Reaching Your Target Audience

Stephen DeAngelis

July 29, 2013

“Wanting to reach your target audience is one of the things that can help business owners grow their business,” writes Kim Beasley. “Keep in mind that just marketing anywhere and everywhere won’t always bring your target customers to you.” [“How to Determine Your Market and Reach Your Target Customers,” Technorati, 26 February 2013] Sounds like a good plan, right? Kevin W. McCarthy claims that too many companies believe that the terms “target market” and “target audience” are the same thing. As a result, he believes, too many marketing messages fall short of their potential. [“Do You Know Your Target Audience?” 14 February 2013] He provides a brief description of the problem in the following video.

McCarthy may have a point and Beasley’s article provides a good example. Even though Beasley talks about reaching a “target audience,” she goes on to discuss how to determine and connect with a “target market.” Clearly, Beasley understands the difference because she discusses the importance of establishing “a marketing plan to reach those target customers in your target market.” Nevertheless, using the terms interchangeably can cause confusion. McCarthy is correct that companies need to understand the difference. He asserts, “Defining your target audience’s needs, wants, hopes, and aspirations helps offer assurance that you understand them and how to help solve their problem. Their comfort that you can identify their specific problem draws them to a conclusion that you are more appropriate and capable of caring for them.” Beasley recommends asking four questions to begin the process of developing a targeted marketing strategy. They are:

  • Who will benefit from my products or services?
  • Where can I find these target customers?
  • What geographic locations do I want to focus on?
  • What industry or occupation would benefit from my business?

The last question is the first one that needs to be asked. The other questions begin to peel the onion after that question has been satisfactorily answered. Adrianne Glowski offers some additional tips about how to peel the onion to find your target audience. Her tips all rely on your doing your homework. “Broadly think about who might be interested and who may benefit from having access to what you offer,” she writes. “Figuring out your selling point is the first step in identifying your ideal target audience. Next, think about what information you need to know and why. What do you need to know about your potential customers in order to reach them?” That’s just the beginning of the research you need to do. She explains:

“Start with secondary research. There are a lot of existing sources that can help you pull together information about your industry, the market, your competition, and the broad potential customer you have already identified. The best part is that someone has already done the work and, in many cases, the information won’t cost you anything. The downside is that the information may not be focused in a manner that is 100% useful for your purposes. Nevertheless, it’s always a good idea to do some searching. You never know—the research you need may indeed exist.”

Glowski writes that the next step is “to create a customer profile. This is more than a brief statement; it’s an in-depth description of who your typical customer may be and includes demographic and psychographic information.” That information could include things like:

  • Demographic information: This may include age, gender, location, ethnic background, marital status, income, and more.
  • Psychographic information: This type of information goes beyond the ‘external’ and identifies more about a customer’s psychology, interests, hobbies, values, attitudes behaviors, lifestyle, and more.”

Glowski insists that “both types of information are essential for developing your customer profile.” She explains:

“Demographic information will help you identify the type of person who will potentially buy your products and services. Psychographic information goes one step further and nails down why that potential customer may buy.”

The next step, she writes, involves virtual location. “Find out which websites they visit and which social networks they most frequently check. Are they glued to their email? Are they addicted to apps? The information you put together for your customer profile, combined with knowing where your audience hangs out online or how they use technology, will facilitate the delivery of your message.” Her final recommended step involves keeping engaged by monitoring activity and adjusting to emerging trends. Mickael Bentz, Product Marketing Manager at Neolane, believes that much of data needed to fill out the customer profiles recommended by Glowski can be obtained from Facebook. “In addition to serving as a channel to develop brand awareness and improve engagement with customers,” he writes, “Facebook is a personal information goldmine.” [“Facebook Likes: Marketers’ Secret Weapon for High-Quality Qualification,” The Cross-Channel Conversation, 27 June 2013] He continues:

“This information can be captured through what we call the ‘social opt-in.’ The social opt-in occurs when Facebook users accept applications requesting personal information on facebook.com or use Facebook to log in to third-party websites. A lot of information can be requested, including email, pages liked and declared interests. In two Neolane studies of websites with Facebook Login and Facebook applications, we realized that the ‘like’ capture is not very popular among marketers for the moment. About 25% of Facebook applications analyzed require users’ likes, while only 17% of websites using Facebook Login collect the likes.”

Companies are obviously eager to collect and analyze any data that helps them better reach their targeted audience, but, as explained below, Facebook may be losing its cachet. Jeff Fraser asserts, “Consumers feel like they’re being drowned with irrelevant messages, and they’re willing to share their data if it means getting fewer, better-targeted ads.” [“INFOGRAPHIC: ‘You Can Have My Data, But Stop With the Emails’, Consumers Say,” Marketing, 26 June 2013] Fraser reports that real message is fewer ads. He explains:

“According to a report by loyalty management agency Aimia, 46% of 6,000 consumers surveyed in Canada, the U.S. and U.K. think they receive too many emails from marketers. Most respondents said more than 20 emails from marketers in one week is too much, and they’d prefer to receive email from a company at most once a week.”

What I found most intriguing about Fraser’s article was the following:

“In spite of feeling they receive too much advertising (or maybe because they feel that way) consumers are intrigued by the possibility of better-targeted marketing through data collection, the survey says. More than half of global respondents said they would be happy or very happy with receiving product recommendations based on lifestyle data, and 70% said they would like to receive offers on products they buy regularly. Asked what information they would be comfortable sharing, fewer than 15% of respondents were unhappy about marketers knowing their name, email, hobbies, occupation, or address. Feelings were more mixed about income and purchasing history, and most were uncomfortable about their browsing history or mobile number being collected by marketers.”

Fraser goes on to report, “Evidence from the survey suggests sentiment is already turning against big data providers who are perceived as disingenuous about data privacy.” He mentioned two such companies: Facebook and Google. Martin Hayward, Aimia’s vice-president of global digital strategy and lead author on the report, told Fraser, that “although consumers may feel comfortable sharing data right now, that may change if companies don’t do a better job communicating with consumers about how they use it.” Fraser continues:

“If consumers don’t feel a sense of control over their own data, he said, they may refuse to share it altogether, either by employing third-party data privacy tools or pushing government to regulate data collection. ‘We’re on the cusp of having all this wonderful information,” [Hayward] said. ‘The challenge for all of us is to use it responsibly, and not kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.'”

Fraser concludes his article with an infographic that shows some of the other results from the survey. They are very enlightening. The infographic shows, for example, how many consumers regret “liking” a brand or signing up online. I agree with Hayward that companies need to be much more careful about how they handle consumer data. If the “goose” dies, both companies and consumers will be the losers.