What is a Target Audience?

Target Market
Getty Images / Tom Merton

When it comes to advertising your business, you’ll often hear about reaching your “target audience.” You want to reach as many people as possible, and it often seems like focusing only on certain segments of the population is limiting. However, knowing your target audience is a key step toward choosing where you broadcast your message. Ultimately, this makes your message more effective. 

What Is a Target Audience? 
The target audience is the demographic of people who are most likely to show interest in your product or service.

If you own a plumbing company, your target audience is property owners. 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 couples and dog owners. In some cases, you may want to narrow the target audience even further, trying to reach something as specific as single men in their 20s who live in New York City and earn more than $200,000 per year. 
Why Does It Matter? 
If you’re offering a quality product or service, it may not seem like it’s important to know who comprises your target audience. However, the tone of your advertising message should reflect the type of people you’re trying to reach. In order to get people to buy, you need to strike a chord with something that’s meaningful to them. For instance, if you want to sell a product to a working mother, your advertising methods might touch on the difficulties of balancing work and family, how there never seems to be time to cook a healthy dinner or how tiring it is to run the kids to multiple activities.

This method is wildly different than the message you’d put out to a retired widower.  
Finding Your Target Audience 
In some cases, you can find your target audience by thinking about the types of needs that your product or service fulfills. If you’re designing websites you’re going to focus on selling those websites to small business owners, not retired people.

Sometimes, though, your audience is a bit more difficult to narrow down. To gather data about your customers, you might try having them fill out a survey by offering a special price or coupon code for those who complete it. Market research companies can help conduct this type of research for you. 
Measuring and Altering Your Message 
What’s most important is paying attention to how well your advertising methods are working. Send out a flier or email and measure how many people respond to it. The next time you might use a different tone or style and see if that approach is more or less effective than your first method. The best business owners are constantly testing and adjusting their methods to deliver the best results. 
Understanding your target audience is crucial to the success of your business. Get to know your customers so you can work harder to meet their needs. When you do this, your business is able to thrive.