Target Audience: Knowing Who, Where, What and How

Who is your target audience, where are they, what do they want and how can you reach them?

Too often, small business marketers claim to know who their target audience is, and what this illusive group of prospects wants and responds to, based on “experience.” These marketers also, from my own experience, proclaim that advertising doesn’t work, or trade shows don’t work… that only word-of-mouth marketing works. What they are missing is glaringly obvious. They don’t know anything about their target audience, let alone different audience segments, and haven’t mined their database to glean actionable insights.

Your current customers and prospects, (and their customer journey) must be fully defined before a successful marketing strategy, plan or creative campaign can be developed.

Analyze actual sales and engagement/inquiry data to identify your target market.

  1. Review the sales database to capture and analyze as much information as possible.
    • This research should include recency, frequency and monetary (RFM) information.
    • Research historical geographic data to identify where you may have clusters of influence.
    • Analyze purchasing history to identify the purchasing cycle(s) of various customer clusters (early adopters, mass adoption “me too’s,” and/or laggers who only purchase in the regression discount phase).
  2. Likewise, analyze social media engagement and web analytics to identify:
    • Where your customers are engaging (desktop, tablet, mobile, direct mail, onsite, events, and so forth)
    • Which social sites, blogs or websites they prefer
    • What types of posts/content/offers are most attractive to them
    • The day and time they primarily engage
    • What online or offline sources are referring them
    • Which of your web pages are sticky and which are stinky
  3. Review any call tracking data and online contact form inquiries and other email inquiries to identify what information callers/senders needed. This will indicate where you have gaps in messaging, pricing and customer service that need attention.

Define your target audience.

After having collected and analyzed as much data as is available, segment customers into different audience segments. For example, a B2C retail store may segment customers by department, loyalty, purchasing cycle, and so forth, and by online, in-store and direct mail purchasers. Conversely, a B2B service provider may segment customers by industry, company size of sales, staff and location, for example.

For each segment, identify the following:

  1. Demographics – statistical information such as age, gender, education, household income, cultural affiliation, family life cycle
  2. Psychographics – lifestyle and values (Check out the VALS Survey by SBI – a great psychographic profiler)
  3. Behavioristics (purchasing habits) – in what stage of the product life cycle do they purchase, where are they shopping (mobile, social, ecommerce, in store, catalog), what days and what time of day do they shop, are they members of loyalty clubs,
  4. Geographics – location

Market segmentation.

Once the prior stage is complete, focus in on identifying the target market’s most desirable market segments. For example:

Our retailer may target high school or college educated mothers aged 21 to 34 who are homeowners, live within five miles of its location, use credit cards and are actively engaged in social media outlets.

Our B2B company may target privately owned manufacturers in the telecommunications industry that have gross annual sales in excess of $1B and are located in the eastern region of the U.S.

Identify Suspects, Prospects and Customers.

Now that you know who and where your customers are and what they want or need, develop segments that designate where they are currently positioned in the sales funnel.

  1. Suspects – Those who should be considering your company, but have not shown interest
  2. Prospects – Potential customers who have inquired or otherwise engaged with your company (qualified leads)
  3. Customers – Designated between current and non-active customers and divide current customers on an RFM scale.
  4. Advocates – Happy customers who recommend you


    Develop creative messages that speak to where target audience members are and what they want/need in order to progress through the sales funnel.

Each of these customer segments should receive specific sales promotions or other calls to action that serve to move them progressively through the sales funnel and ultimately increase customer lifetime value (LTV).

Seek out cloud-based solutions.

Finally, investigate cloud-based CRM (Customer Relationship Management) solutions like Microsoft Dynamics 365 and integrated marketing programs like Adobe Marketing Cloud. These are available for organizations of all sizes and provide seamless integration between sales and marketing, plus just-in-time information and analysis of customers and marketing campaign performance.

NEXT | Develop Buyer Personas

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