In marketing, there’s a saying: “If you’re talking to everybody, you’re not talking to anybody.” In other words, if you don’t know your target audience — or how to speak directly to them — your broad, generic messages are going to be overlooked, ignored, and forgotten.
The target audience problem most businesses have
Despite the importance of identifying and focusing on a target audience, many brands struggle with this concept. When asked to describe their target audience, they often answer in broad, vague terms. For example, a dentist might answer by saying:
“My target audience is everyone. Everyone has teeth, so they all could benefit from my dental services.”
You can see why a dentist would say this. It’s a logical answer, and it is in fact, true — people with teeth need dentists. Plus, the dentist probably wants to bring as many people into their practice as possible. It’s not surprising that they would want to target a very large group of people who could benefit from their services. They want to fill their business with customers, so they attempt to keep their audience open and wide instead of narrowing it down.
Focusing on an ambiguous, generalized audience won’t make it easier to fill a business with customers. It actually has the opposite effect.
What happens when you don’t know your target audience?
When you don’t define a target audience — or don’t know how to identify it — marketing your business is a challenge. Without a defined and specific audience, you will experience the following problems and situations.
You can’t develop strong, authentic branding
Your brand is made up of colors, logos and slogans, but it’s more than that. It’s a combination of creative elements that are meant to inspire a feeling or emotion in an audience. Great branding draws in an ideal audience by using elements most likely to attract them.
You cannot create this type of powerful branding if you don’t know who you want to engage in the first place.
If you create a brand before you identify your target audience, it will likely end up as uninspired or less attractive to your ideal customers.
Your marketing messages will be flat and uninspired
Just as your branding should be designed with your target audience in mind, your marketing messages should always also be created specifically for your ideal customers.
The language and selling points you present in your marketing materials should speak directly to your target audience.
If you don’t know who that target audience is, you can’t use the language or address the pain points that mean the most to them. Your email marketing, website content, and ad campaigns will all be less effective when you don’t know your ideal audience.
You can’t build lasting customer loyalty and affinity
People usually don’t have a strong love for generic brands with no personality. More often, they love authentic brands that have character and a strong point-of-view. Customers prefer brands they can identify with and feel connected to.
Great brands know this and tap into it to build customer loyalty. They leverage characteristics that resonate with their target audience to build brand affinity. If you don’t know who your target audience is, it’s much more difficult to build a brand that connects with customers in this way.
You attract customers that aren’t a fit
Strong, authentic branding draws in ideal customers and clients. On the flipside, it also steers away people who aren’t a fit.
While many businesses — especially new businesses — don’t want to push away potential customers, they should.
Customers who aren’t a fit can become a drain on company resources. They may be unable to fully benefit from your offerings, require extra time and attention — and still be unsatisfied. Businesses should avoid attracting ill-fitted clients by focusing on bringing in only the most ideal customers.
You can’t stand out from competitors
When a brand is generic and looks just like every other business in its industry, it loses the ability to stand out from competitors. A brand can’t differentiate itself or show audiences why it is better than another brand if it looks and feels like a replica of other businesses.
However, if a brand intimately addresses its target audience, it can shape branding and marketing messages to connect with customers in a way that competitors can’t. They can identify the details their customers crave and value, and use them to differentiate the brand through niche marketing.
You can’t effectively use targeted advertising
Knowing your target audience helps you use the right messaging and branding to connect with customers. It also helps you place your content in areas where your audience is most likely to see it.
When you know your target audience, you can identify the websites they use, the magazines they read, and the places where they spend time in person and online. This knowledge helps you identify the areas where you can place your ads and set up targeted social media advertising campaigns.
You can’t improve your offerings
When you don’t know your target audience, you can’t comprehend or visualize their experience. It’s next to impossible to anticipate how customers will feel about your offerings — much less improve the products and services based on audience perspectives.
When you closely know your customers, you can put yourself in their shoes. You understand their pain points and can see how your products and services impact their lives. This insight allows you to improve your offerings and even create new offerings that can help them even more.
How to define your target audience
Now you can see why it’s so important to identify and intimately know your target audience.
While your initial reaction might be to classify your ideal customers in a broad, generic way, there are many long-term benefits to drilling down and defining your target audience in more specific terms.
Avoid using generic and broad classifications for your target audience. Instead, spend time going deep into defining your ideal customers. Create a complete description or buyer persona that outlines the following characteristics and details.
- Demographics — Statistical information about your audience
- Professional details — Information about their jobs and place of work
- Psychographics — Details about their personalities and innate qualities
- Goals — Descriptions of what they want to accomplish
- Challenges — Problems the audience regularly faces
- Influences — Media and impressions the audience encounters
- Buying process — How the audience makes purchasing decisions
The more specific you can get about your target audience, the better your marketing and business operations will be.
But don’t stop there. Continue to develop your target audience description by creating detailed customer profiles. Here’s how.
Also published on Medium.