. You don’t have to be that specific, but it will help greatly if you can narrow down the parameters. Once you have found out exactly who your target audience is, you can look at ensuring you are targeting them in your marketing!
Phase 2 – Make alterations to target your chosen audience
By now, you should have a clear idea of your target audience. You can now use the data you have collected, and the ideal customer you have formulated, to alter your business strategy and marketing to appeal directly to this audience. If it transpires that you are already targeting the right audience then great! You can simply continue to refine your marketing strategies and create campaigns that are geared towards that customer base.
Alternatively, if your data shows that your marketing campaigns are too vague and trying to appeal to too many different audiences, change is required! It is advisable that once you know your target audience, you should make a large effort to appeal to them – as mentioned in the opening section; this will prove beneficial for your business in many different ways. The following are some ways in which you can target your preferred audience/customer:
Change your Social Media plan
Social Media is a great marketing platform. The beauty of social media is that when used as a marketing device, you can gain instant feedback from customers and communicate directly with them. Consider tailoring your social media pages such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest to reflect the preferences of your target audience.
Furthermore, consider tailoring your individual social media posts to suit your target audience too. You could change your use of language, address them directly or even use tailored images and infograms to appeal to your ideal customers.
Let’s look at our gardening supply example again – using the info you found (40-50 males in rural areas) you could include images of beautiful countryside settings in your posts or make reference to farming and the great outdoors – language and imagery such as this would appeal to your target audience, and maybe not so to a younger male who lives in a city for example. Be imaginative, but stay on track and create targeted social media content!
Alter your email campaigns
As we mentioned earlier, email campaigns are a great way to gather customer information. Email campaigns can also be used to appeal to your targeted audience! The first step is to refine your actual mailing list – remove any non-targeted customers and consider only sending your email campaigns to ideal customers – this should improve the effectiveness of your email immediately – you are not wasting time and resources sending emails to people who are never likely to invest in your business again.
Once you have refined your mailing list, you can look at refining the content of your email campaigns. Use a similar process outlined in the social media paragraph above – change your language, imagery and content to appeal to your target audience. Refrain from using generic stock images and bland phrasing – use specific images that your audience can relate to and use language that appeals to their way of life and habits. In short, turn your generic emails into something unique, targeted and specific to your ideal customer!
Create targeted marketing campaigns
Finally, it is important to look at your other marketing campaigns and refine them to reflect your target audience. Leave no stone unturned – any piece of marketing or anything a customer could potentially see should be reviewed. Other marketing campaigns could include radio and TV adverts, billboards, flyers, leaflets and paid advertising on the internet, to name a few. Make use of marketing tools such as Google AdWords and Google Analytics to analyse and refine your content and generally overhaul your marketing to target your chosen audience.
Once you have started to make changes to your marketing, the process will become easier and you will start to understand the most effective types of language, themes and imagery to use. This should be viewed as a work in progress – it will take time to change your marketing, social media and email campaigns, but if you tackle one area at a time, you will make progress and eventually prevail.
Hopefully, this article has given you great insight into the nuances and processes surrounding your target audience. You should now be aware of what a target audience is, how to identify your own and how to change your business to appeal to this type of customer. If you take note and refine your business processes, you will see how much of a difference understanding and identifying your target audience can make.
One final point of note to consider is that over time, your target audience may change. Just because you have identified your target audience, this doesn’t mean that the work stops! Customer preferences can change over time – as society progresses and spending habits change, so will your target audience. Be sure to review your marketing strategies and evaluate their effectiveness – if it transpires that your target audience has changed, simply identify your new ideal customer and refine your marketing once more.