The best marketers are able to aptly identify target audiences, interpret them, and then make calculated decisions based on how we believe we can get them to do what we want to accomplish.
At first, that may sound like manipulation.
The best marketers are also salespeople who know how to:
- Effectively upsell and cross sell AND
- Provide a product/service that is a win-win for both parties
But before you can sell anything, you need to know as much as you can about your ideal customer.
Defining a target audience is not just a best practice – it’s the only practice.
Your target audience will drive your branding, positioning, content creation, graphic design, packaging, customer service, pricing…everything!
In this article, we’re going to walk you through some of the specifics of identifying your target audience, as well as tactful strategies for actually targeting them.
The ROI Triangle
One of the most difficult aspects of growing a business is the process of building up an audience. Plenty of entrepreneurs have great ideas for products – products that are guaranteed to sell like hotcakes when they’re put in front of the right people. The big challenge is figuring out who the “right people” are so that the product can live up to its potential.
If you want to start and grow a successful company, you can’t do it without an audience. And in order to generate maximum value, there are three specific things you’ll want to focus on.
We’ll call it the ROI Triangle.
- Establish Empathy. You have to be 100% clear on who your audience is, what their problem is, how they feel about their problem, why it’s so painful to them, what they’re seeking, how they’d prefer to solve the problem, which methods they’ve tried to solve their problem with in the past, etc. If you aren’t empathetic, you’ll never build a healthy business that lasts.
- Craft a Compelling Offer. Once you’re empathetic to your audience and know what they want/need, it’s time to craft an offer. This offer speaks to the target audience precisely where they are and establishes quick rapport. The customer should be thinking, “They’re reading my mind! Tell me more…”
- Gain Visibility. Once you understand your audience and have a compelling offer, the goal is pretty simple: Get in front of as many of your target audience members as possible. In other words, you’re laser-focused on traffic and lead generation.
(The ROI Triangle obviously leaves out the product itself. To build a successful business, the product or service has to be something that people want. But that’s an article for another time. We’re operating under the assumption that you have that squared away and are simply trying to reach the right people with the right message.)
The 3 Personas of Your Target Audience
When most marketers talk about the concept of a target audience, they’re referring to one specific target. But in reality, there are three personas to every target audience. (And there can very well be multiple “sub” personas of each of these audiences.)
- The customer (the person who will pay you). This is your main focus. It’s this person that ultimately makes the buying decision and rewards your hard work with a financial transaction. It’s the customer who keeps the lights on and allows you to write yourself a paycheck each month.
- The influencer (the person who influences the person who pays you). The influencer has a great deal of say in how the customer thinks about certain issues and trends. Finding who the key influencers are is like discovering a key that gives you access to the customer’s neural pathways.
- The supporter (the person who pushes and encourages you). This third category can consist of almost anyone. These people aren’t necessarily going to buy anything from you. And they probably don’t have much influence over the customer. They do, however, have influence over you. They push, encourage, and motivate you to do well.
When we talk about audience targeting, we’re really talking about going after each of these personas in unison. While the customer is certainly the most important, the other two personas – the influencer and the personas – must be targeted as well.
Defining Your Target Customer
The first step is to identify the target customer. There could be anywhere from one to five, six, or even seven different target customers, but for simplicity’s sake, we’re going to pretend you have just a single target customer. (If you have more, the process of defining and targeting can be replicated multiple times over.)
Your target customer is the person that you’re going to go after. It’s the individual that you’ll shape your marketing strategy around. And while there are likely a number of different directions you can go, choose the target customer that poses the least amount of friction and is most likely to be loyal/have future needs.
If you can solve their problem for $10 and they never need you again…well…that’s probably not the best target. You’ll have to move a ton of volume to sniff success. You want the type of customer that will spend $10 every week for the next 10 years.
Once you have an idea of who your target customer is, it’s time to visualize them and write out a detailed description of who they are. This is known as creating a “target audience persona.”
The goal with a target audience personas is to develop a comprehensive picture of who this person is. While the character will be fictional, it’ll be reflective of the people you’re pursuing.
There are plenty of templates and worksheets available online, or you can pop up a Google Doc and start a blog. The key points you want to cover are:
- Name (Create something punchy and memorable!)
- Job description
- Hobbies and interests
- Net worth and earnings
- Spending patterns
- Favorite websites
- Favorite social media platform
The more detailed you get, the better. This doesn’t mean every customer is going to fit this description with precision. But if you filter your marketing and branding through this, you’ll be able to reach the majority of your target audience in a very empathetic way.
If you’re feeling inspired, you might even want to write out a fictional story of how your target customer spends their day. In other words:
…Savvy Sam wakes up at 5:30 every morning. The first thing he does is reach for his phone and check his favorite deal websites and forums, scouring for the best sales of the day. After making some mental notes, he gets out of bed, brushes his teeth, and goes downstairs to make a pot of coffee (Folgers brand only). His breakfast consists of oatmeal and toast. After eating, he wakes up his two teenage children so that they can begin getting ready for school…
Do you see how detailed that is? You want to go through the target’s entire day and document the technology they use, the brands they prefer, the order of their day, etc.
How do you obtain these insights? You can learn a lot through observation and listening. If you have the luxury of interviewing a customer and picking their brain, you should do it. Other options include observing message boards, forums, and social media groups. You can find out some demographic information from industry reports, website analytics, and surveys.
You’re always going to be forced to make assumptions, but the key is to get the foundational elements right. Details can easily be moved in and out over time to adjust to what you learn.
Targeting Your Target Customer
Having a target audience persona is great, but it doesn’t add much value if you don’t put it to good use. So the next step is to develop a game plan that allows you to target your target customer.
Entire books and online courses have been created on this topic. So while this will not be a comprehensive look at targeting by any means, it should at least give you a foundation to build on.
In our humble opinion of working with thousands of successful clients over the past decade-plus – including Fortune 500 companies and VC-backed startups – we believe content is the linchpin.
The key to reaching your target customer is to develop useful and relevant content that engages your target audience and moves down the funnel from awareness to purchase. A good content strategy should include elements like blog posts, white papers, case studies, guest blog posts, short-form video, long-form video, infographics, interactive content, social media content, and possibly even podcasting.
There’s clearly a lot more to building a successful business than content, but if you’ve taken the time to accurately identify your target audience, you’ll find that your content has wings. And with all of the right building blocks in place, you’ll find your brand soaring in no time.
Defining Your Customer’s Influencers
The next audience persona has to do with the people who influence the people who buy from you. We’ll go with the popularized term “influencer.”
It’s easy to get so focused on the customer that you lose sight of the influencer. Fifteen years ago, this might not have been as big of a deal. But today, you have to tap into this megaphone.
An influencer is anyone who has the ability to grab another person’s attention and influence their thought patterns and decisions as it relates to specific issues, topics, products, or experiences. Every customer has certain influencers in their lives, and if you can connect with these influencers, your ability to reach the customer becomes much easier.
Finding/identifying the right influencers requires you to be a detective. Internet sleuthing will be what you do in your spare time. Here are a few thoughts:
- Study your customers’ social media profiles and observe the people, accounts, and pages they follow. Where is most of their engagement going?
- Find blogs and other online publications that have audience demographics similar to yours. Then make a list of the writers and content creators who have the most visibility on these platforms. These people are likely held in high regard by your customers.
- If your target customer is based out of a specific city, state, or region, consider whether there are figures who are well-known and influential in the area.
Influencers are everywhere. You don’t have to connect with Kim Kardashian or LeBron James. Someone with 5,000 followers on Instagram could be a powerful influencer, helping to solidify your brand above larger brands. It’s more about the fit.
Once you have a list of influencers, create a brief description of each person on this list. It doesn’t have to be as detailed as your target audience persona, but a detailed paragraph or bulleted list will establish a little clarity.
Targeting Your Customer’s Influencers
Discovering who the influencers are is arguably the hardest part. Once you have a list of people who influence your customers, you need to reach out to them and look for ways to leverage a relationship with them.
The starting point is always going to be social media. Begin by following and connecting with them on every platform. Begin to like, comment, and share their content. Start off slow and gradually make it a more common thing. (You want to give yourself several weeks of runway to avoid being seen as creepy.)
After you’re certain the influencer recognizes your name and profile picture, you can get a little more aggressive. Reach out and connect (either via email or DM). During this initial outreach, don’t ask for anything. Instead, thank them or give them something. (You might want to do this two or three times over a period of a couple of months.)
Finally, once you’ve made yourself visible and expressed gratitude/provided value, it’s time to make an ask. This first ask is casual and low-key – like the opportunity to write a guest blog post on their blog. The goal is to get your foot in the door with the influencer’s audience and then parlay that into something bigger and better in the months ahead.
Defining Your Supporters
The third target audience persona consists of supporters. And while they may appear less important on the surface, they arguably have just as much say in your success.
Everyone’s supporters will be different (and some will have more than others). But regardless of who they are, you need to identify them.
A supporter is someone who encourages, pushes, motivates, and teaches you. It could be a parent, spouse, best friend, roommate, child, mentor, college professor, or formal support group. These are people who believe in you, want what’s best for you, and will make some level of personal sacrifice to see you succeed.
Targeting Your Supporters
The interesting thing about supporters is that they’re rarely monetizable. They might occasionally make a purchase from you as a favor, but they don’t really want or need your product. They are, however, invested in you.
Targeting your support team looks like telling them your goals, leaving the lines of communication open, providing regular updates, asking for feedback, and being vulnerable about success and failure.
It’s also important that you support your supporters. This may include writing thank you notes, giving gifts, or using your own talents and resources to help support them in their projects and initiatives.
Content: The Digital Marketing Linchpin
As mentioned previously, content is the linchpin to your marketing and sales success. And once you’ve identified the three personas of your target audience, all that’s left to do is execute.
At SEO.co, we specialize in content. It’s part of our DNA. And when we work with clients, our primary aim is to develop hyper-relevant content that paves the way for scalable, organic traffic and improved visibility. We do this through content marketing and backlink building services.
Want to learn more? We’d love to chat for a few minutes.
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