Know your target audience to successfully market to it

You are most likely not your target audience. Sure, some people are lucky enough to work with a product or service that they consume or want to consume, but most of us spend our days working on products or services for which we are not part of the target audience.

And that’s OK. You don’t have to be the target audience to be able to market to it. However, you do have to recognize who those audience members are and keep them top of mind when making marketing and product decisions.

It seems obvious, but it’s not. For example, team members may know that their target audience is a 45- to 64-year-old woman, yet choose to put a 20-something model in their print ad. Sure, she looks good, but that isn’t the right choice to resonate with the target audience and, in fact, may actually turn off that audience. That is a simple example, but you get the idea. If those marketers were thinking about their target audience, the young model wouldn’t have been a consideration.

Getting into the minds of your audience takes some time and extra thought, but it’s worth it. You need to know them and also know what they say about your brand or product. If your audience says a product is practical, it’s practical. It doesn’t matter that you want it to be chic.

There are a number of ways to get to know your target audience.

  • See them in action. I spent a large portion of my career in marketing research, so I’ve had the pleasure of watching consumers interact with a variety of products, from greeting cards to bank teller lines to welding equipment. There is no replacement for seeing them in action.

Get out of your office. Trust me, you will learn something every single time. You can watch them and just observe, or better yet, ask them questions. Why did you choose that? How did you decide to pick that up first? Was this something on your list or an impulse purchase today?

Then listen to what they say and ask follow-up questions. People are more than willing to share their experiences. One thing to remember is that you’re only talking to a small number of folks. Yes, it’s helpful, but don’t make decisions based on what we like to say is “a focus group of one.” Combine this with other learnings.

  • Conduct primary research with them. There are many methodologies, from quantitative to qualitative. Match the method to the objective. You’ll want quantitative (e.g., survey) if you want to measure something. An example is finding the preferred marketing message. To choose a winner, a large sample size is needed, which means quantitative. Qualitative (e.g., focus group) is used when you want to explore something. The example here is understanding what the target audience likes and dislikes about a selection of marketing messages.
  • Dig in to secondary research. There is data available on many target audiences, especially if your audience is a common one (e.g., moms ages 25 to 54). Understand that this information won’t be specific to your brand or product, but you can learn a lot about various audiences this way. Look at secondary research first, because it can help inform what you want to know from your specific audience.

Knowing your audience is a key step in presenting your brand or product in a way that resonates with them. Take that step. It’s worth it. ●

Sue Stabe is Co-founder of Long & Short of It

Sue Stabe



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