Identifying Your Target Audience



Could you pick out your customer from a crowd?

Marketers agree that understanding your audience is key to success. But how to define that audience? What matters most when defining your target audience is...

  • where to reach them at different points in their journey, 
  • how they make choices at each step of the customer journey, and 
  • why they choose the marketer’s offering vs. an alternative.

How confident are you that you know the targetable characteristics that best describe your audience? How about what your audience is struggling with and what they are searching for at each step of the customer journey? Not so confident? You’re in good company. A recent survey by the Content Marketing Institute found that marketers face a number of challenges including prioritizing one audience over another, knowing what is most important to the audience, and understanding the customer journey.

We can simplify the definition of our target audience into 3 broad categories

Targetable characteristicsThings like demographics, firmographics, search channels, and buying channels help when planning ways to reach the audience

BehaviorsThings like whether or not they are a current customer, frequent shopper, big spender, shop mostly online, or make certain lifestyle choices help further refine your ability to target your audience through various channels and serve as inspiration for the content topics and creative that will be most valued

Goals/PainsFinally, knowing the primary goal or pain that brings your audience to your category will help you tailor your content topics and content types to assist your audience at each stage of the buyer journey and beyond

A simple format for getting started or revisiting your audience description

When you write down your target audience description, you put your assumptions on paper. You will align your team when you share your description and incorporate their feedback. You will also know exactly where to look when you need to launch your next ad campaign or share background with a new partner.

At a minimum, start with the following description. You should be able to quickly make a note of each of these dimensions in one sitting. If you have questions, talk to others on your team, and improve the description.

  1. Give your Persona a name.
  2. Note targetable characteristics that will help you reach them.
  3. Make your best guess about the value of this Persona to your business.
  4. Finally, put yourself in your customer’s shoes and make a note of the Primary Goal that this persona has related to your product category and the Action this Persona will likely take to achieve their goal?

The key takeaway here - it pays to take a moment to research and outline the key characteristics of your audience and their needs. Your content will thank you for it, and so will your audience.

Tips for defining the right audience using Google search

You can use Google search to be informed about the audiences that may be particularly in need of your offering (and therefore content). One thing to try is to begin a search query and see what Google auto-suggest provides:

If we type into a Google search bar, “[my product category] for” - but then rather than completing the search and hitting the “enter” key, we wait. Google will suggest alternatives for how it thinks we are planning to complete the search query. In this case, we are more interested in the suggestions themselves rather than in the specific results coming back.

Some of the suggested results will represent natural audience personas. For example, if we test out "Running shoes for" we see

...for women
...for men

When we enter, “Running shoes for older “ we confirm personas we would expect, but one group jumps out - “older beginners”. We can now think concretely about a target audience of older individuals that are starting running for the first time. You can ask yourself what content needs they will have and how you can orient your content to them.

These clues to audiences are valuable because they relate directly to audience search behavior. They tell us something about audience size as well as the language the audiences use to describe themselves. 

If you don't know which audience to create content for first, start with the one you think has the most potential for your business. Focus on creating a content campaign for them and then move on to other opportunistic target audiences. Having a specific audience in mind will lead to more effective content.

Give yourself a score on the second C in Content Strategy: Customer

What role do the assumptions about your target audience play today as they relate to your content strategy?

If you aren’t at a 5, commit to bumping up 1-level with your current content strategy. Revisit your assumptions about your target audience and their needs and incorporate these updates into your strategy. This will lead to great conversations, more internal alignment, and ultimately more successful content.

Now you are familiar with the important assumptions you’ll make when planning content that is aligned to your specific target audience. The next chapter (Describing Your Content Plan) will focus on the part of content strategy that brings the company and the customer together.  We’ll take a closer look at the relationship between your stakeholders and your content by exploring the third C in Content Strategy: Content Plan.