What is a Target Audience?

Target Market
Getty Images / Tom Merton

When it comes to advertising your business, it's imperative that you know who your "target audience" is, and how to reach them. While it's important to reach as many people as possible, and it often seems like focusing only on certain segments of the population is limiting, you need to be "direct." Directly reaching those interested in your product or service will ultimately put more money in your pocket.

Therefore, before you decide what your message is, and how to deliver it, you need to understand your target audience. 

What Is a Target Audience? 
A target audience is the demographic of people most likely to be interested in your product or service. If you own a plumbing company, your target audience is property owners, both commercial and residential. If you own a toy store, your target audience is parents, grandparents and anyone else with children in their lives. Other examples of target audiences include single men in their 20s, tweens, working mothers, retired seniors and dog owners. In some cases, the target audience becomes very narrow-focused. For instance, if the product is a pricey Italian men's business suit appropriate for up-and-coming Wall Streeters, then the market audience is single men in their 20s who live in New York City and earn over $200,000 per year. 
 
Why Does It Matter? 
In order for people to "buy into" a product or service, they need to relate to the tone and content of the message.

By striking a chord with someone, a personal connection is made, and trust is established. Let's say the goal is to sell a product to working mothers. The advertising methods might employ digital and social media platforms and may have an energetic and empathetic tone. A better approach for reaching retired seniors is a marketing campaign using print ads in newspapers and magazines that carry a more subtle and relaxing tone.

 
 
Finding Your Target Audience 
The best place to being is by thinking about the specific needs your product or service fulfills. If your business is designing websites you’re going to focus on selling those websites to business owners, not retired people. If your product is very general in nature (e.g., a common condiment like ketchup) less market research is needed because most people use ketchup. If, however, the audience is more specific it's important to gather data about your customers so you can narrow-focus. One way to gather data is to offer a special price or coupon code to those who visit your website (or place of business) if they fill out a survey that captures the information you need. Market research companies can also help conduct this type of research for you. 
 
Measuring and Altering Your Message 
The most important part of "messaging" is paying attention to how well advertising methods are working. To assess the effectiveness of a marketing campaign, you can monitor sales, new customers, requests for information, phone inquiries, retail and web traffic and click-throughs. If you don't want to do this on your own, the Nielson company is the oldest company that measures the total effectiveness of a campaign.