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Know Your Audience: The Ultimate Guide

One of the first things every marketing professional learns right from the beginning is to “know your audience.” By having a firm understanding of your marketing audience, you will be able to market your product to people who will actually be inclined to buy what you are offering.

For many marketing professionals, determining their target audience and understanding the audience’s nuances can be a challenge. Sometimes, marketing professionals group subsects of an audience and may misinterpret the data. As a result, efforts to market a product are essentially wasted.

To ensure that you are on the right track when it comes to identifying and knowing your audience, this guide will be a helpful resource. Before delving into how you can “know” your audience, let’s take a look at what a target audience is because essentially, you can’t identify something that you do not know how to define.

What is a “Target Audience” and How is it Different from a Target Market

According to Chron, a “target audience” is a narrow concept that specifically refers to the sect of customers that your advertisement and marketing materials is targeting. This sect of customers have the specific role of deciding whether to buy your product and they also have the ability to influence prospective buyers. For example, a social media post that is specifically for female teenagers aged 13-28 can be said to market to a specific target audience. The more apt you are at narrowing your target audience and determining who your materials should be marketed to, the higher the chance you will see a return on your investment in marketing materials.

Alternatively, a “target market” has to do with the process of segmenting your audience into groups. The relevant classifications include:

  • Geographic: the location of your potential buyer
  • Demographic: the gender, age, education, and point in the life-cycle
  • Psychographic: lifestyle and social class
  • Behavioral: response and overall attitude regarding a product

Unlike “target audience,” which is the group that most of your media reaches, the “target market” is specifically who you would like to sell to. As a result, the best thing to do as you brainstorm is to determine who your target audience is and then to break those groups down. Once you break the groups down, you can formulate which types of advertisements will apply to each group in order to induce them to purchase your product or service.

In Action:

Sometimes, understanding a concept is easiest when there is a workable example to refer to. To make it easy, consider this:

Toy Company X features advertisements of its new doll to its target audience, which is a group of 5-10 year old girls. This group of girls can decide whether or not they want to buy your product and they can influence their friends to purchase the product too. On the other hand, they aren’t the target market because they have no buying power. The target market in this scenario is the parent. Your brand markets to the audience and sells to the target market, which are parents who have the financial ability and are part of a psychographic and demographic that will purchase the product.

Overall, while the nuance can be very subtle, understanding the difference can help you make better decisions when it comes to marketing your product.

The Business Plan

Identifying your target audience starts with referring to the brand’s business plan. A business plan consists of what the venture is, what the venture requires for success, how the venture will be funded, and the components that make up the venture. While business plans are mainly designed for venture capitalists and bankers, it can be useful to you as a marketing professional because it gives you a strong starting point. In addition, most business plans do need to identify a target audience, or at least have an outline of one.

As All Business identifies, the business plan at least should include the age, gender, income, and material status of your customers. In conjunction with these qualities, the plan should also identify the motivation that a buyer will have in purchasing the product or service. Finally, the plan will also highlight the value of your product or service.

The same concept applies in terms of target market in your business plan. Here is an example of one company’s target market identification within its business plan:



While your business plan is not a completely comprehensive overview of your target audience and how to reach out to it, you at least get a sense of where to start. After building the foundation, you can start adding on the building blocks that will help you take a more specific and effective approach to reaching out to your product’s buyers.

Buyer Motivations

When identifying your target audience, one of the most challenging feats that you will come across is identifying your buyer’s motivation. Essentially, buyer motivation refers to your prospects desire to purchase a certain product or service that you are offering based upon the advertisement or marketing materials that you present.

In general, you will find that your buyer has two motivations during the process:

  • Motivation to avoid loss
  • Motivation to gain a reward, the reward referring to your product or service

According to Marketing Donut, the more prominent motivation is the desire to avoid loss. This concept is not only based upon the observations of marketing professionals, but it is also backed by the psychology-based research relating to marketing and human behavior.

As Psychology Today mentions, the loss aversion concept arises out of a study known as the “endowment effect.” The result of this study determined that humans feel pain when loss occurs. From an economic standpoint, if loss includes a monetary loss, they are then willing to pay more for the item.



Now that you know that your target is more affected by loss than gain, you can use this information to create better sales messages that target your audience better. The key message here is that instead of simply selling the benefits of your product or service, you should also advertise in a manner that touches upon what your audience will lose.

The Habits of Your Current Customers

Another tactic that you can use to gain insight and understanding of your target audience is to look at the habits of your current customers. According to Street Fight, “One of the best way to predict how someone will behave in the future is to look at what they have done in the past. By tracking a customer’s past purchasing behavior, marketers can design highly targeted ads based on the specific preferences and tastes of individual customers.”

Since you are looking at what another sect of potential customers will do, you will need to first need to find a potential target audience that is similar to your current customers. To do this, you will need to break down information about your current customers. For example, you should look at factors such as:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Socio-economic background
  • Interest
  • Buying habits
  • Location

After you have divided your current customers, you can create a new potential target audience by matching similar factors between the old audience and the new one. Once you have broken down the basics, you can start gathering more information about your current customer’s past purchasing habits to determine how the new audience will buy. This, in turn, will allow you to create better ads that target your new group.

  • Shopping Behaviors. Shopping behavior doesn’t just encompass what your customers are buying, but how they are buying. If most of your customers are using your mobile application to purchase their product, it is highly likely that your new audience will also utilize mobile technology to buy from your brand. Therefore, your advertisements should focus on mobile, too.
  • What Your Target Market is Buying from Competitors. Another way to shape your new audience is to determine where else your current buyers are shopping. If your current audience and your prospective target audience share similar interests and characteristics, then your current audience’s buying habits elsewhere can say a lot about your new audience’s additional interests. Once you have determined these interests, you will need to figure out the differentiating factor between your current audience and the new one.
  • Loyalty Programs. The power of loyalty programs is invaluable. If most of your current customers go for other brands that provide a loyalty program, then offering your new audience this type of benefit plays into the psychology of gain. As a result, your new customers will be more likely to inch over to your brand, as opposed to your competitor’s brand.

Now that you have a workable strategy that enables you to construct your target audience and a few tips on how to best ensure that you are reaching out to the right audience, there is another issue to reason through. Another concern is the problem of target audience issues. Most brand professionals find out that despite completing the initial steps of creating a target audience, there are still some issues. By identifying what the issues are, you can avoid them.

Not Looking at Enough Resources

The above approach to formulating your target audience is pretty comprehensive, but there is even more that you can do and that you should be doing on a constant basis as you market your products and services.

Importantly, you should offer your target audience the following tools, which will help provide you with more insight into who you are selling to and whether your tactics are working:

  • Surveys: Surveys provide you with a plethora of information that can come in handy when marketing future materials to your current and future audience. In addition, surveys are easy to create and use, especially when you use technology that compiles the information and issues you a report. The trouble though is getting enough of your audience and potential audience to take the survey. To coax users to take your surveys, you should provide them with a reward, such as a discount on a product or a purchase that they make from your store.
  • Creating Valuable Content: Another mistake that marketing professionals make in relation to target audience outreach is that they don’t provide enough valuable content to potential new customers. Most content is geared toward existing customers, which doesn’t really come in handy when you are trying to build more traffic and generate more sales. Therefore, some of your content should be valuable to your new audience in a manner that prompts them to want to read and visit your site.
  • Reaching Out to the Relevant Channels: Finally, one of the worst offenses is not reaching out to the relevant channels to capture your target audience’s attention. In the context of social media, according to Convince and Convert, you can find the right channel by asking who your target market is, who your competition is, whether there are any untapped opportunity, and which landscape is the most appropriate to reach out to your audience. By focusing on these issues, you will be able to post your advertisements on the right social media channels, which will therefore lead to more engagement.

If the all of the above tactics fail, then Business2Community has an answer as to the reason why. Perhaps it isn’t your audience formulation that is wrong, but it could be that your product has a problem. To determine if it is your product that has an issue, you can use the following methods:

  • Create a number of surveys asking about your product
  • Ask the online community their thoughts about what you are offering
  • Reach out through emails 1-on-1

By covering these points, you will be able to make the necessary adjustments to your product or service if a problem is identified. In addition, not only does this enable you to repair an issue with your product, but it also gives you the opportunity to engage with your current and potential target audience in a manner than draws them into your brand.

Social Media and Target Audience

Finally, since social media is as relevant and important as it is in today’s marketing, it is imperative to know how to reach out to your target audience using social media. For instance, current statistics show that 21.3% of internet users spend their time on social networking sites. So overall, once you have identified the proper channels, you can start marketing materials to your target audience.

Content that Matters to Your Audience

According to Social Media Examiner, the first step to success on social media in relation to your target audience is to ensure that you are providing them with content that resonates with them. If you’re providing your users with meaningless content that they will not read, then your efforts are essentially moot.


There are two forms of content that you can use to engage your users on social media: video content and written content. Sometimes, you can use a hybrid of the two. The type of content that you choose will depend upon the type of technology your audience uses. For example, if your audience uses a mobile device more, then you may want to opt for videos or short content on social media. This way, the content will be easy to view and mobile friendly.

Partner with Brand Advocates

As Forbes points out, taking advantage of your brand advocates on social media can lead to a great outcome. At the end of the day, current statistics show that “92 percent of people trust the recommendations they receive from friends and family above all forms of advertising.” This basically means that sometimes, no matter how much you advocate for your product or service through content, your target audience may ignore your efforts until someone else advocate for your product or service too.

For the best results, find someone who loves your product and who has great social media skills and offer them the opportunity to advocate for your brand. In return, you can offer this customer some brand freebies. If you are a bit hesitant about this strategy, just keep in mind that your investment will be well worth it.

Know Your Audience Demographic for Every Social Media Channel

Finally, you should also identify your audience demographic on every social media channel. While this may seem like a tedious task, you can use marketing software to come up with the information that you need. For example, here is one demographic for a specific brand that uses Twitter for their social media audience outreach.




Overall, figuring out who your audience is and how to reach out to your audience through various channels and marketing materials can truly help boost your brand. When considering all of the above factors, it is best to strategize on how you are going to execute your efforts and to come up with a plan that will lead to the overall end result that you are aiming for. At the heart of it, once you get your audience down, you will be able to improve your marketing materials and your sales efforts too.

Lastly, let me know your thoughts and any other tips for knowing your audience that have worked for you. Leave a comment below and I look forward to hearing from you.

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About Sean Donahoe

Sean is one of the most recognized industry leaders in business and marketing. As a popular speaker, author, consultant he has helped over 50,000 students world wide find success in their businesses and has consulted with Fortune 500 companies and businesses of every size grow and thrive...

One comment

  1. Hi Sean! I found this great article in facebook. It’s about one of my favourite topics. I’m a copywriter and the first thing, I say to my students is: “Learn to know your target customers.” A good thing is also to read bestsellers titles on amazon and take a “book-view”. There you can read the table of content and those bullets tells a lot of the important content of it.

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