Discover how to build a target audience and reach them online using 6 steps from our experts.
Here, you’ll find:
- What is a target audience?
- The importance of building a target audience
- 8 types of target audiences
- How to build a target audience
- How to reach your target audience
According to HubSpot’s 2023 State of Marketing report, one of the key themes is that marketers struggle to understand their target audiences. Not much has changed from 2022, when just 42% of marketers reported knowing even basic demographic information about their audience.
However, many marketers and founders discovered their marketing efforts reap more rewards when they create personalized content that speaks directly to their ideal customer. You’ll hear from some of those experts in this article.
So let’s talk audience building. Read on to learn how to build a target audience, reach them on each platform you use, and more.
What is a target audience?
A target audience is the intended customer base for a business — the people who are most likely to make a purchase from a business.
For example, the target audience of a company like Etsy — a craft marketplace where creators can put together their own online shop — would be handmade product buyers and sellers.
However, buyers and sellers are two different segments of Etsy’s target audience. This means the content Etsy shares to promote itself will be vastly different for:
- Sellers: perks of running your own online shop, how easy it is to get set up, etc.
- Buyers: different products available to purchase on its site
To attract your target audience, create marketing content and advertisements that attract this specific group of people.
Target audience vs. target market
Your target market refers to the group of people your product or service is intended for. Your target audience is a smaller segment of your target market who will actually buy your product.
For example, the magazine The New Yorker may technically have a target market of American adults. But its target audience is likely to be college-educated American men between the ages of 40 and 60.
Knowing both is important. But understanding your target audience is more likely to impact your business’s bottom line.
The importance of building a target audience
Starting a business and a marketing strategy without knowing who your target audience is like a local newspaper circulating its daily issues twelve towns over. People might see what you have to say, but it doesn’t apply to them, so your message won’t stick.
This is one reason building a target audience is so important. Sudhir Khatwani, founder of cryptocurrency newsletter The Money Mongers, also says it beautifully: “It’s like setting up a coffee date. You want to know who you’re meeting — their likes, dislikes, and what makes them tick. So, demographics, psychographics, and shopping habits are your go-to.”
Finding the right target audience for your product and service also helps increase your overall ROI. Peter Michaels, CEO of parental monitoring app Yeespy, shared the increase in performance his team saw after discovering their target audience.
“In the early days of our company, we launched a campaign to promote our new software product,” says Michaels. “We conducted thorough market research to understand our target audience’s pain points and needs. By tailoring our messaging to address these specific pain points and showcasing how our product could solve their problems, we saw a significant increase in engagement and conversions.”
When your business knows its target audience, it can:
- Increase sales and revenue
- Gain direction for your marketing strategy and ads
- Spend your marketing budget more strategically
- Know which platforms your target audience uses
- Find better opportunities for your business
8 types of target audiences
There are eight types of target audiences you can build for SEO and Google ads campaigns.
Let’s walk through each.
This is the broadest possible target audience you could have, and it doesn’t make sense for most small businesses. However, social media platforms and giant corporations like Amazon and Target may likely use this targeting because they target everyone.
Demographics refer to customer data like:
- Gender identity
- Marital status
- Education level
- Job title
You can use this information to build your target audience. For example, a deodorant brand may target women aged 18-30 with a specific campaign.
You can also use a person’s interests or hobbies to inform your target audience. A fitness brand would have more luck targeting people who have an interest in running or working out, rather than a generic group of men and/or women in their 20s.
Some shoppers will conduct research before they plan to buy, especially for large purchases. So brands (think electronic and car brands) can use this targeting option to help sway someone’s purchasing decision.
A subculture is a group of people who share a similar experience, like being fans of the same sports team, attending the same music festival, or being part of a brand community. Pinpointing subcultures that relate to your brand can create a target audience of potential customers.
A superculture is a group of people who interact with each other over a shared passion, like cosplay, extreme sports, music genres, and more. These can be targeted similarly to subcultures.
A customer’s needs or pain points can focus your marketing messaging. Matt Little, Director at lighting store Festoon House, discusses why knowing your audience’s needs is so important.
“Audience building requires an in-depth understanding of your target audience’s needs and wants,” says Little. “When you consistently deliver value and tailor your approach to your audience, you’re connecting with your audience and building long-term relationships that benefit your business and your customers.”
Attitudes and opinions
Lastly, customer attitudes and opinions can also strategically build your target audience. This centers around how your audience feels about certain topics, and can be a great option for charities and other businesses with heart-tugging initiatives.
How to build a target audience
Now, let’s talk about how to build your target audience. While the type of audience you want to target can be compiled in different ways, there are six main steps you’ll typically take for each.
1. Check out your website analytics
Start by referring to your existing website analytics. Google Analytics should be your go-to tool here since it provides clear insights into your existing website visitors.
Open up your GA4 dashboard, then head to Reports > User > User Attributes > Overview.
- Geographic location (country and city)
- Operating system
- Screen resolution
Some of the latter information can be even more helpful if you have an online software or app your audience uses. Build a list or spreadsheet of your top audience segments based on the data you find in your Google Analytics dashboard.
You can also use Google Analytics to build specific audiences based on the information you discover throughout these six steps. Then, pay attention to each audience or audience segment’s analytics, like how many view your website and for how long.
There are existing parameters and templates available to kickstart your new audience to make this even easier for your team.
2. Analyze your social media followers
Next, analyze your social media followers and insights as a part of your audience research. This can help you see which types of people are most interested in following your business on social media, giving you an even better idea of who your target audience might be.
Start by checking your social media analytics. Each social platform has its own built-in analytics, but you can also use tools to build a single dashboard for monitoring all of your performance. Available tools include:
Look at the demographic data provided by your social media analytics tools.
On Facebook, you can discover basic demographics like the gender, age, and location of your followers.
Alison Lancaster, CEO of press release distribution service Pressat, tells us, “Social listening is a particularly effective tactic.” Social listening is the act of using social media channels to observe what your target audience is saying.
Lancaster continues, “Engaging on digital platforms, participating in online forums, and even joining specific LinkedIn groups can provide a wealth of unfiltered insights.”
3. Conduct market research
Market research is the practice of gathering data and information about a target market. However, it can help you narrow down a set audience or market segment for your business.
Sukhpal Saini, the founder of SEO tool Engyne, and his team discovered the target audience for their startup through market research.
“It starts with a hypothesis on who you want to serve, what problems they have, and how you’ll find them,” explains Saini. “We brainstormed this numerous times, then did user interviews with all of these folks in our network.”
Market research — including one-on-one interviews (often called IDIs, or in-depth interviews, in the market research space) — can help you learn your target audience and discover the exact type of people most interested in your product or service.
Saini continues, “We found that early-stage startups were dying for a solution like ours because they didn’t have anything else they could use — but enterprise startups already had content agencies handling SEO for them, so they didn’t need our product at all.”
There are a few ways to use market research for audience building:
- Surveys: Ask questions to understand who your target audience is, what they like, and what they’d like to see from a company like yours
- Interviews: Interview potential customers to get candid feedback on your business
- Focus groups: Conduct focus groups (can be online or in-person) to gather feedback from a group of people on a specific product or service
Use the data from your market research to refine your target customer.
4. Look at your competitors
Your competition can also provide helpful data. Look at the marketing messages they put out, the types of content they create, the people following their social media profiles, and the people they’re following.
Likely, your competitors target a similar audience, so getting a clear understanding of who they’re targeting can simplify building your own audience.
However, Lancaster warns that, “While observing competitors’ strategies can provide valuable insights, it’s crucial to maintain a unique brand identity. Drawing inspiration is beneficial, but it’s equally important to forge a distinctive path, understanding that strategies might vary in their effectiveness based on individual business contexts.”
5. Take advantage of available tools
Don’t go it alone. Tools and software can almost always make a digital marketing tactic easier — and building your target audience is no different.
Google Analytics offers various insights and metrics, but keeping an eye on your audience data should always be a part of your strategy.
Antonio Banda, Marketing Lead at lead generation software Pareto, shares his recent experience using SparkToro to help his company discover more about its target audience.
“I recently used SparkToro to get insights about a new audience we’re targeting at Pareto.ai,” says Banda. “Using a few key terms, I figured out insights, such as common phrases used, media consumed, websites visited, social media sites used, and more. It was a quick and easy tool to guide us toward learning about this audience and how and where to communicate with them.”
With three proprietary audience intelligence tools, brands can easily find insights that explain exactly who they should be targeting. And generate reports that detail customer segments, audience
We’ll cover customer personas more in the next step, but this tool is helpful in developing these personas, so you know exactly who you’re trying to target and which marketing channels to use.
Stop being clueless about your leads. When you partner with HawkSEM, you get access to all the benefits of ConversionIQ, including pinpointing your top customers and make sure you close the deal.
6. Build a customer persona
The last step in audience building is to develop a persona. A customer persona, aka buyer persona, user persona, ideal customer profile, or client persona, is a fictional profile that represents your target customer. Creating a persona based on your target audience helps you visualize them as you create marketing content.
An ideal customer profile, or ICP, can be a huge support for your marketing team.
Here’s an example of a buyer persona:
Give every target customer from each customer segment a name, share their interests, age, job information, location, a quick bio, goals and pain points, and more. The point is to get a full grasp on who this person is to create relevant and personalized content.
Create a different buyer persona for each target audience you build. Then vary your social media and online content to fit each segment of your audience.
How to reach your target audience
Alright, you’ve built a target audience profile — or maybe even more than one. Now, let’s learn the best ways to reach that audience on the different platforms you use.
Young Pham, CMO at business news site BizReport, shares that it’s important to “ensure your content directly addresses the specific interests and pain points of your target audience. Provide practical solutions and value that resonate with them on a personal level.”
“Establish and maintain a consistent brand image across all platforms and communication channels,” continues Pham. “Consistency builds recognition, trust, and loyalty.”
This is possible across various channels. But before you do, check out the following actionable tips.
Social media marketing is a valuable digital marketing technique that builds your business’s presence on each platform your target audience frequents. For example, if you’re targeting Gen Z and Millennials, Instagram and TikTok are your best bets.
Keep these best practices in mind as you start create and share social media content:
- Only focus on social media platforms your target audience uses
- Monitor your analytics to understand which posts your audience likes best
- Create content specific to the platform you’re sharing it on
- Engage with users that fit your customer persona to reach an even wider audience
- Use social media to showcase why your product is a good fit for your target customer
These tips can grow your social media following, but let’s get platform specific.
- Use your Facebook Insights to better understand your Facebook audience
- Create a variety of different types of content, like photos, graphics, links, text posts, videos, etc.
- Post at the best times — you can find this data in your Facebook analytics
- Run Facebook ads to further increase your overall reach
- Create live broadcasts to interact with your audience in real time
- Consider creating a Facebook Group to build a brand community
- Check your Instagram analytics to get a better idea of who’s following you
- Take advantage of all forms of Instagram content — posts, Reels, stories, and live videos
- Post when your audience is most likely to be online
- Create Instagram ads that can get your product directly in front of your target customer
- Use Instagram polls in your stories to collect candid customer feedback
- Add hashtags that your target audience uses to your posts
- Work with influencers to help you reach a wider audience
- Optimize your video content for YouTube search
- Create a consistent video publishing schedule so subscribers know when to expect new content
- Use YouTube video ads to further your reach
- Partner with YouTube creators to get the word out about your product or service
- Post regularly — as in multiple times per day — to stand out in the feed
- Reply to tweets from users in your target audience
- Use relevant hashtags in your content
- Conduct polls, share GIFs, create a fun brand personality, and have fun with the platform
- Add users in different audience segments to different Twitter lists
- Find Twitter chats in your industry and join to reach similar users
- Participate in trends and challenges
- Use relevant hashtags in your video captions
- Engage with users in your target audience in video comments
- Work with TikTok influencers to grow your reach
- Post consistently — every day at the very least, but multiple times per day if possible
Social media is important, but so is improving your discoverability on search engines. Both are possible using Google Ads and a holistic content marketing strategy. Discover what your target audience searches for and make sure your business appears in those search results.
Use these steps to to reach your target audience on Google and other search engines:
- Use SEO tools to discover the topics your audience searches for
- Do keyword research to find the best primary keywords
- Understand search intent to create the best page for each keyword
- Create the best landing page or blog post for each keyword
- Obtain backlinks for your web pages and blog content
- Regularly conduct content/SEO audits and refresh pages that need it
Creating an email newsletter is another great way to reach your audience. When you send out a weekly or monthly newsletter, you’re building relationships with your target audience. To achieve this, you must build an email list — or a list of target customers who opted in to receive communication from your business. You can add this list to your CRM.
Pay attention to your open and click rates to discover which promotions customer segments are more interested in. Then send content specific to each segment.
“Personalize your email marketing campaigns based on user behavior and preferences,” says Pham. “Segment your email list to deliver relevant content tailored to each subgroup within your target audience.”
Your email list is what we call an “owned” audience. Social media platforms and search engines can gain and lose popularity. But this list of emails is something you own and can continue to use in your marketing strategy to reach your target audience.
Learning how to build a target audience is a key step in your marketing strategy. There are many tools that can help you put these tips to use.
But what if you lack the time or skill to build solid target audience profiles? We can help.
Get in touch with our team to discover how our experts can help you define each segment of your audience.