What Is a Target Audience? A Beginner’s Guide

A well-defined target audience is crucial for maximizing your marketing efforts and boosting the ROI of your campaigns. By pinpointing the right people to reach, you can optimize your approach and effectively allocate resources instead of funneling thousands of dollars into fruitless marketing channels.

So, what is a target audience? It refers to the ideal group of people most likely to benefit from and engage with your business. Through careful research and planning, you can determine your target audience and refine your marketing strategies to focus on those most likely to convert. By doing so, your business has a higher chance of success. For expert guidance on understanding and defining target audiences, consider exploring this comprehensive guide.

Key Takeaways

  • A target audience is a group of potential customers classified by demographics and behavior who are most likely to purchase your product or service.
  • To create a target audience, combine your customer persona with consumer behavior research, demographic data, social media analytics, and audience data.
  • Benefits of a targeted audience include a higher ROI on marketing dollars, but you’ll want to ensure you research the audience thoroughly, so you don’t select the wrong group of people.
  • Researching target markets involves routine customer analysis, customer research, focus groups, and competitive analysis in order to define your particular audience.
what is a target audience

Target Audience Definition

A target audience is a particular group of consumers most likely to purchase your product or service.

To find your target audience, you should conduct thorough research and collect customer feedback. After you have the data, you’d segment these target groups by shared characteristics like their demographics and behaviors. This fictional group of people acts as a guiding principle for a business’s marketing strategies.

When you’re speaking to potential customers, you need to know what would resonate with them the most. A target market allows your business to tailor messaging to those most likely to be interested in what you have to say.

After careful research and analysis, you can hypothesize that this audience will respond positively to your curated message. Next, you’d create a marketing strategy that speaks to this specific target audience to help influence their behavior.

How Do Target Audiences Work?

Typically, your target audience is made up of several defining characteristics. In order to find your target audience, you’ll want to consider the following:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Household income
  • Location
  • Education
  • Purchasing habits

Defining a specific group by these parameters will help you visualize who your target market should be. The more specific you are, the better. This information about your customers will inform how you’ll speak to them.

While demographics are clear-cut, purchasing habits are up to interpretation, depending on your brand. Purchasing habits include whether they’re more likely to buy online or in brick-and-mortar stores. Or once you dig into data, you find people who are likely to purchase products from you based on their previous purchases.

Segment Your Audience by Behavior

Need to segment your target audience further? Narrow down more of their behaviors:

  • Customer interest: Target customers by what interests them with a strategic marketing campaign. If a person is Googling keywords related to home improvement, a local construction company would want to target this user based on their interests that align with their business.
  • Attitude: Target by a person’s belief system. If you are creating a target market for a non-profit, it would be helpful to know a person’s attitude towards particular charities and social movements related to your organization.
  • Subculture: Target a specific group based on a shared culture. Narrow down your target audience by discovering who belongs to a fandom or group membership, such as anime, to help you create a successful marketing campaign.

Define Decision-Makers vs. Supporters in Your Specific Audience

A few other specifics to keep in mind: Is your target audience a decision-maker or a supporter at home? Decision-makers make purchases for the entire household. In contrast, supporters can influence the decision-maker to make particular decisions.

An example is a mother making purchasing decisions for the household. She has one 8-year-old child who is interested in a new sports drink he saw in a commercial. The commercial he saw was designed for a supporter; it made him influence his mother to purchase the drink. If the sports drink company wanted to target parents later, they’ll want to make another target market of decision-maker parents to purchase the drink for the entire household.

Benefits of Target Audiences

target audience benefits

Target audiences offer the following benefits to your business:

Build Positive Relationships With Customers

You want your customers to be impressed with your company and product or service. By showing your message to a receptive audience, you increase the likelihood they’ll have good things to say about your business.

Interested and happy customers are more likely to leave positive reviews and engagement. You’ll also build an essential referral program to attract even more similar customers. When your target audience is robust, your products and services almost sell themselves.

Cut Out Uninterested Customers

You wouldn’t waste time hanging out with friends who you have nothing in common with. It’s no different with your customers! Simply put, when you tailor your messaging toward a curated audience who would want to buy your product or service, you remove uninterested people from your scope. These people will likely never buy from you anyway, so don’t waste your time marketing to them.

Better Advertising ROI

If you haven’t focused your advertising and marketing efforts on a particular demographic, you might as well kiss your money goodbye. Updating your marketing so it focuses on your audience improves ROI overall and makes them more likely to move through the marketing funnel. It lessens the bounce rate on your website and increases user engagement. Think about it: If the message isn’t relevant to them, why would they care to learn more? Being able to tailor your marketing messages is essential as it will attract more engagement, leads, and sales of your product or service.

Disadvantages of Target Audiences

Of course, there are several downfalls to creating a target audience from scratch. Consider these disadvantages:

Lengthy Process

Identifying a target market takes work. After identifying your ideal customers, conducting market research, and analyzing the data, you’ll have put a significant amount of time into creating your target audience. If research is lacking or your analysis is off, this hyperfocus on one type of audience would be an expensive waste of time and resources. This is why it’s essential to get the research process right with careful analysis.

Potentially Target the Wrong Audience

You know your customers best. But the research you conduct will help inform this knowledge even further. A downside could be a hyperfocus on the wrong audience. If you think your target audience is families with children, you’ll put all your effort into appealing to them with family-oriented messages.

But forgetting the secondary audiences of younger millennials or Gen-Xers without kids would be a huge mistake, assuming your product would still be relevant to them. This audience may not have children and feel turned off by the hyper-focused messaging. Refer to your market research when determining primary and possibly secondary audiences to avoid this error.

How to Find Your Target Audience

target audiences

Plan accordingly with the following target audience creation process:

Analyze Your Current Customers

When determining your target audience, your existing customers are your greatest asset. While an immediate target audience isn’t always crystal clear, chances are major clues are lurking in your digital presence.

Analyze your social media platforms and website. Look at who is commenting on your blog posts, leaving glowing reviews, and liking what you share. Those inclined to engage with your business already tell you who your message resonates with.

Another major treasure trove of information is your Google Analytics data. Google Analytics collects data on the path users took to find your website. You can also pull reports on gender, age, and interests. Dig deeper into the people already navigating your website. The capabilities of Google Analytics allow you to learn who your highest-value users are in real-time.

Conduct Market Research

After analyzing your customers using your own data, you’re ready to conduct market research. But how you choose to conduct it will vary on your industry and the gaps in your target audience’s knowledge. You need to determine what type of data you need first.

Market research consists of both primary and secondary data. Primary data means this data does not yet exist, and you will have to collect it yourself, such as through a survey. Secondary data is available to you on the internet or in a database, but you’ll have to go out and find it.

Here are a few popular market research options to learn more about your target group:


An individualized view of your customer gives you incredible data to work with. When designing this survey, you’ll want to combine both qualitative and quantitative questions.

Why? Quantitative questions can be easily analyzed in a spreadsheet to pick up on patterns. In comparison, qualitative questions give you necessary long-form answers that inform a person’s overall opinion of your business. While open-form questions take a bit longer to analyze, you’ll learn important insights about your business through long answers.

Survey distribution also matters. Make sure your sample size is large enough to draw conclusions from. Share your survey across all your social media channels. Email the survey to your existing customer base. Depending on your services, you’ll also want to share the survey with people when they make a purchase or book a service as well.

Focus Groups

Once you gather responses from your survey, your target audience will start to crystallize. From there, get together a focus group for a deeper qualitative dive into your target audience. Focus groups allow you to gain in-depth information from your target audience in real-time and in real life.

Establish goals you’d like to accomplish by holding a focus group. Most likely, you want to solidify your target audience. But you may also want feedback on a particular product, service, or website. Create conversation-provoking questions with these goals in mind. You don’t want your participants to simply answer yes or no. Write engaging questions that will get them talking.

Next, you’ll select your participants. Typically, you can find them using your digital channels like email or social media. Once selected, you’ll need a group facilitator to lead the discussion. As you gain insights, make sure you have a notetaker taking careful notes. These will be important later. Once you gain valuable insights, analyze the qualitative data and derive themes based on what was said. This important information will help inform and shape your target audience.

Research Competitors

To understand how to target your audience correctly, you need information on what your competitors are doing. Perhaps your focus group gave you some important insights about their experiences with your competitors. You likely had a question about competitors on your survey, too. This can be your first data point when researching your competitors. You likely also have a few different competitors in mind based on your local market. Pick out the competitors your customers mention and research them with a SWOT analysis.

A SWOT analysis stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Use this format when deciphering a competitor’s target audience. Ask yourself what they do well, what they can improve on, what you might want to try, and what could potentially threaten your business to give your business a competitive advantage. Write down who you believe their target audience is and what channels they’re using to reach them.

Your competitors’ target market is likely close to your ideal customer too, assuming they’re doing well in the industry. Note that this audience is subject to change with time. It’s important to always keep a pulse on who your customers are and continuously read their feedback.

You may find that your customer base will change with time, and that’s okay. Revisit these steps if you ever feel like you need to refine your target audience based on your analytics.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Should You Define Your Target Audience?

Defining your target audience is simply a good marketing practice for your customer experience and your profits. Customers who feel that an advertisement is personalized to them are far more willing to buy from you. It’s easier to move these customers down the sales funnel when they’re immediately interested in your message. Target audiences are a major benefit to your wallet too. When you’re spending money on your target audience, you’re spending your dollars on a person with high intent to buy. This is a much better bet than spending your marketing dollars on broad groups. Some people won’t be interested, and that’s okay! A target audience ensures you spend your money wisely.

What’s the Difference Between a Target Audience and a Persona?

While similar, there are major differences between a target audience and a persona. Target audiences are representative of the entire pool of people you’d like to target. Personas, on the other hand, narrowly examine the profile of a fictional person. A persona is a detailed look into the lifestyle, interests, and finances of one “ideal” customer. Here’s another way to look at it. When creating a target audience, you’re creating a “team” of people that look and act a certain way. The persona is a focus on the “individual,” however. While the target audience gives a great overview, the persona is intended to give more insight into a person’s buying process.

What Is an Example of a Target Audience?

A company selling women’s clothing is looking to define their target audience. They want to determine the purchasing habits and behavior of these women in order to speak to them more directly in a sea of competitors. Their target audience might look like this: women in their early 30s living in Chicago, IL. College-educated with an annual income of $75,000-$100,000; passionate about fashion. These users are interested in finding age-appropriate, fashionable, and well-made clothing. Through their defined audience, this company targets women using this target audience. This company seeks out their target audience on age-appropriate channels and uses in-market data for those searching for similar clothing online.

Final Thoughts

Defining your target audience has many benefits. Now that we’ve answered the question, “What is a target audience?” you can create content, products, services, and messaging with a specific market in mind.  

When creating a marketing plan, you can save time and money while better connecting with the people who matter most to your business. Now that you know what a target audience is, you’re well on your way to defining one for your business.