Understand Your Target Audience, Target Market, and Personas
You’ve likely heard the terms “target audience”, “persona”, and “target market.” Some marketers use these terms interchangeably, but understanding the differences is key for positioning your marketing message. Your products or services will appeal to a variety of people with different needs, goals, and backgrounds. Understanding to whom you should direct your marketing will help you create focused, compelling content that can drive customer loyalty and more effective advertising.
Today, we’re going to be clarifying exactly what a target audience is, why every marketer should know theirs, and five ways to find it. Let’s begin.
What is a target audience?
Your target audience represents those who will most likely want to buy what you’re selling. In more technical terms, they are “a group of consumers characterized by behaviour and demographics.” They are who you want to address in your blogs, email newsletters, advertisements, and social posts.
It’s important for every marketer to research their target audience. Understand their interests, pain points, and buying behaviours to shed assumptions you’ve made about your intended customers. Doing this work is crucial to delivering the best possible customer experience. It also enables you to better segment your contact lists and create marketing content that your customers will want to consume.
How is a target audience different from a target market or persona?
Knowing your target market is important for developing a general marketing strategy and for sales and product development. In the words of Investopedia, “Part of the success of selling a good or service is knowing to whom it will appeal and who will ultimately buy it.”
Out of the three terms we’re discussing, a target market is the most general way of defining your customer base. It refers to a large group of people with several shared demographics—such as age, gender, location, and profession—who are most likely to buy what you’re selling.
Example of a target market: mid-sized technology providers with 50-200 employees in North America
A target audience represents people who will most likely want to buy what you’re selling. A more thorough explanation is that a target audience is also a segment of people within your overall target market. These people possess shared characteristics that make them better suited for a specific marketing campaign, promotion, or advertisement. They are defined by their demographics, buying intention, and subcultures (goals, lifestyles, and values). You can have more than one target audience.
Example of a target audience: Paper Sword’s target market is technology providers in Canada and the US. We provide marketing services for SaaS companies, Managed Service Providers, DevOps consultants, and Microsoft Dynamics consultants. If we decide to run a Google Ads campaign promoting our agency expertise in marketing for MSPs, our target audience would be MSPs—not DevOps consults or SaaS companies.
A persona, sometimes known as a buyer persona, is a detailed and semi-fictional outline of your ideal customer. It is the most specific way to categorize your customer base. A persona considers consumer demographics and psychographics such as age, location, gender, hobbies, profession, marital status, values, goals, and more.
Creating a persona provides great insight for businesses. Doing so allows marketers to delve into the psyche of their ideal customer to better understand and empathize with them.
Example of a persona: Maria, 43, full-time database administrator. Is a married mom to 2 young children. Lives in Vancouver, Canada. She makes sure client databases are available and running smoothly when her kids are at daycare. She’s passionate about promoting gender equality in the technology industry and maintaining her professional life while being a parent. She doesn’t have a lot of free time to herself, so she values her nightly skin-care routine as her time for self-care.
Identifying your target audience: a checklist
Identifying your target audience will help you tailor your marketing strategy and outbound content, generating a better chance of delivering your message to the right people. The million-dollar question is, how do you find these people?
This checklist provides a good starting point:
- Filter out who ISN’T your target audience
Identify who you won’t be selling to. Narrow down your list, and then consult your web and customer data to hone in on those most interested in what you’re selling.
- Check your website, Google, and social media analytics.
Analytics tools are extremely useful for learning the demographics of the people who visit your website, social pages, and ads. They also show where your audience’s interests lie by displaying data such as time spent on a webpage, click-through rates on ads, and post shares. We recommend tools like Google Analytics, Lucky Orange, and HubSpot Analytics.
- Interview your customers
What better way to learn about your target audience than by asking people who’ve already experienced your brand and product/services? Interviewing your existing customers or conducting online reader surveys is a great way to learn about your customers’ pain points, interests, and preferences for consuming online content. It’s also a reliable way to gather feedback on your brand experience: from your customers’ first point of contact with your brand to their post-purchase experience.
- Consume your competitors’ content and see who they’re marketing to
When in doubt, look at what your competitors are doing. Your competitors operate in the same industry with the same consumer demographic, making them a useful source of information.
Marketing directly to your target audience is critical to the success of your marketing efforts. It may take some time and trial and error before you identify your target audience(s). But it’s important not to give up. You can create the most aesthetically pleasing, well-written content, but without being intentional about getting this content in front of the right people, you won’t see the results you want.
Need help fine-tuning your marketing message for your target audience? Paper Sword is always happy to help. Get in touch with us here.