As you delve into the world of PR and marketing, you’ll see and hear the phrase ‘target audience’ over and over again, most likely in the context of how crucial it is to define and reach it. But why is it so important to find your target audience, and how do you figure out who they are?
Most of today’s PR takes place online – for most industries, the days of placing ads in local papers are long gone. The internet gives practically unlimited possibilities, as technically, anyone with access to a smartphone or a computer can be reached. However, focused and efficient PR isn’t about reaching everyone: it’s about getting your message only (or primarily) in front of people who are likely to be interested.
By focusing your campaigns on a specific group, predisposed to show an interest in becoming a customer or a subscriber, you will see a much better ROI. Haphazardly advertising to everyone, meanwhile, is usually a waste of time and resources.
Below, you’ll find the most important factors to consider when defining your target audience. Bear in mind that while everyone’s different and not all assumptions or stereotypes hold true in every case, a degree of generalisation is going to be unavoidable when dealing with large groups.
The most common variables included in basic demographics are age, gender, and geographical location. You don’t necessarily need to target a campaign or a brand towards only men or only women of certain ages, but for gender-specific products and services, it’s an obvious determining factor. Age is particularly important with tech products and services, as well as for influencers – social media is generally the domain of those aged under 50, for instance.
Geographical location is of particular value to businesses with a physical store, or some form of a limit on where the services can be performed. In some cases, the place of residence can also be indicative of income, lifestyle, and other useful information, such as political views.
Employment and lifestyle
Your prospective audience’s income, education level, and employment status constitute further considerations to take into account. These can, for example, be indicative of the group’s potential aspirations, goals, and fears – all of which can be used to build a more effective campaign. Entrepreneurs with a business mindset and a focus on corporate achievement will respond to different PR strategies than, say, watercolour painters focused on their artistic growth rather than on income.
Oftentimes, experience or education in a particular field or industry is an important factor. Equally, lifestyle choices and preferences reveal a lot about the group’s needs and interests. To give a simplified example, you don’t want to be marketing a meat-based barbeque cooking course to a vegan audience.
Interests and opinions
Just like lifestyle choices, interests and opinions (including political affiliation) can signal whether a group will be interested in your message or product. Importantly, to an even higher degree than previous factors, interests and opinions will give an indication of what media the group is likely to view. If you can figure out what websites and social media pages your target group frequents, for instance, you have a ready-made plan for where to focus on building your online presence.
Putting it all together
Whether you’re targeting a single campaign or your entire brand or product, you should keep all of these factors in mind. Start with the characteristic that’s most likely to be important for your purpose. For example, age might be the key determining element for tech solutions, and gender might be of the most importance for specific beauty products. Use the other factors to narrow down your group.
If you already have an existing audience representing a sufficiently large sample – for instance, as an influencer with a decent following – you can use insights from that group to help you find out who’s your ideal customer. For example, you might find that your message has already been shown to resonate better with professional, working women aged 40-50 than any other group. Unless you’re looking to re-brand, any trends within your existing audience should serve as guidance for defining your target group.
Once you’ve compiled a list of potential characteristics for your target audience, consider why you focused on these answers and, just as importantly, why this particular group would be interested in your message. This is not only a means of determining whether your target audience has been defined well, but can also help with clarifying and refining your message to generate the most positive response. Let’s take renewable energy vs political affiliation as a quick example. Without much research, it would appear that only liberal groups would make it into the target audience. However, recent studies show that both liberal and conservative groups support renewable energy – and they do so for different reasons.
Research and careful consideration will reveal insights that may not seem obvious at first glance. Still, defining the target audience can be a challenge, particularly for start-ups and newcomers to the business or influencer world without a well-crafted message. If you find it impossible to clearly define your audience, it may be time to revisit your message and branding – or seek help from an expert PR agency, which will reliably optimize both your message and your audience targeting.