How To Really Define Your Target Audience
How To Start Your Own Shop: Part One
So in the introductory post to this series we talked about defining your intention and how to create your business plan.
We talked a little bit about writing about who your ideal audience is, however if you are just starting or you haven’t really got your target audience nailed down yet, that part of your business plan might be looking a bit blank.
So today I wanted talk more in depth about how exactly to define your target audience:
You know what your business is selling, but now you need to work out who you are selling it to and why they will want to buy from you.
Defining your target audience is an important step in building your business. There are many great posts out there about why defining your target audience is so important, something we will talk about in a moment. However, I noticed that there were fairly few posts that really got into the details of exactly how to find that target audience. So, we will be getting in the meat of that question in a moment.
But first, you may be wondering, why is it so important to have a target audience? Does it really matter what age my audience is, or how much they earn?
These are all reasonable questions.
Why Is Finding a Target Audience Important?
For me, finding a targeted audience is important because without it I was just shouting in the blackness of space. I think we’ve all been there, when you first start blogging. When your churning out content, promoting it to all your social media channels…and then crickets.
I call it blogging into the void. And it is a deeply demoralizing and frustrating place to be.
The reason being is that you are talking to a general crowd of people about a topic only some of them might be interested in.
For example, say you turn up in an ice cream van to a busy street in London. There are loads of people there right? So that’s probably a good place to set up and you start promoting your ice cream. Some of those people in the crowd won’t like ice cream (crazy I know), some of those people won’t be thinking about ice cream right now and sure, some people might like an ice cream from you.
Now, imagine you have an ice cream van and you rock up at an ice cream lovers convention (anyone know whether those exist?) There are less people there than the busy street in London, but everyone there loves ice cream, their talking about ice cream right this minute, their minds are all about the ice cream right now.
All those people are interested in buying ice cream from you, right now.
In the first example, some people will see your product and think, hey, I’ll get that.
But in the second scenario, not only are people interested in your product, they are actively engaged and purposefully looking to buy your product.
So, in this example, we all want to be the guy with the ice cream van at the ice cream fan convention, right?
But Sarah, I’m imagining you saying right now, that’s a very ideal world situation. It doesn’t work like that in real life.
True. That is a very simplified example. However, the basic premises is the same.
So, let’s get into some technicalities.
Let’s dig into to what we know about our ice cream convention fans.
They like ice cream, they are based near to the geographical area of the ice cream convention, they have the financial means and time to travel to the ice cream convention.
So already, without really knowing much at all about the audience, we already have some easily identifiable information about our ice cream convention goers.
In general terms you will be looking at finding the following information for your audience:
- Demographic and
Which is to say, where your audience is (London), who your audience is (female, 20-25) and why they are buying from you (love of sprinkle covered ice cream).
Now obviously the more in depth you go with these details, the better you will be at communicating with your audience and targeting your marketing efforts accordingly. Once you know, exactly, who it is you are talking to, then you can better plan about how to introduce yourself to those people and start forming relationships.
Most people start with demographic information, how old your audience is, what their occupation is etc
I like to start with one question first and then build my profile around that question. I think it gives you a better focal point to start off with, rather than just going through a laundry list of attributes.
So, the question is, a successful business solves a problem or issue for their customer:
What is your customer’s pain point?
Of course, the follow up question in your business plan is, ‘and how do you solve that pain point?’. However, for purposes of targeting your audience let’s just stick with the pain point itself. Here are a few examples to explain what I mean:
Women with larger chests who can’t find, for love nor money, flattering work shirts that don’t leave gaps between the buttons.
Busy business women that simply don’t have time to cook nutritious meals to take to lunch everyday, but want to remain healthy
So, let’s go through the some questions. You can, of course, write down the values of your own business and I will use the example of our busy business lady.
Disclaimer: In this world no two people are the same. So, unfortunately, we do have to generalize to some extent. So, for example, I know that not all busy business women are interested in working out, but there is a pretty significant amount of women that are.
That is not say you need to stereotype. For example, pretty sure not all middle aged men are Homer Simpson rip offs who find the concept of cooking something in an oven totally beyond comprehension.
Let’s start with geographic profiles.
If you are based in a physical location, the geographical profile of your customer will be highly relevant to you.
For those of us with an online presence, it gets a little broader. For this blog, for example, about 36% of the audience is in the US. This is important for me because it means that the majority of my audience is up and about at different times of the day to me, so I adjust my posting times accordingly.
In terms of products, you might find your offering is more readily accepted in different countries, or areas of the country.
For example, some of you may have heard of the cereal cafe in London. It’s been a great success, despite ruffling some feathers. It appeals to the original thinking, quirkiness that the area of London is known for and appeals to curious tourists.
Now, I feel pretty safe in saying, that out here in the rural bit of the UK, that sort of thing would be met with rather more resistance. It is certainly something to which the novelty would have worn off very quickly. Especially in areas where well established, fundamental businesses are struggling to stay open in the current economic climate.
The geographical area of your customers is something you can learn quite quickly as it is easily identifiable from the analytics of your website through Google analytics, as well as through your social media analytics.
Of course, there is a long list of metrics for demographics. We’ll just be covering the biggest ones so you can get an idea how to research each one and how to apply the results to your business.
Now, of course, you will need to do some research at this point. For our busy, business lady I might Google blogs that address both business and healthy eating. Get a feel for who the people in the comments section are, have a look at who they are following in their social media profiles. Look at the blogs themselves, the tone of voice employed. Are they talking to a younger or older audience? Is the tone more formal or casual. Does the article reference technology like Snapchat, Facebook etc What about current trends or fashions?
All these things can help you to determine what age group are interested in these topics.
I did a little Googling for my busy, business woman and found that the websites that combined both healthy eating and references or articles on fitness as well, were mostly aimed at a younger audience.
For example BuzzFeed came up pretty high in my search results. I also went to a few other sites which had good recipes on them and found that they sold sportswear styled on younger models and from shops usually associated with a younger demographic like Forever21.
So from this (very brief) research the most engaged demographic that appeared to be interested in healthy eating on a timescale, were women between the ages of 23-35 who had a busy lifestyle, which involved a strong interest in fitness.
Now chances are, your content will be more focused than just ‘women who like to eat healthy and exercise’, so this will help your research. For example, you could narrow it down by websites that focus on a specific diet and keeping fit, or particular types of workouts, like exercises you can do at home or people interested in Ariel Fitness classes.
So perhaps by applying these more specific search terms you will get more specific and accurate readings for your target market’s age and other demographics. Which it is important for you to make sure that you really have your business niche nailed down when doing this exercise.
And also, keep your mind open.
For example. by far the biggest age group that visits the Creative and Coffee blog is 25-34, an age group I, myself, am not a part of. So don’t assume that that your target demographic is necessarily yourself but also embrace the fact that there will always be outliers to your target market.
For example, according to statistics by Audiense:
21% of English National Opera’s audience follow Snoop Dogg
Didn’t see that coming did you?
Male or Female?
With your target audience, as I mentioned above, the demographic will hinge very much on the specific angle of your content or product.
For example, if I say to you, I run a cooking blog. Do you think my audience is mostly male or female?
You might guess, probably female?
What if I now tell you the blog is called Extreme Badass BBQ Cooking and my most popular blog post is ‘How To Toss a Burger Like a Badass’
Who do you think my audience is now? Apart from quite clearly very awesome.
Well, yes I am being a tab hyperbolic but my point is, try not have any preconceptions about your audience. It’s going to differ depending on what your topic is and your personal style.
And just because your target audience is, female for example, doesn’t mean you wont have any male readers. Did you know Creative and Coffee has a 14% male readership? (Hello there people of the male persuasion, so lovely to see you!)
Do they have children?
So if, like me, your content has nothing to do with children or lack thereof, you might think ‘why do I need to answer this one?’. It’s all about lifestyle. Now, I think I’m pretty safe in saying that people who have children predominately have a different lifestyle to those who do not. Whilst both groups my have overlapping worries and problems, they will also have problems which are very specific to those groups.
To go back to my busy woman at work. Whether or not she has children will mean that she may still have the same problem, no time to create a healthy lunch but will need a different solution.
For example, our busy business woman in her twenties might need a quick and healthy lunch recipe she can make on a budget.
Our busy business woman with children might need a quick and healthy lunch recipe that can serve four people and won’t amaze and disgust her children.
Again, something you feel might not be relevant. However, for this blog, for example, the occupation of my readership is very fundamental because this blog is all about helping awesome boss ladies start their own businesses. ie occupation: self-employed
If your audience works in retail, then you know your audience is going to be particularly stressed out over the holiday period.
Or, perhaps your product is a particularly comfy style of shoe that attracts mainly people who are busy on their feet all day. If they are particularly durable and stain resistant you might find that your audience is mostly in the restaurant industry, for example.
Why does this make a difference? Well, stay with the shoe example. If you know that the majority of your customers are in the restaurant industry you can tailor your content marketing specifically to appeal to people in that industry. Like ‘Ten Ways To Soothe Your Feet After Standing Up All Day’….this is why I’m not in the shoe business clearly but you get the idea.
While geographic and demographic profiles might be fairly self explanatory, psychographics are a little more tricky.
Totally reliable source Wikipedia defines it as this:
“Psychographics is the study of personality, values, opinions, attitudes, interests, and lifestyles. Because this area of research focuses on interests, attitudes, and opinions, psychographic factors are also called IAO variables.”
From a marketing perspective, this is what I like to call why your audience likes your product. It’s all the things that really make your audience tick.
There’s a comprehensive list in your workbooks but psychographics are things like; favorite book, favorite movie, hobbies etc
Now, if you are anything like me, your first thought will be:
How do I apply such specific questions to such a large audience?
Don’t worry, I think the first time my marketing teacher presented me with this I defiantly rolled my eyes.
I mean, say your audience in three thousand people strong, you can’t tell me that all three thousand people are going to have the same favorite book. This is very true.
However if you’ve really got your ideal audience dialed in and your niche is ultra specific, then you can get pretty close.
For example, on my Instagram, I have a wonderful collection of amazing business ladies who enjoy the excessively pink and motivational posts relating to running your own business. If I went to Instagram and asked:
“How many of you own #GirlBoss by Sophia Amoruso?”
Would all of them them say yes. Of course not. Would the majority of them say, yes I own that book! Or, no, but I am wanting to get around to reading it. Yes they would.
So, if you know your target audience really well, then there will be books, for example, that you can be pretty certain your target demographic will like and be familiar with.
But I’m assuming your second thought is, if I’m selling fluffy blankets, why is my audience’s book choice relevant? (Because I know a lot of you are in that business, of course)
As with all the above statistics, it’s all about generating content that your audience will find interesting. For example, “The Ten Best Reads to Snuggle Up In Bed With” featuring lots of shots of your very snugly blankets for example.
I’m just picturing a blog right now for people who just want to stay in bed all day, it sounds pretty good
But, I’m sensing the question here is now:
OK, I’m convinced, but how do I even go about finding something like that out?
Well, I’m not going to lie, it is going to require some considerable amount of research. However, here are two ways to get started:
So, this requires time, patience and being observational but it’s worth it so stay with me. If you have been researching all the elements above then you should have a least a general idea of who your target market consists of. You will probably be following them, engaging with them and generally chatting away. After all, that is what social media is all about.
Once you’ve been in the social media world a while you may notice certain trends. For example, let’s stick with books a moment. I notice that the same books frequently crop up in pictures on my Instagram, here are a few:
#GirlBoss, Big Magic, How To Style Your Brand, How To Be Parisian, The Goddess Guide and basically anything by Kate Spade
Keep your eye out for TV shows that your followers mention frequently, or movies they like. Does your audience post or like a lot of GIFs? What shows are they from? What movies or fashion styles do they reference on Throwback Thursdays?
People love sharing and talking about their interests on social media, just join in the conversation. Just keep it relevant to your target audience. As much as I would love to sit and talk about Game Of Thrones all day, it’s not really relevant to my audience.
Yep, straight up say, hey what’s your favorite movie?
This is very much going to depend on what kind of relationship you have with your audience and what platform you use. For example, I’m happy to hang around all day on Instagram chatting to the Creative and Coffee community and I don’t think it be that weird to say something like:
What is the best ever book you’ve read for your business?
But it might be a little weird for me to hop over to Twitter and say… “so what you guys watching right now?”
In the same way you are not posting GIFs to LinkedIn because it would be inappropriate, only you can judge what is right for your audience.
Of course if you have friends or family that are within the target market for your product, you could just ask them.
I hope that if you are new to creating marketing profiles, or you simply just didn’t know where to start, that this post has given you a few ideas.
It boils down to the fact that if you try to send your message out to everyone on the planet, you are spending a lot of time and effort trying to talk to people who aren’t interested in your blog or business.
Plus, it’s so nice to get onto social media and chat away to your followers about things they are actually interested in.