What Exactly Is a Target Audience (and What Is It Good For)?
As Spotify shifted from its original identity as a tech company to being a platform for music lovers, customer research revealed an interesting trend.
People were creating playlists based around feelings and experiences. They were collecting music for focus time, breakups, parties, good days, cleaning, working, feeling down, and more.
Spotify began paying attention to the kinds of songs people were playing (and when) in order to connect with them. They wanted to let customers know that they understood — and to help them do more of what they were doing.
This is one example of how connecting with individual segments of your target market can help you create authentic relationships that will help your customer base grow.
The idea that people don’t always look for music based on artists and albums has shaped the way Spotify serves music to its customers. “Discover Weekly,” a new playlist regularly generated for each user based on the type of music he or she listens to, is considered one its most successful features.1
Being able to connect with customers more personally based on their experiences or use of your product is one of the main reasons why the use of target audiences is so important.
What Is a Target Audience?
Target audiences represent smaller groups within your target market that you want to focus on for specific campaigns or promotions.
This might mean segmenting your audience based on things like buying behavior, level of influence, or degree of interest in your products. Spotify essentially ran an engagement campaign targeting customers who had created mood-based playlists. It was so successful that they developed their product to accommodate and attract these types of users.
If you don’t have an audience yet, your target audiences are segments with a common attribute that you are hoping to get the attention of with a particular promotion or campaign.
Examples of Target Audiences
Here are some examples of target audiences within your target market:
- People who have bought a certain product from you
- People who have bought several products from you
- People who have downloaded something for free (but haven’t bought anything yet)
- People who have expressed interest in a certain product (or who are on a wait list)
- People who are highly engaged with your business or content (regular customers, frequent commenters, unofficial advocates of your product)
- People who would be influential in spreading the word about your products
- People who attended a certain event
- The audience of another person or business who is willing to partner with you for a promotion
The value in creating promotions for certain target audiences comes from being able to achieve a higher rate of participation due to tailoring your offer (and message) more specifically to them.
For example, let’s say you’re throwing an outdoor party and want to invite your neighbors.
- If you invite your entire neighborhood to the party using a flyer, a handful of people are likely to show up.
- If you send a nice invitation in the mail specifically to the neighbors who came to your barbecue last month, letting them know you would love to see them at the party, more people are likely to show up.
- And if you hand-deliver personal invitations to your new neighbors down the street, you’ll probably get them to participate, even if they could be considered most likely to skip the party.
Why does this work? Because expending more effort to customize your invitations shows that you value the relationship. Marketing is most effective when it’s personal.
So what’s the best way to break down your target market into segments? Here are some options:
- Subjects of interest - expressing interest in certain types of products, reacting to certain articles, downloading content on a certain subject
- Buyer behavior - making a purchase or not making a purchase
- Newness - joining your email list within a certain period of time (such as the last 24 hours or the last three months, etc.)
- Engagement - opening emails, not opening previous emails, clicking on ads, frequency of store or website visit, downloading free content, joining a wait list for a product
- Activity - Activity on your blog or in your social media group, advocacy for your product
You don’t need very many target audiences to start with, but having a few can be helpful in creating certain campaigns. For instance:
- You may want to pitch your product to new email subscribers within 30 days while they are primarily solution-focused.
- You may want to offer a low-priced product to people who have downloaded free content but haven’t bought anything yet (especially if the product falls into the same category of content they were interested in).
- You could check in with people who haven’t been clicking through on your emails in a while to see if they are still interested or what else they might be looking for.
All of these promotions could increase participation among those groups, which could lead to more sales. The more effectively you can customize promotions to target audiences, the more likely it is that you’ll see positive results.
However, if all you’re doing is marketing at a granular level, you probably need to zoom back out and focus on the whole of your target market again. Getting too deep into the weeds may distract you from executing necessary promotions. However, many businesses aren’t focused on customizing at all.
Regularly tailoring content, offers, or messages to a few different target audiences is a great practice, and it should quickly reveal its value to you. But who should you focus on the most? Which segment is going to offer you the highest return for your effort?
Let’s talk for just a moment about your ideal customer.
If you already have customers, you may be able to identify someone who represents exactly the type of person you want to continue to attract. This customer embodies the traits of your target market, is very satisfied with your products, and continues to be interested in new products you offer. This is your ideal customer.
You want to direct most (if not all) of your marketing at your ideal customer.
But the truth is, people change. Their interests change, their needs change, they get older, and they shift their priorities. In order to keep the focal point of your marketing the same, even as your ideal customer changes as a person, we want to create an avatar — a fictional, fixed portrait of your ideal customer at this moment in time.
Exercise: Create a Few Target Audience Segments
Think about how you could segment your audience into smaller target audience groups. Consider setting up automation within your email software to create these groups. You can also tag contacts manually depending on the information you have and the categories you choose.
What kind of campaigns or promotions would you like to customize for these target audiences? Brainstorm some ideas and build one!
This is an edited excerpt from my book Mission, Market, Message: The Actionable Guide to Marketing for Small Business Owners, which you can purchase on Amazon.
- McCue, M. (2020, May 22). The Keys to a Great Rebrand: Advice From the Duo Who Revamped Chobani and Spotify. Adobe 99U. https://99u.adobe.com/articles/61031/the-keys- to-a-great-rebrand-advice-from-the-duo-who-rebranded-chobani-and-spotify.